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Last Updated: Monday, 29 August 2005, 17:41 GMT 18:41 UK
Not just another carnival
By Clark Ainsworth
BBC News, London

Another Bank Holiday, another carnival in Notting Hill with the sound of Soca and the smell of barbecue smoke and West Indian food temptingly wafting over the streets of W11. Well, almost.

A carnival dancer with a policeman

Police say about 500,000 people have been dancing to the sound systems and watching the scores of Mas Bands, steel bands and floats making their way around the parade route in west London.

The colourful costumed dancers, as always, were the main draw, packing the crowds into the narrow Notting Hill streets.

Every other minute an even more intricate and spectacular costume would make its way past hundreds of delighted onlookers.

Police and revellers mixed freely, pointing disoriented members of the public in the right direction whilst dancing to the infectious Caribbean rhythms.

First-time carnival goer Sam Houston, 26, from Paddington, west London, said: "There doesn't seem to be as many people as I expected there to be.

Crowd figures down

"But there's lots of good food and good music."

Early estimates would appear to suggest that crowd figures were down slightly on previous years.

But then this is the first time the carnival has had to vie for the public attention alongside London mayor Ken Livingstone's Caribbean Showcase.

The brand new Hyde Park event, aimed specifically at families, has been designed to complement the traditional parade, stages and sound systems in Notting Hill.

It's [the Caribbean Showcase] better than I thought it would be
Lorna Grant

And the indications are that, if anything, people who would normally avoid Monday's parade, which is traditionally the busier of the two carnival days, had headed down to the mayor's event.

The Hyde Park crowds were treated to music from the London Gospel Choir, Omar, Soca Wen'D and Dread and the Baldhead.

Children were given the chance to learn more about the history of the carnival at the education zone and get their faces painted.

Lorna Grant, from Leyton, east London, said for the first time it meant parents with little ones could take part in the festivities on the August Bank Holiday Monday.

She added: "I thought I'd come down as it's the first time it's been held. I've come down with a friend and her daughter who we couldn't have taken to the carnival today.

"There are no barriers here so you can come and go as you please.

"It's better than I thought it would be. I do hope that the Notting Hill carnival keeps going and this complements it."

Watch footage of revellers at the Notting Hill Carnival

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