Acton Carnival: Festive Fun or Noise Nuisance?
We talk to the organisers and Ealing Police
This year's Carnival has attracted quite a bit of discussion on the W3 Forum about noise issues, of which more later, but we went down there ourselves to see what all the fuss was about and have been talking to Police and organisers since to find out what the verdict is on this year's event.
A spokesman for Ealing Borough Police said: "Ealing Borough Police Officers were on duty to ensure that those people attending the carnival could do so in a safe environment, whilst at the same time minimising the disruption caused to residents, businesses and transport systems.
"Officers carried out over 90 stop and searches and issued seven 7 cannabis warnings during the event. 6 persons were arrested for such offences as Robbery, Handling Stolen goods, Offensive Weapon and public order offences.
"Traditionally the event has largely been trouble free and very family orientated, however police feel the event is attracting an element intent on causing trouble.
"This year we did not see a repeat of the public disorder, which marred the end of last year’s event when a small section of the crowd began to throw missiles into the road and at police officers.
"We will continue to liase with organisers, community and our partners to ensure the Carnival remains a safe event whilst minimising the disruption to the rest of the community."
We spoke to Sgt Phil Norcutt, in charge of Acton Central's Safer Neighbourhood Team, and asked him for feedback from the perspective of the local Police. He told us: "These stop and searches were carried out under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act which enables Police to search anyone for possession of a weapon without grounds for suspicion.
"Anyone who attended the Carnival will have been able to see that we used Section 60 discriminately - we didn't just search anyone attending the Carnival for the sake of it. We targeted our searches at those we felt might be carrying weapons or who were obviously involved in a gang.
"Large numbers of officers were helping with policing - many of them had to stay on after completing a 12-hour shift in order to provide the maximum amount of support.
"Generally, the number of arrests this year was low - I witnessed two myself. A number of weapons were seized but we do not yet have an idea of how many. However, the fact that this year's Carnival was largely without incident is a testament to the fact that the policing of the event was significantly increased. All credit must go to the Chief Inspector and to the Inspector in charge of the operation."
We asked Sgt Norcutt whether he feels the Carnival is a safe community event. He told us: "As far as the Community is concerned, I feel the Carnival, certainly this year's Carnival, was safe and didn't pose a threat. This is down to the good decisions taken by those in charge of policing the event.
"However, it was clear that it attracts certain gang members - predominantly wearing blue bandannas - who seem to see the Carnival as an open invitation to come and have a good punch-up".
When we suggested to Sgt Norcutt that blue bandannas could be a sign of membership of a gang which is known as 'MDP' (murder dem pussies), he said that he had heard that that was the case.
On the subject of noise, he said: "The level was far too high and made it very difficult to communicate. I understand that as a result of complaints it was turned down at one point but then crept up again. This is not a Police matter and is down to Ealing Council and the organisers to sort out."
Sgt Norcutt asked ActonW3.com to remind readers that Operation Blunt 2 is on-going. "We are trying to rid the community of the culture of knife possession. The stop-and-search operation will be going on until next year. We welcome feedback and opinions from the public on this." If anyone would like to commment, Sgt Norcutt regularly checks the W3 discussion Forum.
Back to the noise issue, we talked to Steve Flynn of Acton Community Forum. He said: "I would encourage anyone with concerns about the noise levels to contact me directly. (firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 8993 6158) I have asked for figures but am assured by those measuring it that the noise this year was at the same level as at last year's Carnival."
Steve also told us: "I am awaiting numbers from the sound engineers."
This year, there was the additional attraction of the Youth Arena - which, Steve said, the organisers decided to put on in conjunction with the Youth and Connections Department at Ealing Council. "We had noticed an increasing number of young people attending the Carnival over the years and decided to tap into that as a focus for the event. As this particular part of the Carnival was new this year, there will be aspects which we will be looking at improving for the future - for example, queueing took a long time: the entrance arrangements for the Arena need to be re-thought."
We saw for ourselves that there was a huge queue to get into the Youth Arena - everyone was being searched by the Police before they were allowed to go in and we estimate it would have around 30 minutes or more to reach the front of the line. The searches were carried out mostly by Police, though Steve told us the security bill was in the region of £6,000 - this does not include any expenses from Ealing Borough Police.
Steve says he believes the Carnival is a "peaceful, multi-cultural event to be enjoyed by families throughout Acton." He added: "The Police were wonderful. Bearing in mind intelligence we had received before the event about unwelcome elements attending the Carnival, they dealt with the situation extremely well."
In response to the comments of some that the Carnival is not either inclusive or diverse, he said: "There were groups participating from many different ethnic origins. On the main stage, we had Latin American Tango Salsa, dancers from Ealing Chinese School, Akhtamar Armenian dancers, Oke Osisi African dancing, Youth Beats dance, R&B, Reggae, South African, Irish dancing, Somali performers and to finish up, some great Saxophone music from Lascelles James."
Steve believes the bill was "melodic and multi-cultural, with plenty of lovers rock - gentle music for adults. Overall, I believe this year's Carnival provided a good range of activities. The Youth Arena was a positive addition to the day's events."
Whilst there, we enjoyed an excellent demonstration of Tae Kwon Do, but found the whole event was overwhelmed by the noise both from the main stage and the Youth Arena. We would have stayed longer but, along with our young companions (17, 22 and 24) found the sound levels difficult to bear. One of my companions commented afterwards that she hadn't felt threatened, but that it wasn't a friendly event and because of the music it was impossible to talk to anyone. We weren't convinced - we visited between 4 and 5 on Saturday afternoon - that this was an event suitable for a family day out.
July 17, 2008