There goes the neighbourhood . . . .: Residents have mixed feelings about the clutter and clamour that is carnival. Elsa Harp canvasses some opinions

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Juliet Roberts, singer/songwriter

I grew up in Westbourne Park. The carnival is really cool because my family take part. I started playing the steel drums when I was eight.

Every year my sister and I used to play with a band called Elimu and I was still playing up until my twenties. I don't play anymore because I can't make rehearsals throughout the year, but I'm one of those people who get dressed up and put on their warpaint and

follow a band. When I was younger it was great because it was within walking distance, so my parents wouldn't have to escort me

anywhere. My sister and I were let loose. It was mad but it was

exciting, especially when I saw my parents dressed up. If you're young and your parents are doing exactly what you are doing, you think it's all

outrageously crazy.

My parents are originally from Curacao, which is part of the

Grenadines. Carnival is always a special time because everyone is around. The whole family gets together, they go to the carnival and then they end up at my mum's house and we party the night away. We cook a massive pot and have loads of drink. It's just another excuse to have a party.

One year, when I was only 10 or 11 years old, I was playing first pan so I ended up right at the front of the float. I thought I was in heaven. It was the best thing that ever happened.

I'm working in Newcastle this year, but I'm taking the whole family on Sunday. Carnival has come a day earlier for us. It's a two-day event and usually the Sunday is a warm up and the Monday is the real madhatter day. I go every year, I've never missed one. Carnival is part of the festive season that is primarily black. It is a culture from the Caribbean - it's one of the few things I can call my own.

Tony Benn, MP

I've lived in the Notting Hill area for 40 years and I know it very well. I'm a tremendous supporter of the carnival; it's very important that it should be there. For the Caribbean community it's like the Edinburgh Festival. It's their biggest international event.

I've been around it but I have never taken part. I have always supported it when there were attempts to clamp down on it. I've been as concerned by the carnival as I would be for the opening of Parliament or the Coronation. When any member of the Royal family travels the traffic stops. All these kind of events have an impact on the communities around them.

Oliver Peyton, proprietor of the Atlantic Bar

There is a problem with overcrowding now. Last year it was just too busy, you couldn't move - as soon as you went on to the street it hit you. There's a big crowd control problem. It's not like there's a limit and they can say, 'no more people'. No one is in charge even though there are loads of stewards.

I remember at one point I looked out of my back door and nobody was moving anywhere - there was just a sea of people. I thought, 'God, what if someone gets hurt?'

The white middle classes won't let the organisers expand it over to the other side of the Grove, to Lancaster Gate and the posh bits. It's got to be kept to the trashy end. But if they let it expand it might stretch it out a bit, but then I suppose more people would come.

You don't sleep while it's going on. I guarantee there's always somebody having a party. You either go to carnival or you leave the area.

I have gone away during carnival, but not intentionally. If you live in Ladbroke Grove you have to accept it for the long weekend that it is. I live right in the fray, but it doesn't annoy me.

If you're going to have a party you've got to buy all your food four days in advance because the shops are devoid of food, unless you want to eat from the stalls which I don't. It all looks very unhealthy.

I am actually thinking of leaving the area, but it has nothing to do with the carnival. I want to be more central - nearer to the West End.

Peter Cunnah, lead singer of D:REAM

The carnival is one of the best events in London. I played there in 1987 with my old band Tie The Boy. It was my first experience of anything on that scale. But it was a lot more exciting before a lot of regulations came to deaden it. The new Criminal Justice Bill could be the final nail in the coffin.

Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea councils should lighten up, even if it's just for these two days a year. Happily, the carnival falls on my birthday, so I go out and get totally wrecked.

I don't go away if I can help it. I've been a resident for six years now. I moved into the area because of Portobello market, the carnival, the pubs and the numerous musicians. I like the violence least; it's unfortunate that gangland squads are now dealing crack, which brings in guns and knives. Two summers ago I was attacked by a local with a knife who was off his head. I still see him about.

James Lebon, film/video director

I've had a love/hate relationship with the carnival all my life. I live in the main bit of it at the moment. It's quite nice when you have a bath in the morning and all the music's whistling in. I like the steel bands and I love reggae music, but I don't like non-stop calypso. It gets a bit much.

You've got to be careful where you park your car - it could be stuck here for the whole weekend.

It's quite good fun selling stuff out of the front door. Last year we were doing a promotion for a beer and we were giving it away, but people felt happier stealing it. They were putting their hands through the window and taking cans or running off with a whole box of it.

It's unfortunate that in those three days you're here and if you're not in the mood you're stuck with it. The carnival is here, it's the biggest in Europe - there's not much point in moving into the area if you're going to hate it.

Even though I am a resident and I really could do without the noise sometimes, I think it's pathetic that everybody has to shut down at 7pm just because there are a few old folk who don't want to put up with a bit of noise.

