My Week: Claire Holder, Chief executive of the Notting Hill Carnival Trust

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The Independent Culture

Yesterday was gala day at Olympia with about 5,000 people attending. Three judges choose carnival kings and queens across four age groups. The competitors have to perform a three-minute dance routine and display their costumes. Now that the gala is over I have to move everything out of Olympia. There are about 400 cases of stock left. I should have hired a van, but instead I spend the whole morning making trips between Olympia and the office. In the afternoon I finish off processing the results from last night. Go home at about 5pm to catch up on my weekend chores.


I get up at 4am and go straight to the office. By getting in so early I can avoid the phone and deal with urgent faxes that pour in from all over the world. Most of them are from sponsors asking for information about the carnival. I do administrative work until the staff come in at 9.30am. The work from then on is mainly re-active - dealing with calls and people who pop in without appointments. To save time this week I've decided not to go out of the office for any interviews.

I do a site visit of a basketball court that Nike is putting up. We are anxious to see whether it will work. Our carnival differs from others in that it is so diverse. As a cultural event it beats them all. Whereas Rio just has Samba dancing, we have everything from live stages, processions, sound systems and now a basketball court.


I start again at 5am doing general administrative work. By the time all the staff get in, it's all hands on deck to prepare thousands of vehicle passes for the carnival. They are issued to avoid any unauthorised vehicles clogging up the processions. We decide to put the answer machine on, close the office and just get on with the job. I then go to a sponsor's briefing.

The police are very strict about environmental issues and safety. They are particularly concerned with crowd management. Over three days we have two million people visiting the carnival - the biggest in the world.

Some sponsors expect the crowds to stand back and let the processions through. This does not happen in Notting Hill. About 70 per cent of the carnival is on the move at any one time. The people here dance with the floats.


A lot of last-minute problems. It becomes very stressful, but I try to stay philosophical. I always say that if a problem is not resolved by Wednesday then it is too late anyway.

I have a little crisis in the morning. I receive a letter telling me that we cannot use an area in Portobello Gardens as our information point. I need to think of a contingency plan.

Throughout the day the carnival bands come into the office to collect their passes. There are about 200 units overall - costume bands, steel bands and sound systems. Some of them have as many as 500 people attached to them.

I reckon there are about 40,000 performers in total. By the end of the day I am falling asleep on myself. I get home at 11.45pm. It has been a very long day..


The office is more relaxed today. I am actually leaving the office for two whole hours and having lunch! The end of our financial year comes right after the carnival, so I am meeting our auditors to go through some things.

During the day I do a site visit with the maker of Polo Mints, which will be sampling its new orange-flavoured range.

I also have a meeting with a young man who wants to sample a quarter of a million kiwi fruits. He received a consignment from New Zealand and wants to give them away so that they don't spoil.

Later, we receive 200 boxes of Doritos. We will distribute these to all the bands to keep them going.


Our title sponsor, Western Union, brings a lot of stock over. It will be giving away T-shirts, sweat-shirts, pens and bags. Throughout the day we receive continuous positive feedback about the lamp-posts in Notting Hill.

We have a contract with Dulux paint and it has repainted all the lamp- posts in the area using about 50 different colours. People are calling to say that they want them to stay this way after the carnival.

Unfortunately Dulux will have to repaint them back to their original colour.

Despite being in the office until midnight, I feel well prepared. This is my tenth carnival and I feel that each year we succeed in pacing ourselves a little better.