London rocks to reggae beat at Caribbean carnival

30th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

Hundreds of thousands of revellers partied at London's Notting Hill Carnival on Monday, soaking up the Caribbean spirit at Europe's biggest street party.

Dancers dressed up in feathers and bikinis paraded through west London as elaborate floats filed past.

Revellers milled between the sound systems and stalls, dancing, drinking and tucking into jerk chicken as the smells of open-cooked Carribbean food floated into the air.

The festival was originally launched in 1959 by post-World War II immigrants from what were then Britain's Caribbean colonies, as a community act of defiance following ugly race riots the year before.

It was held in various parts of London before settling permanently in Notting Hill in 1964.

"At the core of it, it's still a Caribbean carnival. But obviously it's been in London 40 years so it's changed and there are lots of other influences," carnival director Chris Bootham told AFP.

"There's a Brazilian influence, a London influence -- many influences which are part of the melting pot we have here in London."

An estimated 400,000 people turned up on the carnival's first day Sunday, traditionally the quieter day before Monday's finale.

London Mayor Boris Johnson said the city was "filled with visitors from across the world eager to have some fun at the ultimate free street party.

"Our legendary Notting Hill Carnival highlights the richness of Caribbean culture and is the perfect summer celebration," he said.

"I feel a particular affinity to the pulsating steel pans and colourful floats as simply nothing rivals the spirit and energy of carnival.

"The event showcases the immense contribution that Caribbean Londoners have made and continue to make to life in the capital."

The festival has had a reputation for violence in the past and is met with a large policing operation.

An estimated 5,000 officers were on the Notting Hill streets.

Search points operated at all entrances to the event to prevent weapons being carried into the district, while specialist spotters watched out for known criminals.

Police said 150 people had been arrested, largely for drugs, public order and drunken behaviour offences.

"The policing operation has gone smoothly and to plan. People seem to have heeded warnings to come to carnival to have fun, but not to cause trouble," Chief Inspector Jo Edwards said.

"We can all enjoy this great cultural spectacle without it being marred by serious incidents."

London Ambulance Service said they had dealt with more than 260 casualties on Sunday, with more than 50 people taken to hospital.

© 2010 AFP

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