August 27, 2006

London’s Notting Hill dances to Carnival beat

LONDON (Reuters) - Europe's largest street party got under
way on Sunday as festivities began in the narrow streets of
London's Notting Hill with an estimated 300,000 visitors coming
to enjoy the first day of the annual carnival.

Children and adults in elaborate costumes, many decked out
with multi-colored feathers and large wings, paraded along the
carnival's three and a half mile route in west London to the
sound of whistles, steel drums, and Caribbean music.

"The weather is fantastic, the sounds are great, the color
this year is absolutely phenomenal," Chris Mullard, chairman of
the carnival's organizing body, told Sky News.

The event, first held in 1964, acquired a reputation for
violence and crime in the late 1970s when the festivities were
marred by riots but careful policing over recent years has left
the carnival largely trouble-free.

On Sunday police said the atmosphere in the carnival area
was "good natured" with only a handful of arrests made.

By 5 p.m. (1600 GMT) on Sunday police said they had
arrested 26 people, mainly for drugs, theft and drinking

"We've taken massive precautions, there are more police
here than ever," said Mullard.

"We are quite clear about it, if we see trouble we stamp on
it. If there is trouble, the police are under strict
instructions from their commanders to deal with it."

Police estimated around 300,000 people had come to the
event -- the largest numbers for the Carnival's "Children's
Day" since 2002 -- although Mullard put the attendance higher
at 500,000.

Scotland Yard said they had arrested more than 90 people
ahead of the carnival who they suspected were planning to
commit crime or cause trouble at the event.

Extra police will be on duty on Monday, a public holiday,
and carnival's busiest day, with up to 40 "static sound
systems" blasting out high-decibel beats.

The open-air party will for a second year be accompanied on
Monday by a "family friendly" Caribbean Showcase in Hyde Park
organized by London Mayor Ken Livingstone.