After working in the early part of the day, a few of us decided this afternoon to visit the Notting Hill festival run, not surprisingly, in the Notting Hill Gate area, including the Portobello Rd.
This festival, and its carnival parade, is carrying a fair bit of expectation on its shoulders this year. It’s hoped that it will be a healing time after the riots earlier this month. But police and authorities were taking no chances. Numbers of police, community police and transport police were huge, and they did a great job. We spoke to one constable who told us that he’d consider it a good day if he was in bed before 2 am. That was about 3pm!
The numbers for this event are just incomprehensible to us Tasmanians: a bit over Tasmania’s whole population was expected to turn up during the weekend, it certainly felt like that on the Underground. Queues everywhere, and the tunnels on the tube were so full thatb you just get carried along by the crowd.
But the atmosphere was really great to see! very positive, very celebratory, very co-operative, and I dare to believe Boris Johnson’s hope for healing may have been realistic.
One moment in the middle of it all was interesting for us. There was a Church of England in the middle of the whole shebang (which occupies several blocks), and we couldn’t help but go in, they were offering refreshments. Inside we found the most Roman Catholic church building I’ve ever seen, and a few elderly people selling very cheap tea and coffee, chocolate crackles and crisps. The congregation is large and not many people were running the refreshments, so the congregation’s passion for this work wasn’t obvious. But the people there were warm, and engaging, and only too willing to share themselves with us. All the while, their building and windows were actually shaking with the impact of what seemed like millions of watts of ‘doof’ music.
Back out into the street and the sweet haze of marijuana smoke, to which the police seemed to turn a blind eye (or at least nose!). Perhaps they were working the battles worth winning, or possible to win.
Another church, the Kensington Temple, used its space and people to create a very deliberate missional encounter with the community, with its Gospel Café and also a number of programmes and activities in the grounds, at which a number of opportunities were made for simple faith sharing statements.
This was a fascinating couple of hours, and from the perspective of ‘culture reading’, both informative and entertaining. At times we felt quite old, but then as we sat in the gutter eating our ‘jerk chicken’ (done with Caribbean spices) we felt we fitted in quite nicely!