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Notting Hill Carnival embraces technology and innovation

As London’s event scene diversifies, Notting Hill Carnival – Europe’s largest street festival – has remained as vital as ever, and is big business for the capital. Each attendee at the carnival spends £66 on average and the event brings more than £66m to the local economy.

Despite its colossal size – with more than one million taking to the streets of the famous London district annually – the event had a contextually minimal 123 arrests.

“Carnival gets a negative media bias in some quarters, but it is an overwhelmingly positive experience and its message is about empowering the youth and promoting artistic progression,” Notting Hill Carnival Trust trustee director Lewis Benn told Access.

Carnival’s exclusive stewarding supplier McKenzie Arnold likes the Carnival’s upbeat, friendly atmosphere. However, its managing director Martin Jackson has joined a chorus of event industry professionals calling for stewarding these types of events to be a burden taken away from the police. Instead, he argues, police should concentrate on their core role.

“The role the police have played with Carnival over the years has been immense,” Jackson said, “but now is the time for their role to be defined further. Private stewarding companies are now on hand to manage the event and allow the police to focus on their speciality and reduce the crime rate at these events.”

Others have championed the benefits of increased crowd management at events in reducing crime rates as well as costs. Download Festival recently hailed its link-up with Leicestershire Police as a key factor in ensuring a 70 per cent reduction in crime-related incidents at the event.

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From an operational perspective, meanwhile, Notting Hill Carnival is an innovative and strategic. Its operational planning and safety group brings together the blue light services, transport, local authorities, St John’s Ambulance and the GLA. 

This influential line-up works tirelessly in the run-up to the event to handle a diverse range of issues and, during, assembles in a small room near the event’s heart. As well as centuries worth of expertise, the four walls also contain a 60” plasma screen streaming live images and various communication devices to react to the full range of problems in real time.

McKenzie Arnold’s role – managing the free and safe flow of flotillas and crowds – has also been enhanced by modern technology. The company invested around £7,500 in GPS trackers for vehicles and, to cater to a local appetite for Carnival involvement, it offers staff an NVQ Level 2 in Spectator Safety, worth five GCSEs. Meanwhile, its iAuditor app is used by staff to track any incidents on the route.

Technology has played an important role in improving the event. Lewis Benn added that they are working to use stewarding and Police as effectively as possible, as well as increase awareness of Carnival’s cultural value and increasing its commercial footprint.

Among the schemes rolled out this year at Carnival include an app, which allowed users to navigate the event and find their favourite acts
and events in a manner infinitely more information-rich and interactive than the traditional paper printout.

“Our live stream channel was also a massive hit and we streamed its content onto four LED screens around the Carnival route,” Benn said.

Carnival’s increased technological and strategic sophistication has benefitted its organisational efforts behind the scenes as well as its
visitor experience.

Crucially, however, the feat has been achieved without taking away any of what makes the event one of the world’s must-attend events.

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