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A barometer of British society… Carnival!

30 August, 2019 — By The Xtra Diary

CARNIVAL: an event that started in the Notting Hill area 60-odd years ago to help celebrate Caribbean culture in a city of adopted sons and daughters, that has now come to be both that and a celebration of something more, a celebration of London as a whole.

Diary is a confirmed Carnival fan, having been making the trip there since our distant youth, so it is always upsetting, though sadly not surprising, to see on social media the usual idiotic, racist comments about Carnival and its supposed “dangers” – simply put, for some bigots seeing people of colour show some exuberance and celebration is always going to rile them, and seeing all Londoners united, being together and enjoying themselves, does not fit with their bigoted assumptions.

And myths and downright lies about Carnival are peddled with such inane regularity by headline-seeking news reporters that they have become part of landscape; as much as the ubiquitous images of women in feathered head-dresses dancing with policemen.

Now the clean-up has finished and Carnival is done for another year, here are some figures involving the 2019 event.

They make for interesting reading.

There were no fatalities, and Met Police figures show it easily enjoyed the lowest arrest and offences rate of any major UK festival. The Met reported a total of 376 arrests out of 2.5 million people who came – working out at 0.0001504 per cent – with by far the largest number, 162, for low-level drugs offences, namely people smoking cannabis a little too blatantly in front of officers.

These figures are also said by officers to be high, as some of the arrests took place away from Carnival but are classed as linked to the event.

According to statistics published by the Local Government Chronicle, Carnival this year created 3,000 full-time jobs and added £93million to the local economy.

In an academic paper studying the effect Carnival has had on UK culture called The Carnival Battleground – We Ready! The struggle for cultural space in the public realm, author Ansel Wong states: “Carnival has become a symbol of London and certainly of Great Britain. What happens at the event – whether good or bad – makes worldwide news. Carnival is thus a litmus test of how successful Britain is in making the nation great again.

“A good successful Carnival is thus an indicator of Britain at peace with itself. A great Carnival says to the world, London as the dynamic multicultural city is open to welcome more visitors and investors. A riotous, disorganised Carnival is an indication of a city to be avoided. A city like too many others that are riven with division and discord. Carnival is thus a barometer of British society.”

But perhaps the better barometer isn’t how well Carnival went, as it has been decades since it has really seen any widespread trouble, but how it was reported. In this age of highly politicised media, stating the obvious fact that London is a diverse city that comes together does not suit some agendas.

Thankfully, the statistics tell a whole different yarn.

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