UK

Notting Hill Carnival is CANCELLED for the second year

Notting Hill Carnival has been cancelled for the second year in a row due to the ‘ongoing uncertainty and risk’ of Covid-19, organisers revealed.

The world-famous event – held each August Bank Holiday weekend in Notting Hill, London – ‘will not be on the streets’, with organisers saying ‘safety has to come first’.

They said it is the ‘only way’ safety can be ensured after the Government pushed back lifting lockdown restrictions amid a spike in case numbers.

Organisers earlier said the festival would not go ahead if social distancing rules have to remain in place.

‘Freedom Day’ was initially set to be on June 21, but was delayed by four weeks to prevent up to 500 deaths a day after scientists warned the Indian variant could be 80 per cent more infectious. 

Now, social distancing will remain in force in bars and restaurants, and the edict to work from home where possible will stay until July 19. 

Notting Hill Carnival was forced online last year for the first time in its 54-year history due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Notting Hill Carnival (pictured in 2019) has been cancelled for the second year in a row due to the ‘ongoing uncertainty and risk’ of Covid-19, organisers revealed

The world-famous event - held each August Bank Holiday weekend in the streets of Notting Hill in London (pictured in 2019) - 'will not be on the streets', with organisers saying 'safety has to come first'

The world-famous event – held each August Bank Holiday weekend in the streets of Notting Hill in London (pictured in 2019) – ‘will not be on the streets’, with organisers saying ‘safety has to come first’

They said it is the 'only way' safety can be ensured after the Government pushed back lifting lockdown restrictions amid a spike in case numbers. Pictured: Notting Hill Carnival in 2019

They said it is the ‘only way’ safety can be ensured after the Government pushed back lifting lockdown restrictions amid a spike in case numbers. Pictured: Notting Hill Carnival in 2019

From small community event to one of the biggest carnivals in the world: The story behind the Notting Hill Carnival 

According to organisers of the Notting Hill Carnival, Trinidadian human rights activist Claudia Jones is the person widely credited with planting the seeds for a UK carnival.

She put on an indoor Caribbean Carnival at St Pancras Town Hall back in 1959, which was broadcast on the BBC.

Trinidadian husband and wife booking agents Edric and Pearl Connor also helped put on indoor events in halls in London in the early 1960s.

But it is local resident and social worker Rhaune Laslett – a Londoner of Native American and Russian descent – who organised the first Notting Hill Carnival in 1966 as a community event for children.

She invited well-known pan player Russell Henderson, who was accompanied by his pan band members Sterling Betancourt, Vernon ‘Fellows’ Williams, Fitzroy Coleman and Ralph Cherry. 

As she had intended, the band attracted many local Caribbean residents to the outdoor multi-cultural community celebration – which proved a huge success.

The Notting Hill Carnival has been held every year since and is now the second biggest outdoor carnival in the world, behind the Rio Carnival in Brazil.

Source: Notting Hill Carnival 

In a statement, the board of Notting Hill Carnival Ltd today said: ‘This has been an incredibly difficult decision to make. 

‘Everyone involved in the event desperately wants a return to the road where carnival belongs but safety has to come first and with the latest cautious announcement on the Government’s road map, this is the only way to ensure that.

‘In making this decision, we have considered our responsibilities to deliver a safe, spectacular, successful and sustainable carnival.

‘The conclusion is that with so much uncertainty, with time short for carnivalists to prepare and the risk of eventual cancellation a real possibility, we must refocus our efforts for 2021.’

The event was also removed from the streets in 2020 due to the pandemic and replaced with free livestreamed events last year. 

Virtual events will also take place this year to mark the occasion.

Councillor Emma Will, Kensington and Chelsea Council lead member for culture, leisure and community safety, said: ‘Although this comes as a disappointment, we completely support the Notting Hill Carnival organiser’s decision to move Carnival online once again.’

‘This was no easy decision to make but the latest updates from the Government suggest that the ongoing risks due to Covid-19 are too high to put on an in-person celebration this year.’

‘Health and safety remain a top priority for us and it is important that we look after the wellbeing of our residents and visitors. We still plan to celebrate this momentous event with virtual activities to take place over the Carnival bank holiday weekend.’

‘We are committed to supporting this celebration and making it as fun, magical and as safe as possible. We will be working with relevant partners such as the Met, TfL, and more to ensure that this bank holiday weekend passes safely and the virtual Carnival alternative is enjoyed.’

Fans of the carnival took to Twitter to share their thoughts on the cancellation.

One Twitter user praised the decision, writing: ‘The right move. I’m glad Notting Hill Carnival went with this approach this year.’

Another remarked: ‘Notting Hill Carnival cancelled but not Ascot?’

