Notting Hill Carnival looks ahead to London 2012

Notting Hill Festival 2009
Image caption 2012's Notting Hill Carnival will fall between the Olympic and Paralympic Games

As the sequins shimmer, feathers flutter and steel drums rumble at this weekend's Notting Hill Carnival, organisers will be thinking "you ain't seen nothing yet".

"This year is the beginning of the run-up to 2012," says Notting Hill Carnival Ltd director Chris Boothman.

"My vision for 2012 is to make it really spectacular."

2012's carnival will fall between the Olympic and Paralympic Games and Mr Boothman believes "all eyes of the world will be on London".

"We can't afford to have any sub-standard participation," he said.

"Although we have some of the best at Notting Hill, some stuff doesn't deserve that kind of stage," Mr Boothman explained.

This year, carnival organisers will be observing the floats to decide which performers have what it takes.

"We'll be auditing what's out there with a view to making tough decisions over which bands will be part of 2012's parade," Mr Boothman said.

"There's a music policy and there are rules about starting times and costumes."

'Spectacular event'

But he said "some in the carnival community think we are changing its nature".

Clary Salandy, a designer and director at Mahogany mas camp (a mas band is a costume band) says there is "a conflict between people who just want to have fun and people who want to create a spectacular event".

"Some people stick a few feathers on a band and say they've made a costume," she said.

But she said she "would not like to see smaller groups penalised if they were not properly resourced".

Mr Boothman agrees that resources are an issue.

"Cuts have definitely affected the carnival," he said.

The Panorama steel band competition is a recent a victim of cuts as the Greater London Authority reduced its funding from £150,000 to £30,000 this year.

The event has had to be moved from Hyde Park to a smaller venue.

"Frankly, we can live with it this year," says Mr Boothman.

"But we'd like to get back into Hyde Park for 2012."

Sponsorship has also been affected by budgetary belt-tightening.

"Two major sponsors fell by the wayside," said Mr Boothman.

But he said "it's difficult to bang a drum about being hard done by when everyone is having to make tough decisions".

Carnival organisers are already making plans for alternative ways to raise money for 2012.

Fringe events

Notting Hill Carnival Ltd has appointed an advisory board made up of young professionals including an entertainment lawyer and a marketing expert.

"We need to turn around the carnival's image so we attract big brands," says Samenua Sesher, head of culture at Kensington and Chelsea council.

"Carnival has people of all races, classes and backgrounds," she said. "It's the poster child for multicultural London."

Planning is also under way to transform the carnival into a longer-running event.

Image caption The Notting Hill Carnival route could change in 2012

"We'd like to follow a model like the Edinburgh festival, to create a carnival season," said Mr Boothman.

"We would put on fringe events that people would pay to see."

But a bigger carnival could create capacity issues for the area of west London.

"We expect more people to come, which will put the area under strain," said Mr Boothman.

The Notting Hill Carnival Ltd and Kensington and Chelsea Council agree the route "will have to be reconsidered" for 2012.

But there could be big changes before then.

"We'll need to rehearse any significant changes in 2011," said Ms Sesher.

And the intrinsic link between the Olympics and carnival looks set to continue beyond London 2012.

With the Olympic flame being passed to Rio de Janeiro for 2016, the Brazilians are likely to show they also know a thing or two about carnival.

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