In difficult circumstances, Kingston Carnival 2019 went off with a bang on Sunday (September 1).

As the Comet previously reported, restrictions over funds threatened to derail the borough's biggest cultural celebration after Arts Council England rejected a funding application for this year's event.

Nevertheless, thanks to a combination of commitment, generosity and an awful lot of elbow grease from the community, thousands turned out to take part and enjoy the vibrant sights and sounds on display.

As such, the event was deemed a great success.

Surrey Comet: Image: Ollie MonkImage: Ollie Monk

The Comet spoke with several of the key organisers who helped navigate the myriad problems and make Kingston Carnival 2019 a triumph.

One of those was the Carnival's Co-Founder John Azah, who also heads Kingston Race Equalities Council (KREC) that strongly support the event.

"We were totally gutted that the Arts Council did not approve our application as we thought we submitted a really good proposal.

"Not staging the Carnival was really not an option we wanted to entertain so we approached the council and knew that there was a basis for a budget," he described.

Mr Azah, who helped found Kingston Carnival 19 years ago, heaped praise on the support of Kingston Council (RBK), its leader Leader Liz Green and CEO Ian Thomas in particular.

RBK donated an extra £7,500 towards staging the Carnival at the last minute to ensure the event went ahead.

"We went to the council, made an application for the new community grant which they fast-tracked and approved.

"Liz Green green shares my passion for the event and we couldn't have staged it without her huge support and commitment," Mr Azah said, also citing Mr Thomas's efforts to rejuvenate of support for Carnival since arriving in the borough.

A meeting of Trustees on August 3 confirmed the organisers plans to stage the Carnival.

"We realized that we couldn't wait any longer, and that if we got creative we could go ahead, unless the SAG (Safety Advisory Group) told us not to.

"After that, we looked to the community and set up our crowdfunding and there were some great contributions through that once the message got out there.

Mr Azah cited a number of examples of community solidarity, including the donation of barriers from pubs and the Prizm nightclub to help make the procession safe.

"The incoming support at a late stage was what made it possible for us to put it all together.

"All the stakeholders knew how important Carnival has become for Kingston and the region," he described.

Surrey Comet: Image: Ollie MonkImage: Ollie Monk

Despite all these efforts, the main procession was almost derailed on the eve of carnival after a "huge whole, over six feet deep" was discovered on the designated route.

Fortunately, Mr Azah already had an alternative route scoped out and this proved to be a boon for all of Carnival in the end, as another champion of the event — John Tolley, the owner of Banquet Records and RBK councillor, described.

"I think the new route was great — the more helped get the procession front and centre. Carnival isn't something we should hide round the corner but be proud of and shouting about as much as we can," he said.

Banquet have supported Carnival for years with funds and by helping put on the incredible music enjoyed on the day.

Cllr Tolley said it was something he and his team were always eager to get involved in.

"It's one of the best days of the Kingston calendar.

"Kingston Carnival is a great party but its also about race equality, about welcoming people from all over the borough, the country and the world here," he pointed out.

Organisers Azah, Green, Tolley and co. now turn their sights to 2020.

In the immediate aftermath of this year's event, there was time enough for some positive reflection before the next round of planning begins.

"The weather was great, the procession and crowds were so huge and so exuberant. I think it was one of the best Carnivals we've ever had," Mr Azah said.