Page last updated at 01:32 GMT, Monday, 31 August 2009 02:32 UK

Crowds join carnival celebrations

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Performers dance through the streets of west London

Hundreds of thousands of revellers have taken to the streets of west London for the Notting Hill Carnival.

Giant Popeye puppets and chocolate-smeared dancers joined scores of costumed masquerade artists to perform along the three-and-a-half mile route.

About 1.5 million people are expected to attend the carnival, billed as Europe's biggest street party, over the two days.

The carnival's main procession takes place on Monday.

Sarah Manners, 29, from Brixton in south London, took part in the parade with her seven-year-old daughter, Shamira.

If it wasn't for the weather, it would feel a little like Rio
Marco Figeuredo

Ms Manners said: "There has been a little bit of drizzle but the vibe here as is as good as ever.

"It's nice to be here with my daughter for the first time."

Marco Figeuredo, 32, travelled to the festival from Lisbon, Portugal.

He said: "I expected there to be even more people but the music has been excellent.

"If it wasn't for the weather, it would feel a little like Rio."

Young dancers parade along the carnival route on Sunday
The carnival is billed as Europe's biggest street party

Revellers are enjoying the sound of steel-pan bands, as well as almost 40 static sound systems playing music including traditional soca or calypso, reggae, hip-hop jazz, soul, house and garage.

There are also hundreds of exotic food and drink stalls.

Ruth Thomsett, one of the carnival's organisers, said: "You've got the food, you've got food from all the islands, as well as African and Chinese food, Greek and Moroccan.

"What a chance to come and have a really good feast."

About 100 monitors, working for local councils and police, were present to ensure music did not exceed noise levels of 135 decibels.

Police, who had made several arrests in the week building up to the event, said celebrations had got off to a peaceful start, with 39 people arrested by 1800 BST, mostly for drug offences.

Last year 108 arrests were made on the first day.

Nine revellers were taken to hospital, including one man who collapsed and suffered a cardiac arrest at the carnival, London Ambulance Service said.

Chris Boothman, the carnival chief, said security was at its best after the event secured its biggest budget in years thanks to a new sponsorship deal.

"We have worked really hard with police and we are keeping our fingers crossed that everything will be okay.

"We have had more money this year than we have in the last five. I think the result today is a good one."

Thousands of Metropolitan Police officers are on duty at the carnival.

Officers have also been carrying out regular stop-and-search operations in an effort to disrupt gang activity.

This year, the procession began at the earlier time of 0900 BST with a children's parade. Sunday's and Monday's celebrations are due to end at 1830 BST.

The latest figures show that the carnival generates more than £90m for London's economy and supports the equivalent of 3,000 jobs.


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SEE ALSO
In pictures: Notting Hill Carnival 2009
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Changes to Notting Hill Carnival
30 Jul 09 |  London

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