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The New MP For Kensington Made A Passionate Statement Defending Notting Hill Carnival

"Carnival stays right here on my doorstep, where it belongs," said Emma Dent Coad, the Labour MP for Kensington.

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Yui Mok / PA Wire/PA Images

Kensington's local MP has given a passionate defence of Notting Hill Carnival amid calls from police to ban the event in future.

Emma Dent Coad described carnival as "a celebration of London at its best, with our diverse communities embracing all cultures and religions in a spirit of acceptance, positivity and shared values", adding that the event attracts "over £100 million a year of business into London".

Her comments came after criticism of the event as it was reported that 31 officers had been injured over the two-day celebration.

In a statement, Ken Marsh, leader of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said the fact that officers had been hurt was "a disgrace", and asked, "what other event would be allowed to carry on regardless with so many police colleagues under attack?"

Marsh said he would be taking the issue up with "every level" of the Met and the London mayor's office.

John Stillwell / PA Wire/PA Images

In a separate statement, Scotland Yard's Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt said he did "not want to see another year where concerns about the safety of hundreds of people tightly packed into narrow streets continue to exist and we must all work to ensure that appropriate measures are in place next year to avoid this identified risk.”

He added: “Some 7,500 officers were out on the streets on Monday and around 6,000 on the Sunday, which is a huge commitment for the Met. It comes with a cost, both financial and to our people.

"Supporting the event comes at a time where our organisation is at a level of unprecedented stretch in terms of demand and in terms of mitigating the developing and persistent terrorist threat."

Suggestions have been made in the past to make the event ticketed, and to move it from its home for the past 50 years and relocate to Hyde Park.

After the latest comments from police officers were widely reported, Dent Coad put out her own statement, saying: "Carnival stays right here on my doorstep, where it belongs.”

London mayor Sadiq Khan and Kensington MP Emma Dent Coad with carnival performers.
Yui Mok / PA Wire/PA Images

London mayor Sadiq Khan and Kensington MP Emma Dent Coad with carnival performers.

She said: “I have been attending Carnival since the early '80s, and have lived in the Carnival area for more than 30 years. I love the freedom to walk the streets, the fantastic atmosphere and friendliness of local people, and the real happiness it brings to the neighbourhood. And that’s apart from the dancers, costumes, music, food and party atmosphere where everyone is invited."

Describing this year's event, which took place in the shadow of Grenfell Tower, as "very special indeed", she added: "The experience of being there with one million people observing the minute’s silence on both days was incredibly moving. I can’t imagine any event anywhere else where so many people would be united in silence and reflection. It was unifying and emotional. I have never been so hugged!"

The MP also pointed out the importance of carnival's history – it grew out of the the aftermath of a racist murder of Antiguan carpenter Kelso Cochrane more than 50 years ago and sparked a turning point for race relations in north Kensington.

Tristan Fewings / Getty Images

She said: “It is of course a celebration of Afro-Caribbean culture, and a rare opportunity for many of those with roots in North Ken via the Caribbean to get together with family and friends, many now sadly dispersed due to the shortage of affordable housing.

"The way that successive governments have treated Afro-Caribbeans and indeed all immigrant groups over the years is something we should be ashamed of. I certainly am. Many forget or are ignorant of the history of how Notting Hill Carnival began: the racist murder of Antiguan carpenter Kelso Cochrane by a group of fascist Blackshirts after months of race riots in the area.

"The still unsolved murder was the turning point for race relations in the area, and Notting Hill Carnival was born. In 2009 on the 50th anniversary of his death we local Councillors put up a plaque on the corner of Golborne Road and Southam Street where he died."

She concluded by saying that she will work with authorities to make each successive Carnival "safer, cleaner, more peaceful and less disruptive to local people", and added: "here is one message from me: our beautiful, musical, colourful and lovable Carnival stays right here on my doorstep, where it belongs.”

Read Emma Dent Coad's statement in full:

Carnival opened this year with a truly moving and beautiful launch event, and I was hugely honoured to be asked to speak, along with faith leaders and the Mayor of London. Our best known Calypsonian sang a new song dedicated to Grenfell, and there was music, dance and song. The event was attended by members of the public as well as survivors, evacuees and bereaved families, who were very pleased to be there as well as moved by the tributes, including a release of doves.

Carnival is a celebration of London at its best, with our diverse communities embracing all cultures and religions in a spirit of acceptance, positivity and shared values. This year was very special indeed, and the experience of being there with 1 million people observing the minute’s silence on both days was incredibly moving. I can’t imagine any event anywhere else where so many people would be united in silence and reflection. It was unifying and emotional. I have never been so hugged!

It is of course a celebration of Afro-Caribbean culture, and a rare opportunity for many of those with roots in North Ken via the Caribbean to get together with family and friends, many now sadly dispersed due to the shortage of affordable housing. The way that successive governments have treated Afro-Caribbeans and indeed all immigrant groups over the years is something we should be ashamed of. I certainly am. Many forget or are ignorant of the history of how Notting Hill Carnival began: the racist murder of Antiguan carpenter Kelso Cochrane by a group of fascist Blackshirts after months of race riots in the area. The still unsolved murder was the turning point for race relations in the area, and Notting Hill Carnival was born. In 2009 on the 50th anniversary of his death we local Councillors put up a plaque on the corner of Golborne Road and Southam Street where he died.

I have been attending Carnival since the early 80s, and have lived in the Carnival area for more than 30 years. I love the freedom to walk the streets, the fantastic atmosphere and friendliness of local people, and the real happiness it brings to the neighbourhood. And that’s apart from the dancers, costumes, music, food and party atmosphere where everyone is invited.

Like most parties, there is a mess afterwards. When you invite a million people, there will be a lot of mess. Many people object to the noise, the rubbish, the lack of enough loos, the parking problems. I have to say, I would never move next to a football stadium, arena or exhibition centre if I wasn’t prepared to put up with the daily or weekly disruption of tens of thousands of people. And I’ll leave that thought with you.

Carnival attracts over £100m a year of business into London. It is supported by the Mayor of London, Kensington and Chelsea Council, and by a million people who come and enjoy the spectacle and pure joy of dancing in the streets.

While we will work every year to make it safer, cleaner, more peaceful and less disruptive to local people, here is one message from me: our beautiful, musical, colourful and lovable Carnival stays right here on my doorstep, where it belongs.


Hannah Al-Othman is a political correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Hannah Al-Othman at hannah.al-othman@buzzfeed.com.

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