|The spirit of Carnival: to cancel this year's event |
would be a shameful overreaction
As football matches are called off and Parliament is recalled (a pointless exercise, simply to prove that not all politicians are on their sunloungers) we are in danger of losing our heads and over- reacting. A plethora of Facebook sites have been set up this week, including Stop the Notting HIll Carnival Now and Stop the Notting Hill Carnival for Safety Sake. The social networking sites are in danger of becoming anti-social sites.
There were similar calls to cancel the Carnival after the July bombings in 2005 but it went ahead. Just as we shouldn't give in to terrorists, so we shouldn't capitulate to a bunch of opportunistic hoodlums who barely number a few hundred. If we can't even organise a Carnival, what sort of message will this send to the world about the Olympics?
Yes, it will be a drain on police resources - but it is a drain every year and it's up to the police and the organisers to liaise and make sure it passes off without major incident.
In fact given that more than a million people attend, it is astonishing how little disorder there is at Carnival. Gradual improvements have been made such as earlier start and finishing times. Scale it back further, if we must, but don't let the killjoys win the day. For many people it is the highlight of the year; hundreds of steel drummers have spent months rehearsing. It would be a shame if all their hard work went to waste.
We should not forget that huge swathes of London stayed riot-free. And as the residents of Clapham and Croydon demonstrated, far more people are willing to clean up the streets than trash them. Our streets should be reclaimed by those who love them. And there is no better example of this community spirit than the Notting Hill Carnival. Let the steel drums ring out. But please, please when it's all over, can it be relocated next year?
* Mat Collishaw, a former Young British Artist, complains that the world of street art is overrun by the middle classes and is full of the privileged few who are affecting a political conciousness. I can only assume he means Banksy. I wonder if he approves of the graffiti painters who daubed "Welcome to Hackney" on the walls and hoardings after the riots. Not all of them came from privileged backgrounds - but does that make their street art any more artistic?