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Major changes afoot for Notting Hill Carnival bands

JAM PACKED: Carnival trucks make their way through the crowd in Notting Hill

IN THE wake of recent terror attacks on the capital, Notting Hill Carnival’s mas and steel bands will see security inspections of trucks, face ID checks and heavy entry and exit restrictions when the annual two-day Caribbean street party gets underway this Bank Holiday weekend.

These changes have been recommended by Street Event Co (SEC), an event management company which was appointed by the carnival’s organiser, the London Notting Hill Carnival Enterprises Trust (LNHCET), in January 2017.

A statement issued by SEC reveals that band vehicles will only be able to access the route from Harrow Road, either into Ladbroke Grove or into Great Western Road. Moreover, all vehicles must be through the checkpoints by 8.30am on both Sunday and Monday, with no exceptions to be made.

Additional new rules call for drivers to carry their driving licence at all times. On entering the Carnival zone, police will check the licence and issue a unique ID pass, that must be signed for and worn at all times. The driver will then be required to park at a designated spot. Police have advised that some vehicles will be randomly subject to searches.

Masqueraders and steel pan musicians will enter the zone on foot, to join their vehicles. Each band will be told to move off from a specific location from 10am onwards and will be accompanied by a steward. Between 20-30 bands will be allocated one police officer.

FUN TIMES: Ladies in costume enjoying the festivities

These adjustments are anticipated to inconvenience those participating in Europe’s biggest street party.

Lynda Joseph, of the Arawak Mas band, is gravely concerned about these modifications and told The Voice:

“We expected changes because everybody wants to be secure. However, it would seem that the bands are being targeted because if you’re going to put an incendiary device anywhere, it doesn’t necessarily have to be on a truck. So there’s pressure being put on us. We’ve no objection to the trucks being searched, and so on, but to change the entry points, and disrupt what we’re doing, is unnecessary.

“What they’re trying to put in place isn’t going to work. And when it goes wrong, who’s going to take responsibility? Is it going to be the Met police? We accommodate them, all the time, and have always complied. Yet still, we’re the ones to suffer.

“My concern is it’ll look as though the incompetence is down to us, the Carnival committee and the bands; and it’s not. The authorities are trying to make it look as though the black community can never do anything right so it’s just to make us look ridiculous again. They won’t put their hands up.

“Is it really about security or is it about putting us in the bad light? What is the ultimate goal? You hear talk about them wanting to stop the carnival – they don’t want to. It generates a lot of money for them. But what they would like to do is gain control of it. In the end, what’ll happen is, they’ll end up charging the bands to take part. So, there’s a much bigger agenda here and, because they bamboozle you with the minor things, nobody asks about what the real implications are.”

FOLLOW THE FLOATS: The Notting Hill Carnival route highlighted in purple

Sonny Black, an original member of the first carnival committee launched in October 1968, echoed some of Joseph’s thoughts on the matter.

“These changes are completely disgusting. It is the plan they have been making for years and they were looking for the opportunity to curtail and control the carnival. I realised the game that was being played three years ago, when I had a meeting with the council and predicted that they want to stop the carnival, as we know it, in conjunction with the police. Now they are using terrorism as an excuse, following the recent terrorist attacks. It all adds up.”

Shak Callender, founder of the Candy Mas band has adopted a self-professed ‘positive’ stance, saying:

“With the threat of terrorism, the police have to be seen to be doing something or else there’ll be a big uproar. I suppose, we don’t like change, and I think the issues have been how the changes have been communicated and its speed.

“In terms of what they are asking for: entry points, knowing who the drivers are, I think it’s quite good that they are checking. We don’t normally staff the drivers ourselves, as bands; we just basically book a company and it sends them. At least, this way, we as the bands can say that we provided the information and did our best. If these are the changes to be make our people safer – so be it. We just have to make sure that it is just for safety and not controlling what we do.”

Bands and music will come to a halt at 3pm on Monday August 28, to observe a one minute's silence in honour of the Grenfell Tower fire victims. At least 80 people are confirmed to have died in the blaze.

Chairman Pepe Francis said the one-minute silence would allow people to “show proper respect for our grieving friends and neighbours”.

With its worldwide popularity continuing to soar, over two million revellers are expected to attend Notting Hill Carnival from August 27-28, as it celebrates 51 years since its inception,

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