Pleasure and disappointment were evident in statements issued by London Notting Hill Carnival Enterprises Trust (LNHCET).
The Notting Hill Carnival organiser celebrated the high turnout and the music, costumes and dance displays seen over the two days. The carnival officially began on Sunday morning when it was opened by Kensington & Chelsea Mayor Elizabeth Rutherford and local MP Victoria Borwick. Despite the Caribbean roots of the carnival, it was Parisian samba bateria Timbao, dance group Muraldo DC and roller-skate troupe London Skaters that performed in front of a select few guests and media in Great Western Road, which had been cleared of the general public.
Kinetica Bloco was the first mas band to pass the judges on Sunday, and other early movers included Masquerade 2000 and Sunshine International Arts. On Monday, the route ground to a halt under pressure of 70 mas bands – a number of which were unable to pass the judging point by the 6.30pm deadline. Although LNHCET said that this “highlights [the fact that] participation within the bands increased”, it meant that some bands were not judged.
The mas and music were largely ignored in the post-event media coverage, which concentrated on crime statistics issued by the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA). LNHCET responded by saying: “LNHCET is disappointed with those who have attempted to place a negative twist on the carnival.”
The organisers added in a separate statement: “LNHCET is extremely disappointed and saddened to hear that Police officers have been both assaulted and injured in the line of duty at this year’s Carnival. The Trust has zero tolerance to this antisocial behaviour.”
After a former Scotland Yard officer warned on BBC Radio London that overcrowding at Notting Hill could cause something called ‘progressive crowd collapse’, LNHCET said it had been working with the MPA to “to learn from previous experiences and… facilitate the move to a more professional event”. The Trust also said that its enhanced stewarding and security programme was “an integral part of our plans for the future”. However, masqueraders told Soca News that on critical parts of the route, such as Ladbroke Grove, they saw no sign of stewards after 5pm on Monday.
The criticism seemed to put the organisation on the defensive, stating: “Any statements made by those not involved in the actual planning of the event would be speculative with a text book view. In order to be fully sighted and in a position to comment, it would be necessary to have recent, first-hand experience of the issues and environment currently facing the event rather than a view based on the event as it was some years ago.”
The Trust’s statement concluded: “LNHCET and partners welcome anybody who would like to share constructive suggestions or engage in meaningful discussions as this would ensure misleading information not being circulated and help in ongoing planning for a safer event.”
The Trust did not detail how ordinary participants and carnivalgoers would be able to share their “constructive suggestions”.