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Sunday, 26 August, 2001, 22:04 GMT 23:04 UK
Wet start to 'peaceful' carnival
Revellers enjoying the carnival
Carnival revellers refused to let the rain spoil their fun
Heavy downpours have failed to dampen spirits on the first day of London's Notting Hill carnival with no sign of the serious street violence which marred last year's event.

Scotland Yard said nine people had been arrested by 2100BST on Sunday, for offences which included robbery, theft and being drunk and disorderly.

They stressed the stabbing of a man at an address in Portobello Road on Sunday evening was a domestic incident and not related to the festival.

Police described the atmosphere at the carnival, in its 37th year, as largely "peaceful and jovial".

Click here to see a map of the route

The rain managed to deter what police feared would be bigger crowds, with Sunday's numbers significantly down on last year.

The first carnival floats started on their way at midday on Sunday, which is traditionally known as Children's Day.

Steel bands, reggae floats and flamboyant costumes were on show, while party-goers danced to music around the narrow streets of the route.

The run-up to the two-day west London event, which is expected to draw over two million visitors, has been overshadowed by fears of overcrowding and crime.
There was a light drizzle at the Carnival
It's wet...but keep smiling

Last year there were two killings and several assaults.

The cost of policing the event has hit a record 4m, with 10,000 officers on duty - 1,500 more than last year.

But Glen Smyth, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, told the BBC on Sunday his most serious concern was the "crush like" crowds. "You can be in that crowd and you can't move through it. There's a line of you and you're just hanging on to each just so you don't get separated," he said. "It's far worse than any football crowd I've ever been in."

He suggested that families wanting to attend the event should go on Sunday, rather than Monday, because of the crowds.

Carnival traditions
Mas' (masked) costumes
Steel bands
Static sound systems

"You can't really bring a child into that, you couldn't let go of their hand - you'd lose them."

But he appealed to the public to help officers prevent any serious offences.

Despite fewer crowds on Sunday, 65 people required medical treatment from St John Ambulance staff and other medics.

One person was taken to hospital and the rest were treated at the scene for minor ailments such as insect bites and headaches, a police spokesman said.

Organisational rows

The last few weeks have seen clashes between the organisers, the Notting Hill Carnival Trust, and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea local government about safety issues.

4m police bill; 10,000 officers
An extra 80 CCTV cameras
600 stewards
35 static sound systems
65 Mas' bands
10 steel bands

London Mayor Ken Livingstone, a firm supporter of the carnival, set up a Carnival Review Group to help improve the event.

Many review group recommendations, including more police, trained stewards and improved transport arrangements, were acted on.

But the main outstanding issue facing the carnival is still its route - traditionally a small circular area within the area's narrow streets.

Mr Smyth said he simply wished the route was bigger, and the whole affair better organised.

"There is no way that carnival is not going to carry on, it's so popular," he said.

"But to help it succeed it needs investment, it needs management and it needs commitment by all involved," he said.

Policing the event
Carnival policing has cost an unprecedented 4m
The carnival began in the 1960s as a spontaneous celebration of Afro-Caribbean culture.

It was originally a small-scale event organised by local West Indian immigrants to recreate the Caribbean carnival tradition.

Transport restrictions have been imposed on the west London area - the three miles or so of streets around the parade route are effectively closed to road traffic, and there are restrictions on the A40 into London.

Ladbroke Grove tube station is closed and there are other alterations to the tube service in the area.

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The BBC's Daniel Boettcher
"Frequent showers hardly dampened the atmosphere"
Deputy Assistant Commisioner, Andy Potter
"Everyone who goes to carnival wants to be kept safe"
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