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The Notting Hill carnival faces a “devastating” cancellation if social distancing measures remain in place throughout 2021, according to its CEO, who told MPs the organisers were planning for multiple scenarios.
Matthew Phillip, the carnival’s chief executive, gave evidence to the digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS) committee inquiry into the future of UK music festivals, and said the Notting Hill festival could not take place in a socially distanced format.
He said: “For the carnival weekend specifically it would pose a very big problem. It’s very difficult to hold carnival in its traditional format on the streets with social distancing in place. So it would be devastating for a second year in a row.”
When asked if social distancing restrictions would result in the event’s cancellation, he answered: “Yes.” In 2020, the event, which normally brings 2 million people to west London for Europe’s largest street carnival, moved online with pre-recorded live sets from musicians, interviews with mas groups, and guides for people to create Caribbean food at home.
Phillip said if the street carnival was cancelled for the second year in a row they would adapt, but he said it was important for organisers to get government guidance on whether or not live events can go ahead this summer, as soon as possible.
“Carnival is and always has been very resilient. We will continue to plan for multiple scenarios,” he said. “Obviously, the sooner the better be. None of us have got a crystal ball so we don’t know what’s going to happen. We will wait and see, I don’t think there’s a kind of cutoff point.”
Rowan Cannon, the director of Wild Rumpus, which puts on festivals at Rode Hall in Cheshire and Feanedock in the National Forest, said the idea that all “festivals can’t go ahead and be socially distanced is inaccurate”.
Her events are often set on large sites of around 100 acres which, she says, makes distanced festivals possible, as long as there is infrastructure in place.
“Our festivals could be safer than Sainsbury’s,” she said. “It’s a very diverse spectrum and, if possible, I’d like the committee’s recommendations to reflect that diversity and not just be thinking about 80,000 20-year-olds in a field.”
When asked about the economic impact of another year without the Notting Hill carnival, Phillip said the event was estimated to generate £94m, and a cancellation would hit local businesses that make a sizeable “chunk” of their income during August.
The DCMS committee previously heard that installing a government-backed insurance scheme was the “most critical factor” for festival organisers, and that a smaller festival season was “inevitable” in 2021, but possible with government support, vaccinations and mass testing.
On 7 January, the committee sent a letter with more than 100 signatories to the chancellor asking for the government-backed insurance scheme to be extended to include festivals and live music events.
After the cancellation of Glastonbury, a government source said that providing insurance for music festivals required a “realistic date” for the event to take place.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Notting Hill carnival faces axe again if social distancing remains, MPs told | Notting Hill carnival