Carnival 'to provide healing after Grenfell tragedy'

Notting Hill Carnival will be a "healing" opportunity for the local community after the Grenfell Tower fire, with a number of opportunities to reflect on the tragedy. 

Hundreds of hand-drawn tributes, flowers and candles will be protected by fencing, while a "ring of care" will be formed around the tower by police officers to protect the Lancaster West estate from the hundreds of thousands of passing carnival-goers.

There will be a reflection zone near the blackened high-rise, where performers have been encouraged to lower their music volume and walk respectfully in respect for those who died in the inferno.

Posters have been put up at spots where the tower can be seen, asking the public not to take photographs "at the site of our great loss" - an activity which has distressed locals.

And the Metropolitan Police said a dedicated area will be put in place for people to leave tributes without obstructing the carnival flow.

Huey Walker, a local resident and volunteer who has been involved in the run-up to carnival, said some of the survivors were "real carnivalists" who wanted to participate.

The 39-year-old who lives near Kensal Green said: "I think people see it as an opportunity to continue the healing of what's happened in the community and keep the message of what's happened in the public eye as well.

"People are still struggling with being rehoused, they are still pursuing justice, this is ongoing.

"And even for those people who don't like carnival, these actions are important to show the carnival isn't just going on regardless, it's showing regard and respect to what's happening."

The carnival will open on Sunday morning with a multi-faith prayer and release of doves as a "small act of remembrance", and a speech by local MP Emma Dent Coad.

At 3pm on both days hundreds of thousands of revellers along the route are expected to pause and observe a minute's silence to mark the tragedy, in which at least 80 people died.

Organisers are encouraging attendees to wear or accessorise in "green for Grenfell" in a display of "reverence and respect amidst the revelry".

Chair of the carnival trust Pepe Francis said he hoped the festivities would "lift the spirits of people". 

Asked how members of the Grenfell community he had spoken to felt about the event, he said: "They just want carnival to go ahead as normal.

"Obviously there's varying views, some people feel it shouldn't. But the majority feel it should, and it should be one of the best carnivals. 

"Even the people who come to carnival and whatever reason cause trouble, even they, I think it's a reason for them to respect that."

He added: "I think, because of Grenfell, I would like to see carnival this year one of the most successful ones ever, because I think it will pay a lot of tribute to what a festival like this can do to ease the minds of the people (who are) the victims."

A spokesman for Grenfell United, a residents and survivors group, said: "We hope people will follow these requests from us and our friends and family in the wider community.

"They will enable people to pay their respects; be conscious of our vulnerability; and show solidarity for our ongoing demands for housing and full justice, in the creative spirit of Carnival".

Staff from central and north west London NHS foundation trust (CNWL) will be on hand to provide "mental health first aid" for those affected by the recent fire. 

More than 70 volunteers wearing bright orange T-shirts, including consultants, nurses, and occupational therapists, will be dotted along the carnival route to direct those who want help to two "safe" locations. 

As part of the police's overall plan, steel barriers, concrete blocks and weapons checks will help protect the carnival from the threat of a Barcelona-style terror incident and acid attacks.

David Musker, the commander in charge of policing the west London event, said there was no specific counter-terrorism intelligence but security plans had been "thoroughly reviewed" after the Barcelona attack, in which 15 people died after being hit by a van.

Officers will be stationed around the perimeter of the carnival zone, carrying out checks for weapons and corrosive substances, following a controversial three-week crackdown to reduce criminality at the event.

They also plan to use facial recognition technology, which will help the force spot those thought to be likely to cause trouble. 

Overall policing numbers will stay the same as last year, with approximately 15,000 shifts worked over the bank holiday period. 

This works out as around six to seven thousand officers on duty each day.

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