Notting Hill Carnival revellers enjoy dry start to the party


Revellers enjoyed a dry start to Notting Hill Carnival as the weather held up for the start of Europe's largest street festival.

Thousands of festival-goers descended on west London as Carnival Sunday Family Day got under way.

Up to a million people from all over the world are expected to take part over the festivities' two days, which are led by the British West Indian community.

Forecasters have warned that it will be a rain-soaked edition this year, but conditions remained grey yet dry throughout the morning and early afternoon.

The atmosphere on Family Day is usually laid back, with workshops and costume prizes, but the Bank Holiday Monday has a reputation for gang-related violence.

By 7pm today there had been 86 arrests - 23 more than at the same stage last year.

Three were for criminal damage, nine public order matters, seven possession of an offensive weapon (a blade), 10 going equipped for theft, 25 drugs offences, six sex offences, one grievous bodily harm, six actual bodily harm, and 19 other offences.

William Medley, 35, a tech firm worker who lives in nearby Bayswater, and brought his three-old-son to the party, said: "It's an opportunity for kids to run around and see something different, interact with different people and experience the food, smells, sounds and dancing.

"It's a fantastic party atmosphere."

But Mr Medley's wife, Carolina Quintana, a financial services account manager, also 35, said she worried about safety.

She said: "We have seen fights in the past - two years ago there was a big fight on the Monday - so I wouldn't feel comfortable bringing a child on the Monday or in the evening.

"We come for a couple of hours on Family Day, but towards the end of the day things get a bit heated up and there can be trouble."

Police this week arrested dozens of people in dawn raids against potential troublemakers ahead of the street party.

Officers today monitored the event with a significant presence on the ground and also from the sky with a helicopter.

Crowds enjoyed music blasting out from floats, while drummers took to the streets to get revellers with horns and whistles dancing.

Families made the most of the dry weather by sitting on curbs to tuck into traditional Caribbean food such as jerk chicken, while West Indian flags and Union Jacks were draped from balconies.

Scotland Yard said that a 15-year old boy had been charged with being in possession of a knife at the Carnival Panorama event in Pleasance Park, North Kensington, on Saturday.

The boy will appear on bail at Hammersmith Youth Court on September 14.

As part of his bail conditions, he will not be able to attend the Notting Hill Carnival, and he will be subject to a curfew.

Youths could be seen inhaling nitrous oxide, known as "hippy crack", from balloons and discarded pressured canisters of the substance littered the streets.

The gas, also known as laughing gas and which has several legitimate uses, has been the subject of controversy as a party drug which can cause hallucinations and even death.

Users experience feelings of euphoria, relaxation and calmness, but it can also cause dizziness, difficulty to think straight and laughing fits.

It is not illegal to possess but cannot be sold to those under-18 if they are believed to be likely to inhale it, according to the Government's drug education website Frank.

Police said officers on patrol seized 350 canisters of nitrous oxide on a sound system on Ledbury Road, Notting Hill.

No arrests were made and the matter has been referred to Westminster City Council for street trading offences.