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Friday, August 27, 1999 Published at 11:08 GMT 12:08 UK


Carnival time for Notting Hill

Dancing in the streets of west London

The Notting Hill Carnival, already Europe's largest street party, promises to be even bigger this year thanks to the hit movie Notting Hill - but the festivities will in fact reflect real-life issues.

The Carnival celebrates its 35th year this weekend. The event has its roots in a 1964 street procession aimed at bringing together an Afro-Caribbean community blighted by racism and prejudice.

The fictional antics of Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts in the comedy set in the trendy west London neighbourhood have done much to popularise the already celebrated area.

[ image: Hugh Grant: The fictional face of Notting Hill]
Hugh Grant: The fictional face of Notting Hill
However, the festivities which turn this racially diverse part of London into a corner of the Caribbean for the bank holiday weekend, follow a difficult year for the capital.

A spate of nail bombings earlier this year targeted London's minority communities. The attacks killed three and injured more than 100.

The city's police also came under attack. A report into the Metropolitan Police's handling of the Stephen Lawrence murder uncovered institutionalised racism.

"We are very aware after the Macpherson report that we must improve community relations but carnival is already an area where they are already very good," said a police spokeswoman.

The force will be fielding some 7,500 officers to police the two-day event - which is expected to attract more than 2m revellers.

Carnival organisers say they are supporting efforts to hold a minute's silence for Lawrence, whose racially-motivated murder six years ago highlighted police shortcomings.

[ image: Europe's 'premier multi-cultural event']
Europe's 'premier multi-cultural event'
This year's event also sees the launch of the Non-Violence Project in the UK. The project aims to steer young people away from violence towards sporting activities and the arts.

"Carnival is about people living together... and that is where non-violence fits in," said Stephanie Harwood from the Notting Hill Carnival Trust.

According to some the festival of music and arts still lacks the support and recognition it deserves.

"It's the premier multi-cultural event in Europe," argues Lee Jasper from the National Assembly Against Racism.

"It is still treated like a cultural interloper... It should be treated like the Henley Regatta or Royal Ascot."

[ image: Expect 1,999,999 other revellers]
Expect 1,999,999 other revellers
The carnival proper spans two days. Sunday is children's day, when 75 costumed bands and floats follow a three-mile route through Notting Hill.

On Monday the adults take over the streets. This year the event boasts three live stages, featuring sets by top Radio 1 DJ Trevor Nelson and performances by Lynden David Hall, Glamma Kid, Jamelia and Nine Yards.

The weekend kicks off with Saturday night's Steel Bands Panorama, with 24 groups vying to be crowned the Notting Hill Carnival Champions of Steel.

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