Dancing in my pants and a horrible ending

What a strange carnival this year was.

A little background before I begin. As some of you know, I've been heavily involved with the Notting Hill Carnival for a while and I've been going since I was 8, nearly 20 years now. In 2002 I started volunteering with a carnival group and making costumes.

Since Ken Livingstone came in, it seems he has done his level best to try and disrupt carnival, cutting funding and setting up his own rival to carnival last year, after the official bodies, NHMBA and the British Association of Steelpans turned down his "generous" offer to move carnival away from it's traditional home in Notting Hill to Hyde Park. Apparently he offered the organisers funding of £120,000, where it actually costs over £300,00 to run carnival. That money has now been taken by the steelbands association and panorama, the pre-carnival Steelpan showcase was held in Hyde Park this year for the first time.

Anyway, enough of that.

As a result of Red Ken's delightful insight into carnival reform, he's cut funding all over the place, which has closed a lot of the carnival bands down and forced the remaining bands to group together. If a band wanted to go on the road they would have to contact a band with a license and team up and as a result we've been touring with Hibiscus Dance troupe for the last three years or so and this year we accepted a few extra contracts from a band from Guadeloupe and an elderly support association, for whom we agreed to build a float, which was to be a 40ft boat mounted on a lorry.

Unfortunately things started to go very wrong in the build-up to carnival and for reasons I won't go into the float ended up being built WAY too late, and we were building on the road to the judging point, which no-one was very happy about at all.

Worst of all, I volunteered to help out on the boat project, so I got next to no sleep for the three days leading up to carnival Monday and completely missed Sunday's carnival day, banging together wood.

As a result, we hit the road late and I got my costume just before the judging point.

Thing is, I had been so busy with the boat project that I hadn't had time to choose my costume, so I just said I'd dance in the Arts and Culture section.

Now if you look very closely at the picture you'll see that this section costume has very little on, other than a bra and blue pants.

Being that busy, this minor detail had escaped my attention, so minutes from the judging point, my mate Arto thrusts this bag in my hand and says "I hope you've got some shorts"

With no time for decisions and no facepaint I had to bite the bullet and whipped my trousers off with the cameras flashing all over the place and put on the aquamarine vest top and bikini shaped bollock strap and proceeded to dance all the way to Ladbroke Grove in my Y-fronts!

As soon as I get pictures, I'll post them right here.

Anyway, carnival ended on Sunday on sour note.

After at least 3 hours of dancing and fun, I had cramp everywhere and decided to get on board the minibus to have a rest.

After adjusting my pants, I looked out the window and saw a gang of black kids running through the crowds knocking people over. They were steaming the crowd, running through, knocking people over and beating people on the way through, probably mugging people too.

Within seconds there were police all over the place, but with a gang numbering almost 30 they only managed to pin down 2 of them and then bottles started flying at them.

It was really scary.

Within minutes there was chaos as loads of gangs started running through the crowds and the police quickly became overwhelmed by the sheer scale of people running through the crowds.

I was seeing someone getting arrested or fighting with police or each other every couple of minutes from the minibus and the whole thing had a feeling of being surrounded by chaos. Police were being attacked and I saw a guy brandishing a broken bottle at one point too.

The BBC news coverage was surprisingly positive after 2 shootings, 1 stabbing and a death so I felt compelled to write this to give the other side as a seasoned veteran of carnival.

Ignore the stats that they regurgitate every year about this being relatively crime-free. This was the worst carnival I've been to yet bar none.
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