The sun comes out for Notting Hill's big day

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The Independent Online

Under clear blue skies, the Notting Hill Carnival's bright costumes and barrage of music formed a dazzling antidote to what is close to becoming Britain's wettest ever summer.

Thousands of revellers danced as the party kicked off in the streets of west London. More than one million are expected to attend the two-day carnival - Europe's biggest street festival - which began with the usual children's parade. Steel bands competed with Caribbean soca tunes and calypso music belting from sound systems mounted on trucks as the parade of floats and young dancers in elaborate feather headdresses and multicoloured sequinned costumes passed.

"It's loud, lively and people are dancing in the streets. It's a great day out," said Michael Williams, one of the organisers. The main parade takes place today.

This year's carnival marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade. "Set all free" was this year's theme. Some 300 food stalls line the three-mile route and carnival-goers were expected to get through five tonnes of chicken, 16,000 coconuts, 10,000 litres of stout and 25,000 bottles of rum.

Notting Hill was just one of a number of focal points for revellers wishing to enjoy the bank holiday sun in the capital. In Hyde Park on Saturday, steel bands fought for the title of National Championships of Steel and, on the South Bank, the National Theatre was staging a four-day dance festival. Dizzee Rascal and The Streets were among the acts at yesterday's Get Loaded in the Park concert on Clapham Common.

In the build-up to the Notting Hill Carnival, police made 21 arrests after an intelligence operation which began in May, targeting offenders from previous carnivals. Chief Inspector Jo Edwards said only three arrests had been made at the carnival by 4pm yesterday, two for possession of an offensive weapon and one for possession of drugs.

She said: "From a police point of view it's all going very well so far, which is pleasing."