The home secretary is anxious to show London can defy the rioters and ensure a peaceful Olympics
Scotland Yard will double the number of police officers on duty at the Notting Hill carnival at the end of August to 20,000 ? by far the biggest deployment in the event's 47-year history.
Met sources say that in the wake of the London riots it is planning 10,000 officer shifts for both days of the carnival, twice the number that policed the recent royal wedding and a level expected to match the London 2012 Olympics. In addition, carnival organisers say increased funding means the number of safety stewards could double, with up to 700 helping to ensure that no outbreaks of disorder blight Europe's biggest street party.
Although the August bank holiday carnival was in doubt following the recent riots, it has emerged that the home secretary, Theresa May, contacted acting Met commissioner Tim Godwin to insist that the event must proceed to demonstrate that the capital can handle large-scale events ahead of next year's Olympics.
Ancil Barclay, director of the carnival, said he had been told of discussions between May and the acting head of Scotland Yard to ensure the carnival had the resources to take place peacefully. Their talks follow a spat between ministers and senior police chiefs over tactics used to quell the disturbances. Although David Cameron said there were "far too few police" during the initial disturbances, the government intends to proceed with cuts that could cost 16,000 frontline officers.
Barclay said the new policing strategy effectively meant a "complete lockdown" of the area during the carnival, which has been marred by gang fights in the past. He added: "It will not be the place to cause problems." Already carnival organisers have imposed a 7pm curfew, with advice indicating that the potential for disorder increases significantly after nightfall.
They say this year's carnival has received more support from the local community than usual, and even long-term critics want it to go ahead as a gesture of defiance towards the rioters.
"People believe it is important to reclaim the streets after the recent unrest," said Barclay. He said most criticism centres on worries that the massive concentration of police in the Notting Hill area might leave other parts of the capital vulnerable.
The actual size of the carnival is considerably larger than last year, with 78 "performance units" compared with 65 last year, a 20% increase. Event organisers believe that good weather could attract more than a million visitors over the two days. Among them will be a delegation from Brazil, home to the world's largest street party, in Rio, and host to the 2016 Olympics.
Throughout last week the various mas ? or masquerade ? camps were frantically putting the finishing touches to their flamboyant displays ahead of the Calo Caribbean festival at Alexandra Palace, north London, the traditional dress rehearsal for Notting Hill.
On Thursday night, a minute's walk from where the west London carnival starts, 60 volunteers were busy inside Paddington arts centre constructing huge vivid red costumes. Upstairs a troupe of nine teenage girls ran through their complex dance routines.
Ansel Wong, director of Elimu Paddington Arts Mas Band, one of the largest to parade during the carnival, said: "There is anxiety, but also the commitment and desire to put on a good show because of all the negative publicity that tended to show black youth and the black community in a bad light." Wong, who helped found the mas band 31 years ago, said the carnival brought together generations and helped younger people feel more attached to their community.
Nolan Simmons, 68, has spent three decades as the band's "king" and despite nursing a strained hamstring his responsibilities mean that he must carry a 20ft tall costume on his back while dancing along the three-mile carnival route.
He said that both the area and policing styles had changed considerably over the years, but the Met's increasingly formal approach to the carnival was necessary due its huge popularity. "We used to have police 'serials' assigned to us but they ended up having too much of a good time with us, so now it is more regulated, but still very enjoyable."
Outside, confirmation that the festival would be going ahead brought conflicting responses. A worker at the Red Lion antiques market on Portobello Road winced as he described the spectacle of looters smashing the door of a nearby shoe shop. "Feelings are still running high that there could be some trouble ahead at the carnival."
On Ledbury Road, where a number of properties were also targeted, one female resident, who did not want to be named, said that she would be leaving the area during the carnival. "I always escape, but this time I'll probably go farther away."