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Notting Hill Carnival

Notting Hill Carnival


The Notting Hill Carnival is an annual festival held in London since 1966. It originated as a way for West Indian migrants to celebrate their cultural roots away from home. Approximately two million people attend Notting Hill Carnival, with 40,000 volunteers and 9,000 police officers; that is one police officer to 222 revellers.

Carnival is arguably the largest festival across all Caribbean islands and it is heart-warming to see that people who have migrated to the UK for a better life, have access to the festival. On the surface this sounds amazing; it is after all a carnival away from home. Unfortunately, as your grandmother would say, “something ain clean in the buttermilk”.

Firstly, note how heavily policed Notting Hill Carnival is compared to other festivals. I tried researching other festivals common to London and I couldn’t even find the number of police officers stationed there. The only information given was how “safe” and “fun” these festivals were. Conversely, when you search for Notting Hill Carnival you are bombarded with statistics of how many arrests were made and whether it’s “safe” or not.

Statistically speaking, Notting Hill Carnival is one of the safest festivals in London, but you’d never know that unless you crunched the numbers. The music festival Glastonbury generates 135,000 revellers with 75 arrests, that’s 0.006 per cent of the crowd arrested. On the other hand, Notting Hill had two million revellers and 454 arrests which is 0.00227 per cent of the crowd. Yet one festival is touted as safe and the other comes with warning bells.

Notting Hill Carnival has been victim to unfair scrutiny from the very beginning. A small part of me believes that the bias stems from the large black crowd that attends, but I won’t go there today. We all know that whenever black people congregate we are presumed to be dangerous.

I will admit though, not all bad reviews come from the London police. With the advent of social media, we now get honest and real time reviews from participants, and this year the reviews weren’t as expected. I’ve witnessed dozens of women come online to vent their frustration about sexual assault during carnival. Specifically, the non-West Indian men who come to spectate like to grope the female participants without consent. This is outrageous and disgusting. These men seem to believe that if a woman is scantily clad you have a right to grope.

In the West Indies, men already know they aren’t allowed to grope women while they party in the streets. It is an unspoken rule. I would like to say men in the West Indies in general understand consent, but we are not there yet. However, that cultural difference matters when you consider the respect and reverence expected of carnival goers. The first and second-generation West Indians who live in the UK don’t seem to have the same respect and understanding of carnival, which explains why they feel they have the right to grope the women they see.

Under no circumstances are you allowed to touch someone without their permission, man or woman; carnival is no exception. I hope that over time with the ‘Me Too’ movement men (and women) will learn to keep their grubby hands to themselves and let the revellers revel!