Rain on the big parade dampens Carnival spirit

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Heavy rain pushed down attendance at the Notting Hill Carnival yesterday, disappointing organisers and revellers but reassuring those critics who had feared that Europe's biggest street festival, which attracted two million people last year, was becoming dangerously overcrowded.

In the morning, the masses and their umbrellas seemed to pulse to deafening music from the procession of floats on Ladbroke Grove, west London. But as the heavens opened the crowds began to thin.

The carnival was launched by Britain's Caribbean community in 1966 and is still run by a few volunteers. But recent trouble ­ last year there were two murders, a rape and 129 arrests ­ has cast a pall over the event. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Andy Trotter of the Metropolitan Police said he was so concerned at possible crowd crushes this year that he would not allow his own children to go.

On the streets, carnival-goers generally disagreed with the criticisms. "They are trying to pour cold water on the carnival," said Dorrette Pennant, who has been attending since the 1970s. "Of course, there are crowd issues but what are we supposed to do? People need to enjoy themselves."

Thirteen people were arrested for offences including robbery, possession of drugs and drunkenness. A man in his twenties was in a stable condition in hospital after being seriously injured in a stabbing at a house in Portobello Road, near the parade route. Police were uncertain if the attack was related to the festivities.