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Notting Hill Carnival

The Notting Hill Carnival is an annual event which takes place in Notting Hill, London, England each August, over three days (a weekend and a bank holiday). It is led by members of the Caribbean population, many of whom have lived in the area since the 1950s. The carnival attracts up to 1.5 million people, making it the largest street festival in Europe.

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On Saturday the Panorama takes place, a competition between steelpan bands mainly from London but more recently including some bands from other areas of the UK. Carnival kicks off on Sunday with Children's Day, with a shorter Carnival route for children and young people. The main parade then takes place on Monday.

The current route for the main parade covers around 3 miles, following Great Western Road, Chepstow Road, Westbourne Grove and Ladbroke Grove. In addition to trucks with pan bands or mobile sound systems, there are costumed masqueraders and around 40 static sound systems spread throughout the area playing a range of music at high volume. While the "traditional" Soca and some Calypso can still be found, many other musical styles are represented.



The Carnival began in January 1959 in St Pancras Town Hall as a response to the depressing state of race relations at the time; the UK's first widespread racial attacks had occurred the previous year. It was a huge success, despite being held indoors.

It first moved outside and shifted into August in 1965. The prime mover was Rhaune Laslett, who wasn't even aware of the indoor events when she first raised the idea. At this point, it was more a Notting Hill event than an Afro-Caribbean event, and only around a thousand people turned out.

By 1976 the event had become definitely Caribbean in flavour, with around 150,000 people attending. However, in that year and several subsequent years the carnival was marred by riots, in which predominantly Caribbean youths fought with police a target due to the continuous harassment the population felt they were under. During this period, there was considerable coverage of the disorder in the press, which some felt took an unfairly negative and one-sided view of the Carnival. For a while it looked as if the carnival would be banned. Prince Charles was one of the few establishment figures who supported the event.

Notting Hill Festival 2008

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In recent years, the event has been much freer from serious trouble and is generally viewed very positively as a dynamic celebration of London's multi-cultural diversity, though dominated by the Caribbean culture in the best traditions of Rio. However, there has been controversy over the public safety aspects of holding such a well-attended event in narrow streets in a small area of London. The capital's authorities have sought to spread the load by making use of nearby Hyde Park.

In 2003 the Carnival was run by a limited company, the Notting Hill Carnival Trust Ltd. A report by the London Development Agency on the 2002 Carnival estimated that the event contributes around 93 million to the London and UK economy.

In 2005, entrants from Notting Hill Carnival participated in the Bridgwater, Somerset carnival - Europe's largest lighted carnival and part of the West Country Carnival circuit.


Attendance Figures

2006 - 1,000,000 (500,000 Sunday | 500,000 Monday)
2005 - 750,000
2004 - 750,000
2003 - 600,000
2002 - 1,400,000
2001 - 1,250,000
2000 - 1,500,000
1999 - 1,400,000
1998 - 1,150,000
1997 - 1,300,000
1996 - 1,000,000

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