Others said they were prepared for the decision, with one person writing: ‘I had forgotten about Notting Hill because in my mind there was zero chance it was happening.’

One Twitter user said: ‘Sad news, I can only imagine the negative economic effect this will have on DIY stores and plywood/chipboard suppliers as for another year. 

‘Local businesses and property owners won’t be buying in bulk to board up their windows.’

In February, Matthew Phillip, the chief executive of Notting Hill Carnival Ltd, said the event would not go ahead if social distancing measures remain in place.

He believed social distancing would be ‘devastating’ for Europe’s biggest street party.

Mr Phillip told MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which is looking at the cultural and economic impact on the UK’s music festivals: ‘For Carnival weekend specifically, it would pose a very big problem.

‘It would be very difficult to hold Carnival in its traditional format on the streets with social distancing in place. It would be devastating for a second year in a row.’

Asked if it would mean cancellation of the August event in west London, Mr Phillip said ‘yes’ – but added that efforts would be made to try and run it in some way.

He added: ‘It would not take place in its traditional format. We would always hope to do something. 

‘Carnival means too much to too many people for us to simply ignore it so we would always try to find a way of celebrating Carnival for its artistry and what it means to the community.’

Last year Mr Phillip urged revellers to stay off the streets for the traditional Bank Holiday weekend celebration, after a decision to cancel was announced in May. 

Today’s decision on Notting Hill 2021 came after organisers of Latitude Festival confirmed it will go ahead next month with the industry ‘all guns blazing’ from ‘Freedom Day’.

Notting Hill Carnival organiser Matthew Phillip told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee that social distancing would be devastating for the carnival if rules remain this year

Notting Hill Carnival organiser Matthew Phillip told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee that social distancing would be devastating for the carnival if rules remain this year

Ladbroke Grove during Notting Hill Carnival 2020
A deserted Ladbroke Grove in 2020 when Notting Hill Carnival moved online due to the pandemic

Stunning pictures of Ladbroke Grove showed the difference a year made as Notting Hill Carnival moved online for the first time in its 54-year history due to the pandemic in 2020

The rave in Henham Park, Suffolk, will happen from Friday 23 to Sunday 25 July – with acts including Kaiser Chiefs, Rudimental and Rick Astley. 

Managing director of promoter Festival Republic Melvin Benn said he ‘can see no reason’ why the much-anticipated weekend cannot go ahead as planned after the Government pushed back lifting lockdown restrictions.

‘Freedom Day’ was initially set to be on June 21, but was delayed by four weeks to prevent up to 500 deaths a day after scientists warned the Indian variant could be 80 per cent more infectious. 

Now, social distancing will remain in force in bars and restaurants, and the edict to work from home where possible will stay until July 19.

The event (pictured in 2019) was also removed from the streets in 2020 due to the pandemic

The event (pictured in 2019) was also removed from the streets in 2020 due to the pandemic

Mr Benn told Radio 4’s Today Programme that he’s ‘very certain’ that Latitude will go ahead, adding: ‘I can see no reason why we shouldn’t be planning to go ahead from the 19th onward.’

He said: ‘It’s certainly our industry’s view that we are all guns blazing from the 19th onward and we are now of the view that we need to be told not to go ahead as oppose to where we were, waiting to be told that we could go ahead. 

‘It is our view that the Prime Minister has told us we can go ahead now.’

But some independent festival organisers fear a lack of financial support from the Government could force cancellations.

Latitude Festival (pictured in 2019) will go ahead next month with the industry 'all guns blazing' from 'Freedom Day', organisers confirmed

Latitude Festival (pictured in 2019) will go ahead next month with the industry ‘all guns blazing’ from ‘Freedom Day’, organisers confirmed

Managing director of Festival Republic Melvin Benn (pictured) said he 'can see no reason' why the much-anticipated weekend cannot go ahead as planned after the Government pushed back lifting lockdown restrictions.

Managing director of Festival Republic Melvin Benn (pictured) said he ‘can see no reason’ why the much-anticipated weekend cannot go ahead as planned after the Government pushed back lifting lockdown restrictions.

The rave in Henham Park, Suffolk, will go ahead between Friday 23 and Sunday 25 July - with acts including Kaiser Chiefs, Rudimental and Rick Astley. Pictured: Latitude Festival in 2019

The rave in Henham Park, Suffolk, will go ahead between Friday 23 and Sunday 25 July – with acts including Kaiser Chiefs, Rudimental and Rick Astley. Pictured: Latitude Festival in 2019

Mr Benn told Radio 4's Today Programme that he's 'very certain' that Latitude (pictured in 2019) will go ahead, adding: 'I can see no reason why we shouldn't be planning to go ahead from the 19th onward'

Mr Benn told Radio 4’s Today Programme that he’s ‘very certain’ that Latitude (pictured in 2019) will go ahead, adding: ‘I can see no reason why we shouldn’t be planning to go ahead from the 19th onward’

Rock star Peter Gabriel’s hit world-music festival Womad may not go ahead as planned due to funding issues, the Genesis frontman warned yesterday.

