Known as Europe’s biggest street party, west London’s Notting Hill Carnival is an annual tradition that is reportedly attended by approximately two million people every August, but after a devastating fire in the nearby Grenfell Tower killed at least 79 people this year, some thought the locals weren’t yet ready to host such a massive party.
Greg Hands, the minister for London, wrote to London Mayor Sadiq Khan to ask if he thought it would be “appropriate to stage a carnival in the near proximity of a major national disaster.” He suggested the event be instead moved to another locale.
Khan disagreed, saying the carnival has been held there since 1966 and moving it could cause problems between residents and city officials, who are already at odds after the fire.
“The Notting Hill carnival is one of the world’s biggest street festivals and has become a firm London tradition over many decades,” wrote Khan, noting, “It was born out of the African-Caribbean immigrant community in North Kensington and Notting Hill in the 1950s, and it’s only right that this remains its home.”
“Any attempt to impose a move to another location on the carnival, particularly at a time when the community has little trust in those in positions of authority, would be a mistake. It is only right that this year’s carnival marks the terrible tragedy at Grenfell Tower and the mayor will work closely with the organizers and the wider community to ensure they are consulted and involved in the planning for an appropriate commemoration.”
A carnival committee member since 1968, Sonny Blacks said that the carnival will be a morale-booster for the area. “Undoubtedly it will go ahead,” he told reporters. “It will brighten up the whole gloom that is over London, and we need that.”
An investigation into what caused the blaze to rip through the 24-story building is still ongoing, and Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy said the death toll may rise.
Grenfell Tower is located less than half a mile from the carnival procession route down Ladbroke Grove.
“If it had happened a week before the carnival, it would have been cancelled of course. But as far as we’re concerned it will go ahead,” stated Blacks, who has been an outspoken critic of the Kensington and Chelsea council for the authority’s response to the fire.
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