in elections to support those who will respect our culture, was another suggestion. As it happened, two people involved in the fight to reduce taxes on flights to the Caribbean were in the hall, and had used this tactic with great success in the anti Air Passenger Duty (APD) campaign. More openness was demanded: “Police, SEC and RBKC should be invited to explain themselves to us, the people. Every year they have their secret meetings when we don’t know what happens.” The way the event manager had been appointed infuriated some, local activist Isis Amlak saying, “I was incensed to hear that LNHCET gave a contract to an old-school racist police officer called Dave Morgan. LNHCET has to account for the money they’ve spent. It cannot be acceptable.” The lack of respect paid to mas was a sore point. Chris Boothman said, “Masqueraders are put at the bottom of the heap – they’re the ones who pay.” Mahogany Mas Band’s leader, Clary Salandy, stressed the urgent need for action – and for certainty on Carnival day, saying, “When I bring my 200 people I need to know where we’re coming in.” The hold-ups and confusion on the route are damaging participation, she said, and, “The new people we’re nurturing are so badly treated.” Peter Winchester of Dragons Cultural Arts felt that more should be done for the children, saying that the adults’ route should be enlarged and a smaller route created for the children (in the past, children’s bands did indeed take a shortcut down Golborne Road). A big part of Carnival’s problems is ignorance, some maintained. “Carnival has lost its way,” said one. “How about we go into the schools and tell them about the history of Carnival, history of steelpan and African resistance,” proposed a former masquerader. Another supported getting steelpan back into schools. The point underscored the lack of young people in the hall. “Young people need to be engaged,” said one masquerader; “A young person isn’t heard because of their age,” fumed another. Carnival has always been firmly rooted in the streets of North Kensington and Notting Hill, but has it lost that vital connection? Some thought so: “There’s nothing in Carnival for the local community,” said one, while another asked, “Is this festival relevant if it doesn’t benefit the community?” And who exactly benefits from the estimated £100+ million a year Notting Hill Carnival generates for the UK economy? Not, it seems, the mas bands, nor the steelbands, nor the calypsonians, nor the residents, nor the stall-holders who have to pay RBKC over a thousand pounds for a pitch. Former Carnival Arts Committee chair Wilf Walker said, “We should talk to people seriously about revenue. All steelband musicians should be paid the Musi-
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“Masqueraders are put at the bottom of the heap – they’re the ones who pay” cians’ Union rate. The money we generate every year could be used to support Black arts.” When RBKC’s Sue Harris said carnivalists should do more research to support their case it brought an angry riposte from Gus John: “I’d like to think the borough has got some of this information; these records didn’t go up in the Grenfell fire. It’s incumbent on RBKC to do some research on what its role has been and to provide that information to the community. The borough needs to know what our aspirations and frustrations are. Do the work yourselves.” Michael La Rose added, “You can start on the stalls and have a strategy to return the money to the carnival.” A representative from Heritage Mas Band made the point: “Power answers to power. We are going to control our culture.” In his concluding address, Prof John asked: “How do we reclaim our power? The mas bands and steelbands, the musicians do the work but see nothing of that money. In a disciplined way we should raise some questions and register some demands.” And if no one responds to those demands, what then? Prof John had a startling, if high-risk, message for RBKC, the Mayor and the police: “If we don’t hear from you there will be no Carnival next year. We give our power away. But the power rests with us. We can make this decision. You have to change your ways or there’ll be no goddammed carnival.” As the meeting closed at 9.30pm, Michael La Rose had the last word, declaring, “This is time for action.” The battle lines seem to have been drawn. In the coming weeks, the campaigners will be sharpening their demands ready for a showdown at the Tabernacle at 7pm on Monday 30 October. LNHCET chair Pepe Francis and representatives of RBKC and the police will be present at a post-Notting Hill Carnival 2017 residents’ meeting – an event that one attendee told Soca News generally consists of Francis standing up and being yelled at by people who accuse Carnival of doing nothing for the community! This year, the meeting is certain to be packed, so anyone planning to attend should arrive in good time. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS? JOIN THE CONVERSATION ON OUR FACEBOOK PAGE AT FACEBOOK.COM/SOCANEWS
Published on Oct 1, 2017
In this month’s issue, read our exclusive report on the reclaiming of Notting Hill Carnival. Also check out our interview with Chef Hasan De...