Thousands set to join Notting Hill Carnival

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The Independent Online

Hundreds of thousands of revellers will descend on the capital over the next two days for Europe's biggest street festival - the Notting Hill Carnival.

Dancers wearing vibrant costumes will parade along the packed three-and-a-half-mile route in west London from 9am today to the sounds of traditional steel drums.

The lines of colourful floats will be accompanied by more than 40 static sound systems and scores of Caribbean food stalls.

For many, the bank holiday celebrations will be the climax of months of rehearsals, planning and preparation, with children's day taking place today ahead of the adults' parade.

Chris Boothman, director of London Notting Hill Carnival Ltd, said: "This weekend is the highlight of the year for not only the Caribbean community, but also for the many visitors from London and the rest of the country.

"We have already had some fantastic events including the costume shows and the calypso shows, which showcased some of the best talent in its area.

"This weekend is the culmination of all those events, bringing together all the sights, sounds, tastes and experiences which make carnival the great experience that it is.

"We have worked hard with the police and hosting boroughs to ensure that this is the safe and enjoyable weekend we all look forward to."

The carnival has been held each August Bank Holiday since 1966.

London Mayor Boris Johnson said: "This weekend London will be filled with visitors from across the world eager to have some fun at the ultimate free street party.

"Our legendary Notting Hill Carnival highlights the richness of Caribbean culture and is the perfect summer celebration.

"As a former Ladbroke Grove resident, I feel a particular affinity to the pulsating steel pans and colourful floats as simply nothing rivals the spirit and energy of carnival.

"The event showcases the immense contribution that Caribbean Londoners have made and continue to make to life in the capital."

A massive £6 million policing operation will swing into gear during the two days to protect up to a million expected carnival visitors.

All entrances will have search points in a bid to prevent weapons being carried on to the streets, while specialist spotters watch out for known criminals.

British Transport Police officers will patrol the Tube and rail system, with mobile metal detection arches being used at some stations.

Teams of officers will target pickpockets who have blighted previous carnivals and dog owners have been told to leave animals at home.

More than 350 medical staff from the London Ambulance Service and St John Ambulance will be on duty on both days.

A four-week Met Police crackdown ahead of the event resulted in 101 arrests and the seizure of knives, weapons and drugs.

The force launched pre-emptive action named Operation Razorback amid fears crime gangs linked to drugs and violence might clash during the carnival.

Dawn raids carried out earlier this month unearthed £64,000 cash, large quantities of crack cocaine, cocaine and cannabis, plus weapons including hunting knives, samurai swords and a firearm.

Ch Insp Jo Edwards said: "We've managed to target a large number of known troublemakers and have taken large quantities of drugs and weapons off the streets."

Last year more than 200 people were arrested, with most people being held for public order and drugs offences.