Carnival goers pay silent tribute to Grenfell fire victims
Dozens of white doves were released to mark the start of the festivities.
Hundreds of thousands of revellers have marked the first day of the Notting Hill Carnival with a series of poignant tributes to the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire.
Politicians, residents and survivors of the tragedy came together for the annual August bank holiday celebration to commemorate those lost in the disaster, and pay tribute to the scores of emergency service workers who tried to save them.
At least 80 people were killed as a result of the fire, which engulfed the 24-storey apartment block on June 14, just half a mile from the west London carnival route in Ladbroke Grove.
The streets around the site of the tower and the Lancaster West estate where it stands were protected by a special police cordon, to mark a quiet zone of reflection for those wishing to pay their respects.
The official opening ceremony on Sunday morning began with a multi-faith prayer and release of doves as a “small act of remembrance” to mark the tragedy.
The white birds were released from the hands of survivors and local residents, as well as leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council Elizabeth Campbell, mayor of London Sadiq Khan and local MP Emma Dent Coad.
Ms Dent Coad addressed the “Grenfell generation”, and said the day marked a moment to “set aside our burden of sadness” that people had carried in the weeks since the disaster unfolded.
She also praised the area’s “amazing community”, and added: “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.”
Carnivalists, smattered with paint and wearing brightly-coloured clothes, flooded into the streets around Notting Hill ahead of the commencement of the parade in the early afternoon.
Set against a backdrop of blue sky and blazing sunshine, drummers, costumed-dancers and smiling residents all travelled the slow course along the tree-lined thoroughfares, singing along to music blaring from the numerous party-buses marking their route.
Volunteers selling “Love For Grenfell” merchandise to raise money for survivors and local fire and rescue services, stood at the boundary of the main parade and the roads leading to the estate where the blackened shell of Grenfell Tower still stands.
Nicholas Burton, a 19th floor resident of the building, was among the volunteers and said the carnival meant “everything” to those that survived.
He said: “This is what the community is all about.
“Notting Hill Carnival has been going on since before I was born and it’s built up layers and layers and layers of importance as it’s gone.”
Scores of people wearing green t-shirts, scarves and accessories were seen along the surrounding pavements, and signs reading “Green For Grenfell” stood in intervals along the official parade route.
The colour had been chosen by local primary school children to commemorate the disaster alongside the celebratory multi-national flags that pay tribute Notting Hill’s diverse community.
One Ladbroke Grove resident, John Maxwell Worrell, stood decorating the outside of his apartment with green balloons in honour of the campaign.
“I think it’s affected the whole community in every possible way,” he said.
Along with the many posters, banners and decorations lining the route, a heavy police presence oversaw the celebrations, following the a declaration by the Metropolitan Police that an intense security operation would be put in place to safeguard passing crowds.
Steel barriers, concrete blocks and weapons checks were among the measures enforced by officers to protect the world-famous carnival against the threat of a Barcelona-style terror incident, as well as acid attacks.
Police later said 48 arrests were made, including one on suspicion of grievous bodily harm, and four over assaults of police officers.
At 3pm, attendees marked a minute’s silence, followed by a spontaneous round of applause, which echoed through the surrounding streets in north Kensington.
Revellers also came to thank attending firefighters with hugs and kisses, many of whom had battled to save victims caught in the blaze.
Speaking at the opening of Sunday’s festivities, traditionally the more family-orientated of the carnival’s two-day celebrations, Sadiq Khan pledged to “redouble our efforts to support this community.”
He said: “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.”