CultureIs it time to ban Notting Hill Carnival?

Is it time to ban Notting Hill Carnival?

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There have been calls for Notting Hill Carnival to be moved to a private venue, or cancelled altogether, after this year’s celebrations saw two female police officers sexually assaulted, among other acts of lawlessness.

One of the officers was ‘grabbed around the neck and kissed on the face without her consent’, whilst the other was ‘surrounded by a group of men who danced and grinded against her’, the Met Police said.

Speaking to LBC’s Nick Ferrari, chairman of the Met Police Federation Ken Marsh said: “Sexually assaulted by numerous males during the carnival… my thoughts go out to that individual right now.”

“There were so many of my colleagues injured, assaulted etc, members of the public seriously assaulted.”

“It [NHC] should be in a private area, Hyde Park etc, where it can be fenced off, people can be controlled. We don’t have the resources to deal with it. This is tens of millions of pounds of public money that is spent on policing this.”

A carnival-goer ‘grinds’ on a female police officer without consent.

He added that “98% of people” who attend the carnival are “law-abiding and want to enjoy themselves”, but “there is an element” who go to “cause harm to others”.

It comes after seven stabbings were reported to the police during the two-day event, with one of them unfortunately turning out to be fatal.

21-year-old father-to-be Takayo Nembhard was found with stab wounds on Ladbroke Grove on Monday evening. The rapper, known as TKorStretch, later died in hospital despite treatment from emergency services.

Sky News reported that over the course of the carnival, 209 arrests were made, 33 of which were related to possession of an offensive weapon.

Five were made for criminal damage, 36 for drug possession and 46 for assault.

Something must be done

Whilst it is quite drastic to ban Notting Hill Carnival, something must be done and quickly.

It seems as if old habits die hard. One would be forgiven for thinking that this edition of the carnival, after two years of absence, would result in more of an appreciation for the event and there would be less of a hostile environment, but this doesn’t seem to be the case.

It’s not the first time that NHC has seen lawlessness. The Met Police reported that there were 463 arrests back in the 2019 edition – the last pre-pandemic edition – with over 209 arrests were made for drug offences alone.

It would, however, be harsh to cancel the event altogether. NHC is a culturally significant event and it would be unjust for the event itself to cease to exist due to the unlawful actions of a few troublemakers.

It is the nature of large events like NHC that these things are unfortunately inevitable.

Perhaps the key difference between NHC and events such as Glastonbury is regulation.

Glastonbury is a ticketed event which averages over 200,000 people a year. It’s a private event – albeit a large one – but a private event nonetheless.

Carnival-goers damage a bus stop.

This means organisation is essential and key to how the event unfolds. It’s not an event where people can just turn up to.

With Glastonbury, the approximate amount of tickets sold means not only can the police have more control over the event due to it being in a fixed area, it would also give an idea as to how many officers are needed in order to budget appropriately.

In contrast, NHC is a public event, which means there are no legal limits to how many people can attend. This means anything can happen and therefore an increase in crime is likely.

People are also concerned with the portrayal of NHC compared to other festivals, due to possible racist stereotypes. Many feel the carnival is seen as more violent due to it being a Black space, in comparison to majority White spaces such as Glastonbury.

Depending on how it’s reported, and by whom, a person could be led to believe that NHC is either the most violent event in the UK or that it’s overpoliced compared to White festivals.

However, it’s almost impossible to directly compare NHC’s issues to other festivals. There are so many variables to consider such as numbers of attendees, area space, types of crime etc.

Arrest rates are not the same as crime rates.

What now?

Many believe the writing is on the wall for NHC. Several figures from the police have already called for the event to be more regulated, but some want the event to be cancelled altogether.

Therefore many would argue that the very soul of the event is at stake.

NHC attracts, on average, 2.5 million people over the course of the event across a two-day period. All are expected to fit into a small area of West London.

It is inevitable that safety concerns will be a priority going forward.

It would be unjust to cancel such a culturally significant event for the majority of festival-goers for the sins of a few troublemakers, but to not take serious action now would be irresponsible of the police and local councils.

Aaron Fenton-Hewitt
Aaron Fenton-Hewitt
Aaron Fenton-Hewitt is an aspiring journalist and political commentator. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Film from London Metropolitan University, and a Master's in Writing for Creative and Professional Practice from Middlesex University. He wishes to continue his academic career, with a PhD in Politics or related field. Aaron is also a freelance photographer, an avid foodie and an Arsenal supporter.

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