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Performers Prepare for Notting Hill Carnival


London is getting ready to host one of Europe's biggest annual street parties -- the Notting Hill Carnival. West Indian immigrants started the carnival as a local festival in the mid-1960s. It is now a much bigger affair. Paul Burge met some of the carnival's performers as they prepared to fill London's streets with a weekend of music, costumes, dance and food.

Practicing to fill London's streets with the sound of the Caribbean, music from traditional steel bands is at the heart of the Notting Hill Carnival.

In keeping with the carnival's ethos, performers of all ages get involved. Special pre-carnival events like this one give the youngest performers the opportunity to show-off their skills.

"I was playing and dancing and going through the tunnels and playing," said one youngster. "I enjoyed walking through there and I like carnival," added another.

But the Notting Hill Carnival is not just about music and dance. Along with elaborately decorated floats, performers in larger-than-life costumes will wind through three miles of Notting Hill's streets, all looking to grab the attention of carnival visitors.

At Mahogany, a costume design house in London - performers have spent months working on intricate costumes -- making patterns, sewing, gluing and painting.

The inspiration for their outfits this year is the 200th anniversary of Britain's abolition of the slave trade.

Sadeysa Greenway-Bailey has spent weeks working on her design. "This year the whole band is based on the idea of slavery and the different themes that are involved with that,” she says. “This particular costume is an individual costume and it's based on the idea of how the slaves were never really considered as saints or considered into sainthood."

Generations of carnival performers have passed through the doors of Mahogany since it started business in the 1980s, highlighting the costume company's role in the local community. It has helped young people from inner city London to develop their skills and confidence through the art of the carnival.

Clary Salandy is artistic director of Mahogany. She says she wants the carnival to be about education as well as having a great time.

"I've got people who've been here since they're six years old -- they're 23 now, they're really in the family. Every year: 'where's my costume?' They're really smitten by it. Then there are other people for whom it's part of their education, seriously. So they're young people doing art and design at college and just before they go for interviews we help them to put their portfolios together," she explains.

Carnival organizers say last year's event attracted one million visitors. With its emphasis on maintaining and showcasing the vibrant traditions of the Caribbean here in London, they hope to draw even more people this weekend.

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