Four mas bands have been told they will not be allowed to take part in Notting Hill Carnival this year. Eight other bands have received lesser sanctions but have been warned they face exclusion next year if they breach rules on music policy and minimum numbers of masqueraders in Carnival 2024.
Organiser Notting Hill Carnival Ltd (NHCL) imposed the punishments at a meeting of its Sanctions Committee in late November 2023.
The letter notifying one of the bands of its exclusion stated:
“It is clear from our CCTV footage that you played music that was not compliant with our music policy, that generated significant crowding in the judging zone and placed members of the public at risk of harm. The CCTV also shows the lack of children and Masqueraders with your band.”
The excluded bands will not be allowed to participate on their own or even in collaboration with other bands.
In a letter to one of the eight warned bands, the Sanctions Committee said that photographic evidence and reports from NHCL staff, contractors and external agencies showed that it “had fewer than 50 participants parading on Carnival Sunday and Carnival Monday”. A further breach this year could lead to the band’s suspension in 2025.
The organisers also notified some bands:
“We are considering changing the music policy for 2024 to specify clearly the music genres that can be played on the road. This is likely to impact on the music that you have previously played at Carnival.”
NHCL chief executive Matthew Phillip told Soca News that all bands are provided with a copy of the terms and conditions of participation. “The music policy hasn’t changed,” he said, while admitting that it has not always been enforced in the past.
Justifying the crackdown, he said: “I see our role as preserving the culture – calypso and soca do not enjoy the same commercial impact as other forms.” Another reason is that bands playing calypso and soca appear to attract better behaved followers than those that have a non-compliant music policy.
Phillip emphasised: “Music is powerful. It’s really clear on the CCTV how the type of music played influences the behaviour of the crowd.”
The terms and conditions are being updated to reflect the tightened music policy and will be available in February.
One of the bands that have indicated they will not be taking part this year for reasons unconnected with NHCL’s sanctions is Elimu, which is taking a break for 2024.