The Met: Policing London – The Notting Hill Carnival, an easy target?
The Notting Hill Carnival has certainly been a victim of its success over the years.
It is a great street party – the biggest in Europe – that has largely run with no disorder and no violence.
It is a little disappointing to see the Notting Hill Carnival from 2014 included in the second episode of the BBC series, The Met: Policing London (available on BBC iPlayer until Monday 22nd June). The documentary follows the Metropolitan Police in its investigation of crimes taking place in the capital.
The episode starts with a carnival planning meeting between the Met, a resident of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, a member of the London Notting Hill Carnival Trust Enterprises and other stakeholders. The Met Chief Superintendent who chairs the meeting admits that no disorder has occurred in the Notting Hill Carnival for “quite some time”. There may be no violence to report in the documentary, but other issues are raised. These issues reflect a lot more, in our opinion, on the overcrowding issue at the Notting Hill Carnival, rather than on actual incivility or disrespect from carnival goers and participants.
Excessive crowding at the carnival
The documentary’s images of compressed carnival goers, painfully making their way through the carnival route are not new to anyone that has been to the Notting Hill Carnival.
To understand the magnitude of the Carnival, let’s just look at the figures, and compare them with the Glastonbury festival’s:
Notting Hill 2014
1.5 million visitors
3.5 square miles
135 000 visitors
8.5 square miles
In a nutshell, the density at Glastonbury is 15882 people per square miles (roughly the equivalent of London Urban Area) The density at the Notting Hill Carnival is 42857 people per square miles. Almost three times as much! Isn’t it time for the carnival route to be expanded, as the Carnival is getting bigger and more popular throughout the years?
The toilet shortage
Another deplorable issue, an unfortunate and inherent part of the Notting Hill Carnival, is the scarcity of portable toilets throughout the area. In the documentary, a dismayed older lady watches people relieving themselves in the most incongruous places, such as the front garden of her neighbours’ home. Looking at the figures above, one can deduce that there is 1 loo for 27 people at Glastonbury, and 1 loo for 5000 people at the Notting Hill Carnival.
How is this sustainable? The problem is not that people are being uncivil at the Carnival, but rather, that the toilet problem needs to be solved, for both carnival goers and residents alike.
Crime at the Notting Hill Carnival
As the police officer confirmed at the beginning of the documentary: there hasn’t been any disorder at the Notting Hill Carnival for a long time. This makes us wonder why the Carnival was featured in the documentary on the first place.
At the end of the documentary, a group of youngsters was arrested, and subsequently charged with possessing illegal arms (knifes). It is disturbing to imagine that people would come to a manifestation that is so important, to the Caribbean community, with arms. But thankfully throughout the years, the carnival has been a safe event, consistently attended by entire families.
The Police at the Notting Hill Carnival
Finally, it is quite disconcerting to witness, in the documentary, the contempt and general grumpiness of the police force working in Notting Hill. Our experience with the Metropolitan Police at the Carnival, since we’ve taken part, has been very positive. The police always demonstrates a lot of patience, a lot of humanity and yes, it is a common occurrence to see carnival goers interact and dance with the police force! The police has always felt like a strong ally at the carnival. A far cry from the portrayal of the situation in the documentary.
The Notting Hill Carnival is the most important celebration of the Caribbean community living in London. It does generate a lot of income, £93 million, according to a decade-old study. Surely a lot more today. It is in the interest of all to make it a sustainable event. The carnival should not happen to the detriment of the residents of the borough of Kensington and Chelsea. How long can it retain its current form? What changes should be implemented to secure its longevity for the years to come. For our children and our grandchildren?
The debate is open!
The importance of the Notting Hill carnival – The Guardian
Notting Hill Carnival: Where are all the loos? – GetWestLondon
Glastonbury 2014 by numbers: Facts and figures from the world’s biggest pop festival – Mirror
An introduction to Glastonbury festival – Glastonbury Festival website
Cops on the box – policing Notting Hill Carnival – Soca News