Notting Hill Carnival has been cancelled for the first time ever

Is there nothing Miss Rona will not take from us?

by Roisin Lanigan
|
07 May 2020, 2:12pm

Photography Henry Gorse

After a wave of festival cancellations and the grim prediction that live music may not return until 2022, today’s confirmation that Notting Hill Carnival 2020 will be cancelled should probably not come as a surprise. But it’s devastating all the same.

For the first time in Carnival’s 54 year history the event will not take place, thanks to safety concerns around the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. After lengthy discussions with Kensington and Chelsea council, the organisers conceded today that the community would be put at risk if the festival -- which is essentially the most densely packed two day street party in the world -- went ahead as planned.

“This has not been an easy decision to make, but the reality of the pandemic and the way in which it has unfolded means that this is the only safe option,” Notting Hill Carnival’s organisers said in a statement this afternoon. “Everyone’s health has to come first. We also have no wish to place extra strain on our colleagues at St John Ambulance and the NHS. We want to take this opportunity to express our utmost respect, admiration and gratitude for their work.”

Carnival is renowned for its status as Europe’s biggest street festival, with more than two million people descending on north London for the August bank holiday festivities. But it’s more than just a big end of summer party. The carnival is also an important touchstone for the Caribbean community in London and beyond. In the past few years alone it’s served as a stage for protests against Theresa May’s abhorrent treatment of the Windrush generation, and touching tributes to those who lost their lives in the Grenfell Tower fire. As many people are feeling more alone than ever, today’s announcement that this year that community outreach won’t exist is understandably gutting.

No doubt trying to give us a little bit of hope, the organisers added in their statement today that they will be working towards an “alternate NHC2020”. “We hope [it] will bring the carnival spirit to people from the safety of their homes, and make them feel connected and engaged,” they said.

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