R.F.Wilson writes from London: Menacingly for the locals, the Notting Hill Carnival (NHC) is approaching.
This year the organisers hope to capitalise on all that publicity that London got for hosting the Olympics. They reckon it’s all about culture, innit, and culture attracts people like flies. Especially as hundreds of thousands of tourists stayed away from London during the Games and the hope is that they will flood to the British capital and sample some of good old carnival atmosphere and its cultural buzz.
But what I want to know is this: what’s cultural about the NHC? It’s actually quite primitive in its execution and has got very little to do with the traditions or history of the West Indies while attracting a lot of undesirables. I know this because I’ve been involved in covering the great event several times as a hack and the only people I noticed who were enjoying themselves were the drinkers, the drug pushers and pickpockets. Well, and the participants, obviously, who get an opportunity to wiggle their booty and feel important. But for the rest, it’s not really all that inclusive, if you know what I mean.
And you know what else I’ve noticed about this supposedly huge cultural event: many of the costumes looked suspiciously familiar, along with the props that they drag through the streets. I got a feeling that it was the same recycled stuff from the previous years. And yet, as we are told, a lot of public money is given to the organisers, not to mention the astronomical costs of policing the event.
Now, you would have expected that after the Olympics the NHC could have been a low key event this year, considering that there’s been way too much excitement for Londoners already. But no, as far as I know, it’s going to be ‘bigger and better’, as the organisers promise. And I bet Mayor Boris Johnson will welcome the NHC and say a lot of warm words about its cultural significance for the capital, capitalising on the so-called ‘Boris bounce’ that he has supposedly received from the Olympics.
But let’s be brutally honest: the NHC has long ago turned into a monument to political correctness. It has absolutely no cultural relevance and yet, a small number of people, who are involved in organising it, seem to be immune to any criticism. They scream ‘racism’ at the first sign of any danger to their pet project. And no politicians feels bold enough to stand up to them and say: ‘If you want to hold these gatherings, go someplace else where you won’t upset the locals.’
But that won’t happen. That would be too controversial. That would go against the sacred multiculturalism that has already proven to be more divisive than inclusive. Just as no one would dare question the Olympics parade that is planned for September 10, to toast the British athletes who have won more medals in the Games than ever before. It’s not enough for them to get all those sponsorship deals and await those knighthoods and other honours. They need to have a parade thrown in to celebrate their success.
That’s culture for you, innit?