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Notting Hill Carnival 2021: Street festival cancelled in its 55th year

The i 18/06/2021 Ruchira Sharma

Notting Hill Carnival has been cancelled again this year due to the ongoing uncertainty around Covid-19 restrictions.

Organisers say it was “an incredibly difficult decision to make” but safety must come first and the risk of an eventual cancellation following the Prime Minister delaying the end of lockdown this week is too high.

This would have been the event’s 55th year. Notting Hill Carnival, Europe’s biggest street party, was forced online last year due to the pandemic, but is normally attended by around 2 million people.

It comes as summer festivals are set to be cancelled this year as the Government is reluctant to underwrite the insurance costs for them.

Several festival organisers have warned they face serious financial losses if they push ahead with their events, only for them to be cancelled if the Government delays lifting restrictions again on 19 July.

In a statement, the board of Notting Hill Carnival Ltd said it had decided that this year’s event in London “will not be on the streets due to the ongoing uncertainty and risk Covid-19 poses”.

“This has been an incredibly difficult decision to make,” organisers continued.

“Everyone involved in the event desperately wants a return to the road where carnival belongs but safety has to come first and with the latest cautious announcement on the Government’s road map, this is the only way to ensure that.

“In making this decision, we have considered our responsibilities to deliver a safe, spectacular, successful and sustainable carnival.

“The conclusion is that with so much uncertainty, with time short for carnivalists to prepare and the risk of eventual cancellation a real possibility, we must refocus our efforts for 2021.”

Organiser Matthew Phillip had previously warned that social distancing measures would be “devastating” for the carnival.

Mr Phillip, who is chief executive of Notting Hill Carnival Ltd, told MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee in February: “It would be very difficult to hold Carnival in its traditional format on the streets with social distancing in place. It would be devastating for a second year in a row.”

The three-day party is a celebration of Caribbean music, dancing, food and drink, and has also been influenced by the Windrush generation.

Second only to Brazil’s Rio Carnival in size, the vibrant west London event aims to promote unity and bring people of all ages and races together.

It features static sound systems, live performances and has played host to Jay-Z, Lil’ Kim and Busta Rhymes in the past.

Last year, the first ever digital version of the event was hosted by radio presenters DJ Ace and Remel London, and was streamed on four channels over the August bank holiday weekend.

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