Womad was founded by the singer in 1982 and quickly became a firm favourite with families – featuring activities for children alongside acts from Africa, the Americas, Pan-Asia and Europe.

The three-day event at Charlton Park, Wiltshire, is also a hit with celebrities – including Prince Harry who was spotted there in 2013.

But Womad’s future could be in jeopardy, with Gabriel calling on the Government to offer ‘support for independent festivals particularly’, as well as the whole sector. 

Without additional backing – such as an underwriting scheme – it will likely be forced to cancel, he added saying: ‘We can’t risk sinking it this year.’

Rock star Peter Gabriel's (pictured) hit world-music festival Womad may have to be cancelled this year if the Government doesn't offer financial support, the Genesis frontman warned

Rock star Peter Gabriel’s (pictured) hit world-music festival Womad may have to be cancelled this year if the Government doesn’t offer financial support, the Genesis frontman warned

Womad (pictured in 2019) was founded by the singer in 1982 and quickly became a firm favourite with families - featuring activities for children alongside acts from Africa, the Americas, Pan-Asia and Europe

Womad (pictured in 2019) was founded by the singer in 1982 and quickly became a firm favourite with families – featuring activities for children alongside acts from Africa, the Americas, Pan-Asia and Europe

Gabriel told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday: ‘If we’re trying to restore cultural life and normality then we do need a bit of help here.

‘It’s a huge industry now and we would like to get some confidence and security from something like an insurance scheme, some sort of underwriting scheme.’

Asked if festivals should become part of the pilot scheme on large events, he said: ‘It’s very difficult and obviously we want to be included, the vaccine programme has been amazing.

‘If we can just lock those in and get some support for independent festivals particularly, but all the festival sector, then I think we can have a great summer.’

The three-day event (pictured in 2019) eventually gained cult status and became a hit with celebrities - including Prince Harry who was spotted there in 2013

The three-day event (pictured in 2019) eventually gained cult status and became a hit with celebrities – including Prince Harry who was spotted there in 2013

Asked whether organisers will have to cancel the festival this year without support, he said: ‘I think we have to. We’ve been faced with bankruptcy on two occasions previous to that and if we’re trying to secure the future of the festival… we can’t risk sinking it this year.’

In previous years, acts have included reggae, soul, alternative rock, hip hop, and old- school rock n roll.

Womad – which stands for World of Music, Arts and Dance – combines acts with a range of workshops, with cooking at the World Cafe, drumming, singing, Tai Chi lessons, face painting for children and a ‘Speakeasy’ featured in previous years. 

But Womad's (pictured in 2010) future could be in jeopardy, with Gabriel calling on the Government to offer 'support for independent festivals particularly', as well as the whole sector

But Womad’s (pictured in 2010) future could be in jeopardy, with Gabriel calling on the Government to offer ‘support for independent festivals particularly’, as well as the whole sector

Without additional backing - such as an underwriting scheme - it will likely be forced to cancel, Gabriel added saying: 'We can't risk sinking it this year.' Pictured: The Womad Festival in 2010

Without additional backing – such as an underwriting scheme – it will likely be forced to cancel, Gabriel added saying: ‘We can’t risk sinking it this year.’ Pictured: The Womad Festival in 2010

Treasury minister Jesse Norman said ‘an enormous amount of money’ has already been poured into the arts during the pandemic, when asked if a Government-backed insurance scheme could be introduced to support festivals.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I think the answer to that question is the Government has already poured an enormous amount of money into the arts and culture sector, so it’s important to recognise what has already been done.’

Pressed if the underwriting insurance will be considered, Mr Norman said: ‘Of course the Government continues to monitor the way in which restrictions are playing out, and this is a matter for discussion, as the Culture Secretary has said, it’s a matter for the sector to address with him.’

It comes as MPs warned UK music festivals are facing another ‘lost summer’ because of the Government’s ‘refusal to back insurance’ for events at risk of being cancelled because of Covid-19 restrictions.

Members of the digital, media, culture and sport committee are calling for ministers to ‘act now’ and provide a ‘safety net’ for live events after June 21. 

They want a ‘time-limited insurance scheme’ introduced to help the festivals out. But the committee said the Government’s decision to rule out support before all roadmap restrictions are lifted would be ‘simply be too late for festivals this summer’.

Committee chairman Julian Knight said: ‘If the commercial insurance market won’t step in, ministers must, and urgently.’


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