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Crowds Gather for the Maidstone Community Mela!

The Maidstone Community Mela returned to Whatman Park on Sunday 22nd July for another sun soaked day of music, food and dance after months of tireless fund raising. The Mela which has taken place in Maidstone since 2003 was organised by Cohesion Plus working in partnership with Kent Equality Cohesion Council, local partners and volunteers.

2018 marks the second year the Community Mela has been hosted in Whatman Park and despite the venue change crowds turned up in their hundreds. The change of location from Mote Park to Whatman Park has sparked some contention amongst Community Mela loyalists however, without financial support from the local authority returning to Mote Park has proven incredibly difficult.

The event was officially opened by Maidstone’s Mayor Cllr David Naghi and Helen Grant MP who talked about the importance of the Mela and also paid tribute to the late Morel D’Souza, the founder of the Maidstone Mela by presenting a commemorative plaque to his wife Karin D’Souza. Gurvinder Sandher, the Artistic Director of the Community Mela went on to speak about Mr. D’Souza’s extensive community work and his wish for an event that brought the diverse communities of the borough together to celebrate their own uniqueness and shared British values.

The Community Mela presented music, food and dance from around the world accompanied by a diverse stage programme which included acts such as Dance Asia, Kitka Bulgarian Folk Dance, Maidstone Nepalese Community Group, Reel Eire Irish Dancers, Brazilian trio Lambrego and Cohesion Plus’s own production the Folkin Fusion Drumming Collective. The event was headlined by world renowned Bob Marley tribute act Tanni Browne who performed the famous hits of the legendary reggae star.

Off stage there was also a vibrant interactive performance from Kudos Combat’s Chinese Lions who caused mischief amongst the crowds. Activities also included creative arts workshops and information stands from a range of partners such as Kent Police, Unison, Gullands and National Citizens Service. There were also cuisines from all around the world for event comers to enjoy ranging from Indian, Chinese, Nepalese, and German to freshly prepared juices and desserts.

According to Gurvinder Sandher the Mela Artistic Director: “Lots of time and effort has gone into putting together this community celebration and we have had to overcome many challenges to get this far.
The Maidstone Community Mela is very close to my heart as it is our longest running event and to me it is about bringing the communities of the borough together, celebrating our shared values and the positive community relations we enjoy. The Community Mela has suffered some setbacks over the past couple of years such as the lack of financial support and recently the loss of its founder Mr. D’Souza however, valuable support has been provided by local community groups and volunteers to who we are incredibly grateful to. Their support bolstered our drive to not only deliver the Mela but to make sure it was the best it could be and I believe we have achieved this.”

Maidstone Community Mela Countdown

Preparations are now at an advanced stage for the annual Maidstone Community Mela and Food Festival which will be taking place in Whatman Millennium River Park on Sunday July 22nd between 12.30pm and 6pm. The free event which has been taking place in the borough since 2003 is a celebration of music, food and dance from around the world and is organised by Kent Equality Cohesion Council and Cohesion Plus working with local community groups through the Mela Advisory Group.

There is an exciting programme of artists due to perform on and off stage including Maplesden Noakes School, Reel Eire Irish Dancing, Lambrego Brazilian band, Kitka Bulgarian Folk Dance, Maidstone Nepalese Community Group, Dance Asia Bollywood Fusion and the Chinese Lion Dancers. The Mela will be headlined by Folkin Fusion drumming collective which fuses the traditional dhol drum from North India and the Djembe drum from Southern Africa mixed with a little bit of bhangra and hip hop to get everyone up and dancing and Tanni Browne one of the UK’s leading Bob Marley Tribute acts.

Off stage the food festival will have something for everyone ranging from British, Indian, Greek, Spanish, Nepalese, Chinese and Thai cuisines as well as doughnuts, ice cream and hot drinks. In addition there will be a number of information stands including National Citizenship Service, Kent Police and the Rotary. The Mela will be officially opened by the Mayor of Maidstone Councillor David Naghi and Helen Grant MP.

