Revellers test the healing power of carnival

A Slice of Britain: With Notting Hill just a week away, London's Caribbean community turns out for a smaller, but no less vibrant, celebration

Carnival masks and headdresses sit on the ground waiting for their respective wearers; plumes of pink feathers lie spread out on the floor next to teenagers who practise dance moves. The spectacle before me looks like the world's largest art class.

"I just wanted to come here and send a message," said 26-year-old Stephanie Antoine, as she daubs glitter on to a large banner. "Because of the riots, we need to be positive. Some people will be going to prison, but when they come out, we want to say that life isn't over. Anything can happen, you just need to be positive."

This is Calo (Caribbean-London), a pan-Caribbean carnival camped in the heart of middle-class, north London suburbia. Although the cavernous Alexandra Palace, which hosts the three-day festival of music, dance, food and entertainment, engulfs the performers, there are probably several hundred people here.

The din of a sound-checking drummer punctuates the children's chatter. But as well as the evident buzz, there is a slight edge to the atmosphere as thoughts quickly turn to next week's Notting Hill Carnival.

Since the riots and civil unrest began earlier this month, only a mile or so from Calo's base, there has been much speculation as to whether one of the largest street festivals in the world, which brings an estimated one million people on to the streets of west London, should go ahead. Over the past week, opinion has fallen into two camps: those who want to see the carnival cancelled (perhaps permanently) and those who think it is an important cultural event and that giving up would mean giving in to the rioters.

The plan is to go for what is hoped will be a peaceful compromise: the carnival will go ahead but will finish early, at 7pm, and extra police officers will be present. "We totally encourage the earlier start and finish of the event," said a Met Police spokesman. "Notting Hill Carnival is an important event in the capital's calendar and we support it going ahead this year. Troublemakers are not welcome."

Organisers at Calo, which will be at Notting Hill, admit to being apprehensive. "I am slightly more concerned this year," says Ruthven Roberts, the artistic director of Notting Hill Mas Bands Association. "You have to be prepared and alert. But the curfew is necessary. Things tend to kick-off after dark. People in costumes are vulnerable."

With roots stretching back to 1959, the Notting Hill Carnival has taken place every year since 1964 and contributes almost £100m to the economy. But in the past 20 years five people have been killed and disturbances, costing taxpayers around £6m annually, have marred the event. This year is perhaps the closest it has come to being cancelled.

"Notting Hill Carnival is just like a game of football: it is well policed, well controlled and well understood by police," says Shabaka Thompson, the chief executive of Carnival Village, who shrugs off the curfew. "The curfew has been on our doorstep for years now. Last year the police wanted us to finish at 6.30. But we've always resisted it – Notting Hill is not just a Caribbean carnival – it's a testament to London."

As the Calo participants claim their headdresses, the huge plumes become animated and this festival comes to life. "Calo gives people who don't want to go to Notting Hill a chance to see what creativity is about. Carnival is about creativity and about healing," Mr Thompson says. "This is about letting off steam – in a positive way."

News
people Biographer says cinema’s enduring sex symbol led a secret troubled life
News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
News
people

Kirstie Allsopp has waded into the female fertility debate again

News
In 2006, Pluto was reclassified as a 'dwarf planet'
scienceBut will it be reinstated?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people
News
Researchers say a diet of fatty foods could impede smell abilities
scienceMeasuring the sense may predict a person's lifespan
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
News
Gillian Anderson was paid less than her male co-star David Duchovny for three years while she was in the The X-Files until she protested and was given the same salary
people

Gillian Anderson lays into gender disparity in Hollywood

Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Life and Style
fashionThe Secret Angels all take home huge sums - but who earns the most?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

KS1 and KS2 Primary NQT Job in Lancaster Area

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education is urgently...

DT Teacher - Resistant Materials

£33000 - £34000 per annum: Randstad Education Group: Technology Teacher (Resis...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission, 1st yr OTE £30-£40k : SThree:...

Middleware Support Analyst

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?