The noise does worry me sometimes, but it's life. It's people expressing themselves and having fun. There are very few people who have lived here since before the carnival was here.

Last year after 11pm police came and told me to turn my music off. All year long I can play my music for as long as I want; no one round here cares. I had the whole street jumping up and down enjoying themselves.

If people want to enjoy themselves for three days in a row they should be able to. The carnival is only once a year. It brings a lot of business into the area and raises London's profile. It's a beautiful thing.

If I can't handle it I go away. There are a lot of old fogies who complain, but it's just what England needs, it's a tonic. It's the greatest thing to stop prejudice, it's one of the only times white and black people get to mix at a big party.

Jilly Johnson, writer

It's a bit of frivolity and a bit of fun. I've lived in the area on and off for 10 years. We either stay in or go away for the weekend. I think we'll go away this year.

It does tend to leave a bit of litter and there's total pandemonium over the weekend. I can't park on my street. Over the years I've found it's got worse: everybody is double-parked. The volume of people is quite unbelievable.

They tend to drop a bit of rubbish and it can be a bit claustrophobic. You can go out of the front door and get swept up with the crowds and before you know it you're down the road. I wait for a quiet moment, if there is one, which is rare.

But it's nice to go for an hour and see what's going on. Even though we're just around the corner, getting there and back is quite a feat in itself.

Gaz Mayall, owner of Gaz's Rocking Records and musician. Runs the Rocking Blues Club at Gossips.

I live in Ladbroke Grove, I grew up there. I love the carnival, it gives London the flavour of all the Caribbean summer festivals.

It's a shame that the police shut down the sounds and restrict it. I liked it when it was slightly more anarchic. People could set up where they wanted to and respect each other's space. Everybody felt they could get involved.

Now it's all licenced. If it wasn't for the spirit of the people, carnival wouldn't even happen. The authorities have tried to close it down for a long time, but it's become an institution because it has achieved so much press and so many people look forward to it.

The community is right behind it, even though some people leave the area to avoid it. That's the most reasonable way to behave if you don't like it. I'd have thought that the opposition comes from bourgeois people. Or certain people might be of a generation before we had immigrants in this country on any scale. I think they'd be in such minority if you did a census on it.

It's never bothered me. I've always been brought up to respect other people's opinions. I think it's an important event for community spirit. You get all generations down there. There are a lot of children, Everyone is invited.

I'm prepared to work round the carnival. I'm playing at a wedding on Saturday night. Rather than come back in the middle of the carnival (I won't be able to park anywhere near my house), I'm going to come back late at night. Carnival does a lot to quash racism and it brings people together.

George Melly, musician

I moved here in 1972, so carnival was well established by the time I arrived. I enjoy it when I'm here. I go back to the house if I get too pushed and hot.

It's nothing like the area one lives in normally because there are 2 million people there. But as long as you don't put too much money in your pockets it is very enjoyable to walk about. There's an enormous amount of visual invention; the art that goes into the floats is amazing. As someone who is very keen on spontaneous, as opposed to trained, art, to stand and watch the carnival floats pass is a true aesthetic experience.

It's only three days so it doesn't really hinder me. The only problem is getting out of the area if you have to because all the transport is cut off. One year I actually had to stay the night in a hotel in order to be able to get to Portsmouth where I was singing the next day.

One year there was a stabbing. The press made a good deal of it but it could have easily happened any day of the week. With that many people, there's going to be a murder in three days anyway.

I really adore the gaiety of the carnival. It creates an enormous amount of racial ease. These days you see a lot of white people dressed up on the floats dancing as well as black people. You would never have seen those before. I think it is a wonderful thing.

John McVicar, writer

It's a nuisance, it's like the 'country boys come to town'. I can't stand that Caribbean steel drum stuff.

The first count against the thing is those cavorting British bobbies who find rather large buxom black ladies to do some dreadful samba with. It is aesthetically offensive.

The carnival fails to interest me and I can't stand that dreadful music that you wouldn't actually hear in Trinidad. I imagine it's 20 years out of date.

It's got its roots in black peasant agricultural tradition. It's also laced with a strong black criminal element that's very anti-white. Their rationale, their justification, is to invoke a kind of anti-colonial rhetoric.

I lived there for five years between 1982-87. The strong criminal element used to get me down; I saw bag-snatching and that kind of thing; I've seen the results of mugging. One year we were broken into when we were at the carnival.

The carnival interfered with going out and about because you couldn't park. I had relatives on one side and I lived on the other and I had to negotiate a path around the carnival. The whole place shuts off for three days.

I don't like the idea of this peasant festival being transported from the Caribbean to a part of London. It's alien to London culture.

(Photographs omitted)

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