The Mela this year has been funded through Awards for All, KCC Members Fund, Golding Homes as well as donations from members of the public.

According to Gurvinder Sandher who is Mela Artistic Director, “We hope that the community of Maidstone will come out and support the Mela and Food Festival this year. Lots of time and effort has gone into putting together this community celebration and we have had to overcome many challenges to get this far. The Mela is a great example of communities coming together through music, food and dance to celebrate the diverse communities of the borough and shared British values. This is an approach I feel other parts of the Country can learn from.”

Maidstone Community Mela Launch

With less than two weeks to go to the Maidstone Community Mela which will be taking place in Whatman Park on Sunday 22nd July, a special launch event took place at the kalaRED bar restaurant in Maidstone on July 5th. The event was attended by key partners including representatives from local community groups, Kent County Council, Kent Police and Maidstone Borough Council. The chief guests were the Mayor of Maidstone Cllr David Naghi, Deputy Lord Lieutenant Trevor Sturgess and KCC Cabinet Member for Corporate and Democratic Services Cllr Eric Hotson.

The purpose of the launch was to update partners around the plans for the Community Mela this year and to inform them of the journey it has been on to raise the required funds for the event to take place again. The Community Mela is organised by Cohesion Plus and Kent Equality Cohesion Council supported this year by funding from Awards for All, KCC Members Fund, Golding Homes as well as donations from members of the public. The Mela has been taking place in the borough since 2003 and is delivered in partnership with local partners and volunteers who have all worked tirelessly to ensure that Mela will take place again this year.

According to Gurvinder Sandher who is leading on the Community Mela, “This year has been a particular challenge to raise the funds required to make the Community Mela happen. I am pleased to say we have finally managed to reach our target. We have a great programme planned both on and off stage and a range of stalls serving food from around the world. The Community Mela is a great example of an event that brings diverse communities together and celebrates the cohesion of Maidstone and our shared British values. We hope the residents of Maidstone will come out and support our work.”

Maidstone Community Mela 2018

Preparations are now at an advanced stage for the much loved Maidstone Community Mela which will be taking place in Whatman Park for the second year running on Sunday 22nd July between 12.30 pm and 6pm. The event is organised by Cohesion Plus and Kent Equality Cohesion Council supported by funding from Awards for All, KCC Members Fund, Golding Homes as well as donations from members of the public. The Mela has been taking place in the borough since 2003 and is delivered in partnership with local partners and volunteers who have all worked tirelessly to ensure that Mela will take place again this year.

This year has been a particular challenge with regards to funding. Nonetheless spurred on by the festival’s diehard fans and after months of hard work and fundraising the Mela will return this year offering an even bigger and better programme, with food from all around the world and off stage interactive arts activity. The stage programme highlights include Brazilian Group Lambrego, Dance Asia Bollywood Performers, Chinese Dancing Lions, Maidstone Nepalese Community Group, Folkin Fusion Drumming Collective and Tanni-I Browne leading Bob Marley Tribute.

According to Gurvinder Sandher who is leading on the Community Mela, “Delivering the Mela has been a long and hard road this year with funding being very thin on the ground. However, the out pour of support from the public for the Maidstone Community Mela has really help bolster our commitment to delivering the event again. It is so necessary to host an a Mela that truly reflects the diverse communities of the borough and we will always hold firm to the belief that events such as the Mela promote community cohesion celebrating shared British values. Everyone is welcome at the Mela and we really look forward to showing the public our great artistic and food offering this year.

Maidstone Mela Fund Raising

£270.00 was raised for the Maidstone Community Mela at a fundraiser which took place at the Gurkha Kitchen Restaurant on May 21st and was attended by the new Mayor of Maidstone Cllr David Naghi. This will be added to the £318.00 which was raised through a Crowd Funder Appeal. Further funding has been secured through Awards for All, KCC Members Fund and Golding Homes. The Community Mela is being organised by Kent Equality Cohesion Council and Cohesion Plus with the support of the Maidstone Mela Community Advisory Group and will take place on July 22 in Whatman Park.

