Ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Notting Hill Carnival, a question has shaken the Carnival Community: should the event remain free, or should it become a ticketed event for better control?

In a comprehensive statement, Carnival Village Trust is addressing the event’s challenges and asserting its position as a facilitator of Carnival Arts.
Read the full statement, and  the most important excerpts here:

Carnival is both an event that happens in a public space and an art form.

As both an art form and a street festival, Carnival has three main modalities:

  1. A ritual of resistance
  2. A festival of otherness and
  3. Performance Art.

However, for many, the Carnival is also a street party; the annual Bank Holiday festival whose popularity and appeal is participating in a joyous, care free celebration with very few inhibitions.

The managerial, operational and funding of the event need to take whatever steps are necessary to put the creativity and artistry at the centre ensuring that the physical occupation of the performing space is safe and secure for all.

The streets of North Kensington and Notting Hill are subjects to regular confrontation between artists, performers and stewards and Local Authority officers.

The overwhelming impetus of the regulatory authorities is to create a processional linear route for the Carnival, more akin to a horse shoe rather than a circle, as this configuration is best suited to the management of public safety and the control of potential public disorder. This use of performing space has the net effect of undermining the spontaneity that is essential to the public display of Carnival Arts and minimises the interaction with the public

This particular conversation with the relevant parties needs to engage with a more representative sample of the participating organisations and individuals. Carnival Village Trust will be happy to host such conversations so that ritualistic confrontations are minimised.

Notting Hill Carnival is a positive symbol of diversity in London

Where else in Britain would you get a Street Festival having as one of its participants the Folkestone Rock and Roll Club – complete with pink Cadillac and dancers – rocking and rolling to Elvis’ Blue Suede Shoes, and not 300 yards behind, a local Pastor from The Church of God, exhorting audiences to take the path of righteousness and being drowned out by the symphonic sounds of Mangrove Steel Band? Or the folk dancers from Sri Lanka in some quaint choreographic movements, and the street musicians from Rajasthan with their elongated trumpets and bugles?

These things actually happened during the last 49 years of Carnival in Notting Hill.

However, the challenge facing us is that the Notting Hill Carnival is changing to a market-driven, manufactured and mass produced commodity

The social network and digital marketing of its performing Bands; the production of masquerade being overtaken by the Chinese and their made-to-order costumes; the popularity of synthetic fabrics, fishing rods, bikinis, beads and feathers; the emergence of the entrepreneurial producer and performer as Band Leaders; the dominance of T-shirts and ‘fun’ Mas (Chocolate & Dutty Mas) and the fitness craze with Zumba and aerobics.

The challenge facing us is that Carnival, in the Grove, is changing from a Carnival with a cutting-edge creative crucible, to a market-driven, manufactured and mass produced commodity.

If we are to make the Carnival great, we need to address this challenge.

The Carnival Village Trust is committed to host the conversation between the various Carnival Stakeholders

We will continue to routinely invite each of these bodies to all our fora and planning groups, so that all issues are fully aired and expertly planned.

There are three particular activity areas whose presence, placing and operations require urgent reviewing if their continued participation is not to adversely impact on the success of the event – the Masquerade, the Static Sound Systems and Stall Holders.  For each of these areas, there are a number of contentious and challenging issues that need to be addressed and our goal is to have these discussions in a structured, timely and professional manner. The findings of this survey could be that timely spur to bring all interested parties together so that a consensus is reached.

Pictures courtesy of Festivity Beyond Play