Notting Hill carnival revellers complain of bureaucracy


Standing next to a stack of speakers on All Saints Road, DJ Alistair Roberts of Rapattack, one of 38 sound systems at the Notting Hill carnival this year, went through the paperwork he has to fill out before he can play a single tune.

Events notice, bar licence, risk assessment, a site plan, premises licence, licence to play in the street. Back in the day, we used to string up on any street we wanted and just play, Alistair said. Now everything’s regulated so we have protocols with the police.

You can’t even give out leaflets in the street within the carnival footprint. We have to get a licence to give out fliers in your spot … We can’t even sell our own CDs without a licence.

More than a million people are expected on the streets this bank holiday for the Notting Hill carnival, Europe’s biggest street party. The event, which is celebrating its 50th year, has grown from a Caribbean street party into a triumph of British multiculturalism.

But limits to the festivities, which correlate with the gentrification of W11, have led to feelings that bureaucracy is strangling the event. It’s not a natural flow, whereas before it was a natural flow, said Joe 90, a veteran MC.

Old carnival ravers remember how the party started on Friday night and kept going until Tuesday morning. Sound systems would play until after midnight, as the parade snaked repeatedly around W11 and locals sold food and drink from their front gardens.

This Sunday, sound systems will shut down at 7pm; illegal trading – even selling whistles – can get you thrown in jail. The curbs come amid criticisms over crime at carnival – last year saw a record number of arrests – and a perceived invasion of revellers into one of London’s wealthiest areas. Many homes and businesses are boarded up for protection.

Lady Victoria Borwick, the Conservative MP for Kensington, told London Live last week: There are many people now who just feel wouldn’t it be nice to have a carnival where [businesses] could stay open; or, alternatively, has carnival outgrown this area?

Such complaints are not new. Businesses have boarded up their premises since 1977, a year after rioting broke out at carnival, the local shopkeeper Lee Harris said. He remembered how police had been forced to use bin lids to protect themselves from volleys of bottles and stones. But with 7,000 officers on the streets this year, a repeat is unlikely.

Some local residents told the Guardian of problems with the event. People use the basements as a toilet, throw rubbish down, bottles, one Westbourne Park Road homeowner said. But even doors away, neighbours took a different view. Nadja Omoregie, 31, was helping to transform the front of her family home into a bar.

They’re speaking as if to say that’s what everyone really feels and it’s not the truth, she said. If you just walk around the area you can feel the euphoric feeling, and everybody’s really quite happy.

Femi Williams, 51, of the 90s acid jazz group Young Disciples, who was watching sound systems set up, said the first airing of his seminal track Apparently Nothin’ came at carnival. The party, he said, is just what the community is, it’s just what life has been here for more than 50 years. This is just an official recognition of that.

Critics could just as well criticise the cost of the Queen’s birthday, he added. We justify that by saying the queen brings a lot of people to the country. Well, so does carnival.

Around the corner, on Lancaster Road, Anna Clayden, 52, sat with friends on the steps to the home where she has lived for the past 37 years. She said carnival was a symbol of one of the things modern Britain has got right.

This country does well at multiculturalism, although some people here might think it’s a problem. When you look at other countries, what’s going on in Europe at the moment, what’s going on in America, why would you want to close down something like carnival that’s a success?

News Source TheGuardianNews

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