London Mayor Sadiq Khan is coming under intense pressure to hold a strategic review of Notting Hill Carnival, with ticketing or a move to a park very much on the cards. Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe and Kensington MP Victoria Borwick have both demanded a far-reaching investigation into the event’s future.
Hogan-Howe warned that rising violence and costs were making policing of Carnival unsustainable. Borwick – who in January surveyed residents asking them what they thought about the event – said she wants to see “a carnival that you can bring your children and grandchildren to”.
In a letter to the Mayor, the MP complains that “over recent years Carnival has become an excuse for a rave, criminal acts and lewd behaviour that do not show London at its best”.
Many carnivalists have privately told Soca News about their disappointment at the lack of mas on Children’s Day and the preponderance of mud and powder bands. Many had concerns about overcrowding on the route after the 7pm static sound system switch-off.
Carnivalists have expressed frustration at the lack of leadership and decisive action from the organisers, London Notting Hill Carnival Enterprises Trust. Some feel that health, safety and security concerns make it inevitable that Carnival will be moved into a park. SN has been told that several bandleaders support the concept of a ticketed event.
Borwick has repeatedly expressed impatience at LNHCET’s refusal to engage with its critics. She told the Mayor: “We have bumbled on for several years, but sadly the increase in violent crime, the thefts, and the type and the quantity of weapons seized, means, in my view, that public safety is at stake.”
The MP wants a fundamental rethink: “If we were planning a London Carnival today, and starting afresh how would this be organised and funded? Where would it take place? Over how many days? What lessons have we learned from other events that the Mayor of London supports?” Whether ordinary carnivalists will be allowed a voice in any review remains to be seen.
Anti-Carnival sentiment has been whipped up by a succession of negative stories in the Evening Standard, which have highlighted attention-grabbing announcements from the Met’s press office about weapons seizures and arrest figures. The force refused to answer SN’s Freedom of Information request to say how many of those arrested last year were actually found guilty of a crime.