Page last updated at 04:13 GMT, Monday, 18 August 2008 05:13 UK

Credit crunch overshadows carnival

By Debabani Majumdar
BBC News, London

A costume at Notting Hill Carnival
Many bands are planning to cut the number of big costumes on show

London's Notting Hill Carnival's festive mood, lavish costumes and hectic pre-event buzz has a cloud hanging over it.

The west London carnival, in previous years a spectacle involving about 50,000 participants adorned with 150,000 feather plumes and 30 million sequins, could be smaller, quieter and much less flamboyant this year.

Some smaller Caribbean mas bands and masquerades have had to scale down their displays as they have not been able to get funding.

London Notting Hill Carnival Limited (LNHCL) manages the annual event which takes place on the Bank Holiday weekend in August.

It said it was aware the credit crunch had affected some performing groups' sponsorship, which was needed to pay for costumes, floats and music equipment.

Michael Williams, marketing director of LNHCL, said: "I have heard anecdotal evidence that bands are cutting back and not showing as many costumes as they had planned.

"We have not seen any drop in registration of bands, so we won't really know until we see the bands on the road as to just how badly they have been affected."

We have all the icing and candles but no cake
Genevive Dowokpor, Youthology

Jean Bernard, 67, founder of performing group Pato, said its usual budget of about 20,000, of which 16,000 comes from sponsors, has been cut by 50%.

"We have already approached 70 companies in the past year.

"Our budget this year is 9,000 to 10,000. But so far we have only raised 2,000.

"The way things are in the economy it is affecting how people in the arts are getting funds.

"We are talking about 50% reductions in the parade.

"Instead of 80 participants we will have 40. At our best we have 60 to 70 costumes but that will also be reduced."

'Own pockets'

Another group, Stardust, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, has also toned down celebrations from its usual 60 to 80 participants and eye-catching costumes.

Rhonda Baptiste, 36, the group's costume designer said: "This year we have had to compromise. Instead of the usual 12 big costumes we just will have just four or five with very basic material."

"We are still trying to get funding. We are spending all this from our own pockets."

The bands said they were fund-raising in the local community to try and meet costs.

Dancers at Notting Hill Carnival
There could be drop in the number of participants in each band

Teenager-led group Youthology has no sponsors and needs at least 11,000.

The group's founder Genevive Dowokpor, 27, said: "Its a last minute fight. We have got all the top urban artists who play for free for us but no platform for them to perform on.

"We have all the icing and candles but no cake. This year it has been very bad."

Potential sponsors also categorised the group as "high risk", as it is managed by teenagers and counts some former young offenders among its members.

"We have found it quite difficult to find funds from trusts as they find the project 'high risk'.

"At present we don't know where we stand."

Mr Williams, from the LNHCL, said main events like the Panorama steel band competition and the costume show Splash, would remain in place.

But he said: "When they (bands) approach sponsors they tend to approach with a fixed proposition and price, as opposed to what sponsors want to achieve."

Revellers at Notting Hill Carnival
More than 1.5 million revellers are expected at the carnival this year

The Arts Council said it had given 1,159,911 to 14 organisations and would invest 1,235,480 next year.

Another 199,550 has been given in grants to eight carnival group associations.

An Arts Council spokesman said: "The funds for this programme have been reduced due to declining income from the National Lottery.

"Some of this has been diverted to the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

"This has meant that it has become a more competitive scheme, where applications need to be stronger."

Ms Baptiste said smaller groups tend to miss out on those grants as they had to be "really creative" or "run like a business".

But despite having less sequins and limited resources, the mas bands are still determined to strut their stuff in Europe's largest street party to entertain an expected 1.5 million visitors on 24 and 25 August.

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