Kensington and Chelsea Council has reportedly sent a number of local teenagers away on activity holidays to keep them out of trouble during Notting Hill Carnival.
Under the Alternative to Carnival Engagement (ACE) scheme, 15 youngsters, aged between 13 and 17 and branded as ‘troublemakers by the police and council, will take part in countryside activities such as canoeing.
The Sun newspaper fumed: “YOBS are going on a water sports weekend in a £20,000 scheme to stop them running amok at Notting Hill carnival.”
Quoted in the Evening Standard, local MP Emma Dent Coad took a more positive stance: “…a lot of our young people have been failed by our society and we must do anything we can to try to keep them on the straight and narrow”.
Some carnivalists would feel that the best way to keep youngsters out of trouble is not to offer them alternatives to Carnival but to engage them in Carnival – and we know of groups in all the Carnival arenas that have done exactly that. Frank Rollock Junior, of London All Stars Steel Band, told Soca News many years ago that youngsters who had proved troublesome in school showed quite a different side of themselves when introduced to steelpan. Mas bands, include Mahogany, have worked with past offenders and vulnerable people from their local areas. Others with troubled or chaotic backgrounds have developed skills as DJs and sound system operators, for example.
So perhaps the answer is not to be found in a canoe but in a Carnival band – or even in John Canoe (Junkanoo)!