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Monday, 27 August, 2001, 18:12 GMT 19:12 UK
Sun, sweat and booming bass
Carnival costumes
Carnival colour: Costumes are a feast for the eyes
As revellers party away at the Notting Hill Carnival, BBC News Online's community affairs reporter Cindi John has been mingling with the crowds:

Imagine being in a place so hot the sweat pours off you and so tightly packed in that you can barely move.

Add to that a noise so deafening it makes conversation nigh well impossible and you have probably many people's idea of hell.

Sabine Mouchier
Sabine Mouchier: "Too many policemen"
But to the two million people who visit Notting Hill Carnival each year it's the nearest thing to heaven on earth.

Bright sunshine on Bank Holiday Monday has brought out the spectators in droves.

They crowd the pavements and crane to get photos of the marchers in their colourful costumes.

There are gasps as a particularly ornate creation requiring intricate framework passes by, its wearer pirouetting and waving for the many cameras focused in his direction.

'It's like Christmas'

Many of the locals of Notting Hill de-camp for the duration but to others like David Noall, watching from his front path as the parade passes by, it's part of the character of the place.

Dancing policeman
The rhythms can be infectious.
"It's one of the best things about living round here. It's like Christmas, it's great, I look forward to it every year," said Mr Noall who's lived in the area for five years.

The carnival wouldn't be the same if it was moved, he added, referring to plans to switch the parade to a longer, less-congested route.

Another local - Sabine Mouchier - agreed the carnival belonged in Notting Hill, but thought the organisation of it needed to be brought down to local level.

"It's too regimented, too many policemen, people get cross - it's hot.

"I think it's better if you let people from the area organise it," said Ms Mouchier.

'Changed for the worst'

Carnival regular Chris Josinllah said the event had suffered from being monitored too closely.

"It's changed for the worse since they started shutting down the sounds early, that's when people are just getting into the party spirit.

"I don't think it's necessary for security reasons," said Mr Josinllah who has made the journey to Notting Hill for the past 10 years.

Jeanette Lynch, from Walthamstow, said: "Years ago it was much more carnival spirited in terms of music, there's a lot of garage music rather than the traditional soca now."

First time visit

Around 10,000 police officers are being deployed at this year's carnival - more than ever before.

But it's not just another hectic job for many of them.

PC Gamal Turawa
PC Gamal Turawa: "Carnival a highlight of the job"
PC Gamal Turawa said helping to police the carnival is one of the highlights of his work.

"I love it, I may be a uniformed officer, but hey this is my culture, this is my roots, I'm on the beat," said PC Turawa as he swayed to the rhythm of a passing band.

Many of the visitors have been before but others - like Ru Liu from China - were experiencing the carnival for the first time.

She said: "Carnival is very famous in China so it's very exciting for me to be here."

Other first timers, like Arron Bullen from west Belfast, had not come from so far afield.

"It's not as busy, not as packed as I'd imagined but the weather's alright and I'm enjoying it," he said.

Bev Halstead, also from west Belfast has made a special journey to Notting Hill for the past three years "because of the atmosphere".

One of the prime movers behind the drive to get the carnival moved from its traditional west London home also dropped in to Notting Hill to see how things were going.

Lee Jasper - who chairs the mayor of London's carnival review group - said he still believed a route change was essential.

"We weren't able to get the multi-agency agreement needed for that this year but we're doubly determined to make sure we get a route change next year."

So far the policing of the festival had been effective but the critical time would be at close down, Mr Jasper added.

The BBC's Daniel Boettcher in Notting Hill, London
"Detailed negotiations for a new route are already underway"
Deputy Assistant Commisioner, Andy Potter
"Everyone who goes to carnival wants to be kept safe"
The BBC's Viv Robins
"The biggest test will come in the closing hours of the festival"
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