London’s Notting Hill Carnival Still On Despite Rioting

Because of the million or more people who attend it, the Notting Hill Carnival, an annual celebration of Caribbean culture, can feel overwhelming to say the least. Sprawling over roughly 20 miles of West London, the carnival is often cited as one of the largest street festivals in Europe. This year’s festival takes place on Aug. 28 and 29, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Sunday is considered the family-oriented day, and so the big, sometimes chaotic parade from Great Western Road to Ladbroke Grove happens on Monday. A smaller parade also takes place on Sunday.

Performers dress up in elaborate costumes, and vendors sell a wide variety of Caribbean food staples, including jerk chicken, curries, fried plantains, and rice and peas.

The carnival includes more than 40 sound systems spinning various styles of dub, reggae, R&B, house and funk. Earplugs can come in handy, particularly if you wind up standing near the large speakers. Due to the noise (and crowds), borough officials say the event may not be suitable for small children.

Indeed, the carnival has had a checkered past. The BBC reported that an average of 250 crimes are reported each year, despite the 5,000 or so police officers that are on duty each day of the carnival. Lines at the portable toilets are daunting, as is the amount of trash that can accumulate on the streets.

Because of recent riots and looting throughout London and Great Britain, carnival organizers, local authorities and the Metropolitan Police say they are discussing measures that will be put in place to ensure added safety.

“Given the huge number of people who take part in Carnival, crime rates are low,” said Bob Broadhurst, the Metropolitan Police officer responsible for leading the carnival policing operation, in a press release, “and our policing style in recent years has ensured that less people become victims of crime. We know that everyone who loves Carnival wants that success to continue this year.”

Given the enormity of the carnival, it can be difficult to get up-to-date information, but the best sources are the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, the official event Web site, or this unofficial event Web site.

Several tube stations provide access to the carnival area, including Westbourne Park, Latimer Road, Notting Hill Gate, Royal Oak, Bayswater, and Queensway, however certain time restrictions will apply on both days. Driving a car is ill-advised, as many streets are closed for pedestrian-use only. Transportation for London provides regular transportation updates.

The full story is also at the NEW YORK TIMES.

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