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Carnival: Our time now!

A VIBE: Monday at Notting Hill Carnival (image credit: Trevor Raymond)

AN ESTIMATED £93 million flowed through London this August Bank Holiday weekend as a direct result of the highly-anticipated annual explosion of colour and bassline that is the beloved Notting Hill Carnival; one of the only street parties with a strong enough pedigree to bring joy to people who have spent the last year thinking about the fragility of their freedom in the wake of terror and acid attacks, among other horrors.

Although the figure of £93 million was first quoted by statisticians in 2003, City Hall’s 2016 investigation, (which appears as a PDF download on their website) into the famous festival mentioned the figure again; confirming what is plain to see - Caribbean culture is big business.

Black vendors are reaping the benefits from this celebration of authentic cultural expression after months of food prep, investment in stock and hand-making intricate costumes; amongst other enterprising pursuits in the run-up to August.

Jennifer, owner of Shake and Sip Cocktails, who featured her homemade concoctions at this year’s Carnival, told The Voice:

“People come all over the world for Carnival.

“People will stay and just celebrate and that results in the success economically. People want to buy the food, listen to the music and embrace the culture, and thats a great thing to be a part of.”

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In another triumph for those who care about the accuracy of perceptions about black communities in a world where the ‘white gaze’ is tinged with views rooted in racism, approximately 100 people were arrested on day one of Carnival this year, which equates to 0.01% of the day’s attendees. This number is proportionately smaller than the number of people arrested for crimes committed at Glastonbury this year, quelling any attempts to sully the event’s reputation.

On Monday evening, reports of ‘suspected acid attacks’ were disseminated by several other national newspapers, who reported that people suffered ‘skin irritations’ from a coloured liquid being thrown at them. The liquid in question could well have been that thrown from floats partaking in ‘dutty mas’; a tradition involving throwing coloured liquid at willing revellers, much like the colourful power and paint thrown at other parties all over the world.

Many stallholders see the Carnival as the highlight of their financial year, which translates into more jobs for Londoners as well as more spending, boosting the economy for all.

Boris, an independent fine artist who regularly sells his work at Notting Hill Carnival said:

”For tourism, events like Notting Hill Carnival can aid the British economy.

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“Our influences are everywhere; from our music to our food, and businesses are utilising this and carnival is a representation of that.”

In addition to the economic weight of the 51 year-old event, the value of Caribbean cultural currency and clout is also evident; with a range of ethnicities making the weekender their own. Myrna from east London offered her perspective:

“Every year we are seeing more diverse cultures being formed, so regardless if you are black, white, or from another country this is definitely what we’re seeing - more diversity.”

Speaking on whether or not her children and British-born Caribbeans are appreciative of their culture of origin and interested in upholding it, Myrna continued:

“The younger generation are still holding onto it [Caribbean culture], which is lovely. Look around you - they know all the words to the songs, they seek out Caribbean food and their English friends are following suit.”

HIGH STANDARDS: One of the most eye-catching costumes of the day

The Voice celebrated our 35th birthday at this year’s Carnival. The treasured two-day event was the launch pad for our first issue, which was sold at the festival in 1982 for the first time. We joined regular Carnival partner Candy Mas for our special weekend, who helped us to celebrate during the parade. Voice team members and Candy Mas members shared a float and gave away goodie bags to those who lapped-up the sounds of soca coming from heavy speaker boxes; which was made to sound even better somehow with the addition of the MC who greeted individual dancers in the crowd over the mic, Caribbean style.

Candy Mas founder DJ Shak Attak commented on how things went from his perspective, taking into account the additional security measures that tracks were faced with this year in light of terror attack fears:

“Yeah positive, positive, just having everyone, kids, adults, the public, who participated and enjoyed the Carnival.

“We’re just bringing the culture together.”

The Voice are proud to have helped serve the community for the last 35 years, an experience made all the more rewarding when we acknowledge other long-established, black-owned cornerstones of the culture, like the Notting Hill Carnival; which has withstood many attempts to quell its power over the years.

Long may its reach continue to expand and work to support Caribbean financial independence and ownership in the UK.

The Voice is celebrating its 35th birthday this year. Share your Voice memories, comments and birthday wishes on social media, using the following hash tag: #Voice35Years

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