Notting Hill Carnival radiates good times as it kicks off in style
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The Notting Hill Carnival kicked off in radiant style yesterday as hundreds of thousands of people flooded the streets around Portobello and Ladbroke Grove. Fears of rain and a damp squib were swiftly banished as the sun beamed down on the festivities at Europe’s largest street party.
The relentless gentrification of the old West Indian area is more or less complete now with the likes of David Cameron and his advisors in residence. This has of course taken its toll on the character and authenticity of the event as it’s edge has been slowly blunted and as absurdly paranoid police tactics shut people enjoying themselves down ever earlier, there is no doubt that carnival is not quite what it once was.
And yet, for all that – there is still nothing like it. Calypso grooves and rainbow creativity burst through the streets in a wave of celebration as costumes of all shapes, sizes and degrees of plumage welcomed in the families on Children’s Day. The parade rang out with steel drums and peals of laughter as revellers settled in for a day of jerk chicken, Red Stripe and Good Times.
Sunday is traditionally Carnival’s calmer day as families are encouraged to take to the streets and ‘dem yout dem’ are encouraged to stay at home, at least until today where the volume will dial up and the urban vibes will come sizzling out.
Scotland Yard said police made around 70 arrests - mainly for drugs offences - while London Ambulance Service and St John Ambulance treated more than 300 people for cuts and bruises to their feet and alcohol-related injuries. A spokesman said 45 were taken to hospital.
Despite the racially tinged frowns eternally cracked out by the right wing press as they quote the crime statistics – these figures are astonishingly low for such a huge event. Once we have the arrest reports from Henley and Glyndebourne which mysteriously go unreported, we may be able to see just how safe, inclusive and wonderful an event Carnival really is.