Gurvinder Sandher who is Artistic Director for the Community Mela commented “We are very grateful to everyone who has supported the Community Mela. It has been a major challenge to raise the funds this year but we are nearly there now. I have been humbled by the support shown by local community partners which has given us the encouragement and belief to carry on when things were getting difficult. We look forward to welcoming the community of Maidstone to the Mela on July 22 in Whatman Park.”

Maidstone Community Mela Hailed a Great Success

Following months of hard work and sheer perseverance the Maidstone Community Mela took place in Whatman Park on Sunday July 16th. The Mela which has taken place in Maidstone since 2003 was organised by Cohesion Plus working in partnership with Kent Equality Cohesion Council, local partners and volunteers.

The event was officially opened by Helen Grant MP, who thanked all the volunteers who were involved in bringing the event together and she stressed the importance of events like the Mela in Maidstone.

The ethos of the Community Mela is to use music, food and dance to bring communities together, to celebrate all that binds Maidstone together regardless of faith or background. This was reflected in the diverse stage programme which included the Emeralds Steel Band, Reel Eire Irish Dance, No Name Polish Pop, Kitka Bulgarian Folk Dance, Dance Asia who performed a Bollywood Fusion, Maidstone Nepalese Folk Dance and the ever popular Four by Four Bhangra. The Mela was headlined by Bhangra Superstar Jassi Sidhu and Jack Shepherd who sang the songs of Ed Sheeran.

Off stage there was also a range of activities for families to enjoy including face painting, creative arts workshops, stilt walkers, information stands from a range of voluntary and public sector partners including KCC Fostering, Unison, South East Water, Involve Kent and a range of food stalls with cuisine from around the world.

According to Gurvinder Sandher the Artistic Director of Cohesion Plus “Despite the many obstacles we had to overcome I am really pleased with what we were able to achieve. I have been humbled by the positive response we have had from those in attendance. The Maidstone Mela is very close to my heart as it is our longest running event and to me it is about bringing the communities of the borough together, celebrating our shared values and the positive community relations we enjoy. In light of the recent terror attacks, events like this are even more important as the terrorists are seeking to cause division and tensions within our communities. I was really pleased with the artistic content both on and off stage and is something I wish to build upon next year. Finally I would like to say a big thank you to our volunteers, community partners, funders and sponsors who made the Community Mela possible.”

Maidstone Community Mela 2017

The popular Maidstone Community Mela which has been taking place in the borough since 2003 moves to a new venue this year in Whatman Park. The Community Mela which has been organised by Cohesion Plus working in partnership with Kent Equality Cohesion Council, local partners and volunteers will be taking place on Sunday July 16th between 12.30pm to 6pm.

An exciting programme of activity has been arranged both on and off stage including performances by The Emeralds Steel Band, Reel Eire Irish Dancing, Kitka Bulgarian Folk, Maidstone Nepalese Community, Four by Four Bhangra, Leading Internationally renowned Ed Sheeran Tribute Act Jack Shepherd and global Bhangra superstar Jassi Sidhu amongst others. While off stage there will be a range of activities including drumming workshops, face painting, visual creative arts workshops as well as a range of food from around the world.

 

According to Gurvinder Sandher the Artistic Director of Cohesion Plus who is leading on the Community Mela: “It has been a real challenge to get the Community Mela to this stage as Maidstone Borough Council are no longer involved in terms of funding and organising. I am fully aware as I have been involved in the Mela since its inception that it would normally take place on the second Sunday of September. However, due to a lack of availability of Mote Park and also the limited funding we have got, this year the Community Mela will take place in Whatman Park. We are still actively seeking sponsors to help bridge the shortfall in our funding and we very much hope that the local community will come out and support this fantastic event, otherwise there is a real danger it will disappear from the calendar which would be a real shame as I have been working to build up the Mela since 2003.”

