Everyone is talking about the changes to the Nottinghill carnival this year. I have seen the statements on whatapp forums, Facebook, Socanews etc and really, are the changes such a bad thing?
(Spark, August 207)
I mean, we are at the very highest level of a terrorism threat in London, carnival is also a haven to hide for the bad man after dark and who else is tired of being accosted on the road after 7pm or running from violence? Perhaps you may have never experienced any of these things, however, how many of you have thought about the changes as an advantageous prospect? The countless of times I have picked up my costume, with typed out information detailing the meet up location and usually it’s 8am for breakfast and it states, “at 10.30am we go on the road”! Really? When has that ever happened? Do you know how many years, I have turned up at 9am and we are on the road at 11.30/12pm? How many times the truck has to wait on the coaches of masqueraders because the costume designer (who has to get on the coach) is still making costumes in the morning? Now is the time for efficiency and for the masqueraders to get their value for money, in terms of time spent on the road. As 8hrs on the road vs 6hrs on the road – is a no brainer! What is wrong with being ready for 10am? Arguably, I am no sound man and have no idea into the mechanics of getting a truck ready to be on the road. However, with the trailer load of people I often see on the trucks – who are they and when did then turn up? The sound systems en route are a contentious subject to me, as carnival should be as it is. A carnival. Personally, I feel that the only downside to the changes, is that it feels that sound systems are taking precedence. However, what if you effect change the other way round and shut down the sound systems early? The natural route would be for the drunk and merry to descend upon the floats and cause carnage. Would that be better? For me, definitely no.
Its all well and good moaning about the changes but they are needed. Safety is a huge concern right now, and with the heighten levels of terrorism threat, we must take that into consideration above all. Some will see it as a way to the council slowly shutting down carnival, I see it as common sense! Get the trucks on the road from 10am at staggered intervals, we are on the road then for 8hrs, that’s enough time to get drunk and disorderly. Tuesday after carnival is not a bank holiday and for the chosen few, work beckons ‘in ah de marning’. Coming up Ladbroke grove for the final lap later on can be difficult, for the then the sound systems would have shut down, the crowds merge into the floats and you will have witnessed the swathes of drunk and high teenagers that hit the bands. For the most, its fun, but there are some that know no manners.
There are also not many countries around the world that host carnivals that go beyond 6pm. In Barbados, our band came off the road at 3pm, they did the circuit and they were done, I kid you not!! St Vincent and St Lucia also done by 7pm. We are not the only city to have violence perpetrate carnival celebrations, Trinidad has a high crime rate and notable violence during the carnival season. New York has similar issues with violence and it is their jouvert that actually mars the celebrations. Major changes are also in place this year for New York and jouvert this year, is being moved to start at 6am instead of the usual Caribbean 4am kick off in attempt to curb the night-time violence.
Changes are needed, but they are late changes and now we have bands in limbo, not knowing where to state for meet up points and dealing with the significant changes. With a week to go, we have to sit tight and hope that the bands can adjust to the last minute changes and communicate out to all.
For those of you who drive to carnival, its not getting any better. There are earlier restrictions into the actual carnival, parking is more or less reserved for residents with little leeway to park all day and parking attendants ready to ticket or tow your car. You will visibly see these restrictions all round the carnival area so unless you know the best places to park – don’t drive!
The changes may have caused a rippled effect within the soca community but the carnival is still going ahead and that’s all I care about.