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Last Updated: Friday, 27 August, 2004, 06:30 GMT 07:30 UK
Carnival's route to success
By Chirag Trivedi
BBC News Online, London

Carnival dancer
In 2003 carnival lost its crown as Europe's biggest street party
The Notting Hill Carnival has been partying every year on the streets of west London for the last 40 years.

In that time it has stuck to the traditions that have made it such a huge success.

But what of the next 40 years?

Any talk of improving the event usually centres around two things - a change in route and economics.

In 2003, carnival suffered the disappointment of a reduced attendance compared to previous years.

As a result it lost its status as Europe's biggest street party to the Zurich Street Parade.

ATTENDANCE FIGURES
2003: 600,000
2002: 1.4m
2001: 1.25m
2000: 1.5m
1999: 1.4m
1998: 1.15m
1997: 1.3m
1996: 1m
That came as a blow to the organisers who were hoping to cash in on the Notting Hill Carnival brand.

London Notting Hill Carnival Ltd (LNHCL) board member Debi Gardner said the key is to find a balance between making a profit and keeping to the spirit of carnival.

"The Board, in consultation with the Executive Committee of Carnival Arts, will look at any proposal that has significant benefits for carnival, but is dedicated to ensuring that Notting Hill Carnival does not lose its identity," she said.

"Our intention is not to seek headline sponsorship that would lead to commercialisation of the event.

"We encourage businesses to look at sponsorship positively as an opportunity for companies to associate themselves with an extremely strong, high profile brand of 40 years standing.

Increased earning power

"LNHCL's long-term aim is to attract the level of sponsorship for Notting Hill Carnival that is commensurate with the income that it generates and which is in line with the level of sponsorship for other national events, without compromising its integrity."

According to a report by the London Development Agency (LDA), carnival creates 93m for London.

Figures from the LDA show that the event supports 3,000 full-time jobs and the 1.16m people who attended last year spent 45m - an average of nearly 39 per person.

But the report says more can be done to increase the events earning power.

The LDA is to start looking at pursuing an international publicity campaign and fundraising strategy to get money from the public and private sectors in the UK and abroad.

Every year there is not a fatality is a year we have been lucky
London mayor Ken Livingstone
The then chief executive Michael Ward said: "Carnival brings visitors and businesses to London.

"Of those arriving at carnival last year, up to 316,000 had travelled from outside London but within the UK, and 90,000 came from abroad."

Many feel that the best way of maximising the benefits of carnival would be to change the route.

The narrow streets of Notting Hill provide a cramp - and according to London's mayor - a dangerous environment for the million or so revellers.

Earlier this year Ken Livingstone's carnival strategic review group warned increasing numbers and safety concerns mean somebody could die.

It wants the course for 2005 re-routed through Bayswater Road and Harrow Road and ending in Hyde Park.

Crowds at Notting Hill Carnival
Large crowds and narrow streets can lead to congested conditions
"Every year there is not a fatality is a year we have been lucky," Mr Livingstone said.

"We cannot honestly say to people who come to carnival that they are as safe as they could be."

The report states: "Without a fundamental change to increase public safety and reduce crowd density, a major incident at carnival could lead to significant loss of life."

But Ms Gardener said: "The route will always incorporate and retain its links with Notting Hill, the spiritual home of carnival, the issue is whether and how far it should be extended.

"The board of LNHCL's primary concern is safety. Post carnival 2004, LNHCL will be consulting with these stakeholders on the issue of the carnival route.

'Hugely unsafe'

"The objective will be to propose a route that is both capable of accommodating the number of people who attend the event, meeting public safety concerns and creating new opportunities for the development of the event."

The route change is the most contentious issue.

Alan Bradley, of Westminster Council, said: "We would be totally opposed to the procession finishing in Hyde Park.

"We would have huge safety reservations about the use of the park after dusk. The idea of having people in an unlit park would be hugely unsafe."

If the boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster do not agree to alter the route, Mr Livingstone said he would call on the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to use his powers to change it.

A spokesman for the Met said: "We have not been approached about the proposed route change but every aspect of carnival is always under review."




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