 

Maidstone Street Mela

Music, dance, food from around the world took centre stage in Maidstone Town Centre on Sunday September 11th. The Maidstone Street Mela was organised in partnership by Cohesion Plus and Maidstone Borough Council and part funded by Arts Council England with entertainment taking place in Jubilee Square, Fremlin Walk and Weak Street. The event was officially launched the Deputy Mayor of Maidstone Councillor Malcom Greer and featured exciting performances including the Four by Four Bhangra Dancers, Reel Eire Irish Dancers, Phase 5 Steel Band, Wolf’s Head Morris, Kitka Bulgarian Folk Dance Group, Ronak Mela Bollywood Brass Band and the Maidstone Nepalese Community Group.

In addition there were free creative art workshops for children making badges and hats around the theme of the Mela which were delivered by LV21 and Same Sky Arts. The street mime artists, stilt walkers, human statues also proved very popular with the crowds as they toured the Town Centre.

According to Gurvinder Sandher from Cohesion Plus who organised the artistic element of the Street Mela, “I’ve been involved with the Mela since its inception in 2003 and have watched it grow over the years. I hope that next year we will be able to return to Mote Park but understand and appreciate there is a process that we need to go through. In that context I was pleased to be able to arrange something although much smaller than previous years in Maidstone to celebrate music and dance from around the world. The feedback we received on the artistic content for the street Mela was positive and I hope to use this model of arts delivery in other parts of Kent. I look forward to working with Maidstone Borough Council and partners on the future evolution of the Mela here in Maidstone working in partnership with the local community.”

Alongside the entertainment Maidstone Borough Council ran a consultation on the future direction of the Mela and other community events. The consultation will continue through to mid-October, and it will form the basis of a report to the Heritage, Culture and Leisure Committee later this year.

Maidstone Street Mela 2016

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Maidstone has been hosting a celebration of culturally diverse music food and dance since 2003, with the sights, sounds, flavours, and traditions of the diverse local community coming together as part of the Maidstone Mela event.

For 2016, however, the event adopts smaller, more engaging look with a street mela in the heart of the town centre. The event which takes place on Sunday September 11 between 11.30am and 4pm has been organised by Maidstone Borough Council in partnership with Cohesion Plus with the support of Arts Council England. 

The street mela will feature exciting performances including the Four by Four Bhangra Dancers, Reel Eire Irish Dancers, Phase 5 Steel Band, Wolf’s Head Morris and Ronak Mela Brass Band and the Maidstone Nepalese Community Group. They will be joined by street food from around the world, street mime artists, stilt walkers, human statues and interactive arts workshops for young people. In addition Maidstone Borough Council will be running a consultation on the future direction of the Mela and other community events. The consultation will continue through to mid-October, and it will form the basis of a report to the Heritage, Culture and Leisure Committee later this year. 

Gurvinder Sandher the Artistic Director of Cohesion Plus commented “I have been involved with the Mela since its inception in 2003. I am proud of what we have been able to achieve with the Mela in Maidstone and hope that the Mela can continue for many years to come as it’s a great way to bring all communities together and celebrate as one. I hope that the local community will come down into the town centre and enjoy the street festival we have created for this year with many exciting performers and contribute to the consultation.” 

“We’re excited to bring a ‘taster’ of this popular culturally diverse event to the streets of the town centre as part of our consultation process,” said Councillor David Pickett, chairman of Maidstone Borough Council’s Heritage, Culture and Leisure Committee. “The idea to host a smaller event in the centre of Maidstone will help us re-energise future events. What’s more, it’s hoped that, by providing access to more people in the local area who may not have attended Maidstone Mela in the past, we’ll be able to engage a rich diversity of people and help deliver ever-more popular community events in the years to come. 

“It’s essential that the local community engagement is promoted in the best manner possible, so hosting this taster event for the full Maidstone Mela experience – and inviting attendees to provide