Notting Hill Carnival fever is upon us again. For those Caribbean expatriates like myself, who are starved of the culture, music and food of our homeland, Carnival gives us the opportunity to "jump up", and enjoy this wonderful three-day bacchanal, writes Trinidadian Christine Hosein.
But Europe's biggest street party, held from August 24-27, has not been without its share of controversy. Over the years, there were nasty scenes of violence in 1976 and a racially motivated murder of an Asian man in 2000. But the event is great fun for the vast majority of law-abiding revellers.
Now, with a spate of youth stabbings in the capital, there is sometimes a sense of unease and dread when it comes to crowded events. The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) have made a number of pre-emptive arrests in advance of the Carnival weekend. According to media reports, they have even written to a couple of hundred 'would be troublemakers' to warn them off to make sure everyone can enjoy themselves.
Professor Chris Mullard, Chair of Carnival, told The-Latest: "It is going to more fun this year than ever before now that we have added Carnival in the Park (in Hyde Park) as one of our attractions. We're holding our world famous panorama there."
Carnival organisers have had to fight off a challenge from Mayor of London Ken Livingstone who, keen to exploit controversy over the relatively low level of crime at the event, has been trying to move it off the streets of Notting Hill and into Hyde Park.
Police say they hope that by focusing on preventative strategies, violent crime can avoided during the Carnival. Chief Inspector Jo Edwards says: "By running an operation before Carnival gets underway, we aim to disrupt and stop criminals and troublemakers from going to the event. Thousands of people fill the streets of Notting Hill every August bank holiday and crime rates remain relatively low. This operation is designed to help keep crime levels stay that way and send the message to criminals that they won't be tolerated.
"During the Carnival weekend, we will be running a large operation across London targeting people as they travel in - all with the aim of taking action before they arrive at the event. At Carnival itself, there are large numbers of police officers, supported by a complete CCTV network, who again will be targeting the small minority who commit crime and disorder. "Carnival should be a safe and enjoyable event for everyone that attends. I ask that the public help us achieve this and let us know of anyone planning to go along and commit crime so we can stop them."
London Notting Hill Carnival (LNHC) the organisers, agree. A spokesman says: "We support the activities of the Metropolitan Police Service and the recent raids. We would like to advise those intent on causing trouble will not be welcome here". Soca music, steel bands and colourful costumes and floats are as becoming common sights Carnival, and bacchanal, wineing, pronounced as (wine-ing) are words not normally heard on the streets of London, but every bank holiday weekend since 1966, the streets of west London have echoed the sounds and sights of the Caribbean.
Insider's survival guide ways to improve personal safety; don't argue with idiots, it's just not worth it- walk away. Just keep wine-ing and grinding to the thumping base from the sounds systems, find a cool location to see the costumes and floats. After years of being crushed, and pushed, I position my self on Trini-hill, along the Westbourne Park Road. Here, not only do you see the bands first hand, but, the parade of food stalls,of hot, spicy tasty jerk chicken, rice 'n' peas, coconut water, curry goat are close by.
There are public lavatories stationed here as well for your comfort. When leaving carnival, exit on the north side of this road and that takes you onto the Harrow Road Understand the Lingo Bacchanal - scandal, arguing, confusion or big party Wine-ing- gyrating hips usually with the opposite sex Band (Carnival) - a Carnival band refers to a group of masqueraders who are wearing the same costumes, or costumes based on the same theme. Soca - a type of music indigenous to Trinidad and Tobago, derived from "soul calypso Lime - to hang out in a casual atmosphere, for example: "I feeling to lime." Jump up-dance around and wine.