Notting Hill Carnival pays tribute to Grenfell Tower victims
White doves were released at a special ceremony paying respect to victims of the fire
London’s biggest outdoor event Notting Hill carnival has begun with a tribute to the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire disaster.
This year’s festival, a celebration of Caribbean culture and traditions which began in 1966, took place in the shadow of the tragedy in which 80 people died.
Those attending the festival had been urged to wear green to show their support for those affected by the blaze in the 24-storey tower block on June 14.
Organisers encouraged visitors to go "green for Grenfell" in a display of "reverence and respect amidst the revelry". Handmade green hearts and streamers made in the days running up to Carnival adorned the streets.
At the opening of the two-day celebration, London’s mayor Sadiq Khan said the event was taking place “in the context of sadness and sorrow” and added: “So this carnival weekend, we honour the victims.”
The charity single Bridge Over Troubled Water was sung by Brenda Emmanuel and a group multi-faith prayer was held at special ceremony as "a small act of remembrance" for Grenfell. Mr Khan joined community leaders and survivors in releasing doves in tribute to the victims.
Speaking at the ceremony, London’s mayor pledged to do everything he could to support the grieving residents of North Kensington.
He said: “Over this carnival weekend we pledge to redouble our efforts to support this community.
“We make sure we have in our thoughts and our prayers all of those affected by the awful Grenfell Tower tragedy.
"Part of that pledge is making sure we get justice, we find out exactly what happened, we make sure those responsible are held to account, and also so this never, ever, ever happens again.”
Labour Party MP Emma Dent Coad, who is the parliamentary representative for Kensington, paid tribute to the “Grenfell generation” at the opening.
“Today is a day to set aside our burden of sadness, and enjoy some real joy with our families, our friends and our amazing community, which the world now knows about – though it’s always been here, we know that,” she said.
“Today, carnival is for you. Set aside your sadness and worries, smile, dance and sing along. And we will have the most wonderful, musical, colourful and lovable carnival ever. Remember you are the Grenfell generation, and you are special.”
The burnt-out shell of the tower block was visible throughout most of the parade route, which takes place in west London.
As the parade went past the site of the disaster, sound systems were switched off as a mark of respect. Festival-goers were asked not to take pictures of the tower.
Police formed a “ring of care” around the site in order to protect remembrance items left in tribute to the victims.
A minute’s silence was also held at 3pm on Sunday and a similar observance is set to be repeated on the second day of the festival.
Earlier on Sunday, Carnival began with a traditional paint fight, known as Jouvert meaning “open of the day”. Festival-goers threw paint at each other during the uncharacteristically-hot bank holiday weekend in Britain while dancing to steel bands.
Up to one million people were expected to attend the first day of Carnival, in which families are encouraged to attend because of it attracts smaller crowds and there are child-friendly floats in the parade.
More security efforts were made to the event than last year in the wake of three terror attacks, which took place earlier this year in London and Manchester.
Concrete blocks, barriers and weapons checks were put in place to prevent an attack similar to the one in Barcelona just less than two weeks ago.
While facial recognition technology was used to spot any known troublemakers from causing havoc.
Metropolitan police spokeswoman Chief Superintendent Robyn Williams said the force was doing everything it could to keep visitors safe.
"We've been working hard with everyone involved in the Carnival to make sure that thousands of people can take to the streets of West London and have a brilliant time, knowing that we are doing all we can to keep them safe,” she said.
"Whilst sadly London is no stranger to terrorist attacks and we are used to policing our City and big events against that backdrop, the terrible events in London this year and recently in Europe are a tragic reminder that the threat from terrorism remains ever present.
"The importance of Carnival in London's cultural calendar has only increased - this is an opportunity for the world to see the strength of our city. We are determined to do absolutely everything to make sure revellers enjoy it.”
Updated: August 27, 2017 06:19 PM