Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe has announced that a major review of Notting Hill Carnival will be carried out by the police force, organiser London Notting Hill Carnival Enterprises Trust (LNHCET) and the Greater London Authority (GLA). Thought is being given to ticketing the event to reduce overcrowding and crime, he revealed.
He made the remarks at a meeting with residents on 4 October at the Westfield shopping centre. They follow sensationalist media headlines about “carnage” at the carnival as the police reported rising numbers of arrests. However, the Met conceded that much of the increase was down to the reclassification of laughing gas as a controlled drug. The number of violent crimes was the same as last year, Hogan-Howe said.*
Local news site Getwestlondon reported that Hogan-Howe was concerned about the “large number of people in a small area”. Soca News’ reporter can testify that the crush in Ladbroke Grove on Carnival Monday evening made it difficult for mas bands to move on the route and conditions for non-costumed revellers were also extremely uncomfortable.
The overcrowding was largely caused by the huge influx of people on to Ladbroke Grove after the Met-imposed 7pm sound system shut-off. The police’s closure of side roads made Ladbroke Grove the only way out of the north-western quadrant of the carnival zone.
The “small area” Hogan-Howe considers problematic was created by the Met under its 1990s policy of ‘containment’ of Notting Hill Carnival in order to make it easier to control. The policy was introduced with approval from the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea (RBKC), which wanted the carnival’s ‘footprint’ to be reduced to the minimum to avoid inconvenience to wealthy residents.
With fears over crime being whipped up by the Evening Standard’s increasingly vitriolic coverage of the event, ticketing has been proposed as a way of imposing a “layer of control”, as Hogan-Howe put it. Local MP Victoria Borwick floated the idea as one potential mitigation measure. Many have questioned the practicality of cordoning off the whole of the carnival area while maintaining access for thousands of residents. Ticketing is also felt to be utterly at odds with the concept of Carnival as a free, publicly accessible street celebration.
Other suggestions include moving the event to Hyde Park and shifting the timing to Saturday and Sunday to limit police overtime payments. Police receive double pay for working on a bank holiday. Media reported that “9,000 officers” were employed at the carnival, but it is not clear whether these were 9,000 individual men and women or 9,000 police shifts. The park proposal has been around for many years, and proved a dismal flop when tried previously in Finsbury Park and, under former London mayor Ken Livingstone, in Hyde Park. It is not known if the Royal Parks Agency would even be prepared to accept the event taking place in the park.
The carnival review is expected to report in January 2017. In the meantime, LNHCET will hold a meeting with local residents in the Small Hall, Kensington Town Hall, Hornton Street, from 6.30pm to 8pm on Wednesday 26 October. Questions or comments can be made beforehand by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
* In September, Soca News asked the Metropolitan Police Service, under a Freedom of Information request, how many of the 407 people said to have been arrested “at Notting Hill Carnival” in 2015 were actually taken to court and found guilty of a crime. The MPS said it was unable to respond because examining over 400 separate records would be too expensive. There is therefore no way of establishing the true level of crime at Notting Hill Carnival, nor of independently verifying the MPS’s claims about numbers of arrests and crimes committed.