Police and Thieves – Junior Murvin

notting hill carnival
Carnival crowd make room for two police women as they dance

My Music Monday choice this week is: Police and Thieves , which is my favourite reggae song of all time. First recorded on Island Records by Jamaican falsetto singer Junior Murvin in 1976. Every rebel must have bought the single and Murvin did many re-releases and there have been many cover versions in Jamaica, USA and Britain.

1976 saw one of the hottest recorded temperatures in the UK and that same year this song became an anthem in the UK after London’s Notting Hill Carnival erupted into a riot between blacks and police.

This led to an independent enquiry lasting many years that eventually meant a recruiting drive for more blacks and other ethnic minorities as well as gays and lesbians joining the Metropolitan Police Force, especially in roles where decisions were made.

A big effort was made to keep the carnival peaceful in the years to follow and nearly every press photo showed white police and scantily-clad black women dancing together in bump and grinds. Notting Hill quickly became a trendy place to live and as white upper-middle classes moved in. House prices escalated, forcing many black families who had lived in the area since the 50s out.

In 2015 with police on high alert for terrorists, the Carnival saw around 100 arrests, mainly for agitators and people with drugs or weapons.

No-one knows what the atmosphere will be like this year. Brexit has brought about a number of racist groups in clashes with anti-fascist ones and people are worried about terrorists and that the happy days collaboration between police and crowds is long over. It is still a big pull for tourists to Britain, but like most things here – so much may depend on the weather.

Time Out Guide to Notting Hill Carnival August 2016

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