The 11th Maidstone Mela despite the poor weather again proved to be great success. Organised in partnership by Cohesion Plus, Maidstone Borough Council, Kent Equality Cohesion Council and Maidstone Mela Advisory Group the event this year was held over 2 days with Mela Friday taking place in the Town Centre and Mela Sunday in Mote Park.
Mela Friday featured 9 local schools and over 500 school children who take part in a parade which started outside County Hall and went through Maidstone Town Centre before finishing on Jubilee Square. The children were accompanied by Bloco Fogo Samba, Four by Four Dhol Drummers, Lucky Moyo African Drummers and the Maidstone Grammar Girls Samba.
Once on Jubilee Square there were a range of performances including local comedy act Danny and Dan, Maidstone Trio Imminent and the ever popular Emerald Steel Band.
The Mela then moved to Mote Park on Sunday where around 10,000 people came during the day defying the rain and overcast afternoon. They were able to enjoy a full stage programme which showcased outstanding culturally diverse talent much of which was from Kent. Particular highlights included the Maidstone based Bollywood Blast, the Maidstone Nepalese Community Group, Harmony, the ever popular Four by Four Bhangra, rising RnB Star J Sol, emerging bhangra stars Benny Dhaliwal and Raju Dinehwala. The Mela was brought to a climax by Badness a popular Madness Tribute Group. In addition to the stage programme there were around 50 stalls many of which were selling food and drink from around the World.
Gurvinder Sandher the Artistic Director for the Mela commented “I was again very pleased with how the support shown to the Mela by the local community. Events like this take a lot of planning and hard work, but that is all worthwhile if the community enjoy it. The feedback I have received both on Friday and today has been positive, the schools parade on Friday was our biggest to date and brought the Town Centre to a standstill while the stage programme on the Sunday was our most ambitious so far and held the audience throughout the day despite the poor weather. Great credit to Maidstone Borough Council and Arts Council England for their continued support for the Mela and all the local community groups who worked with us in the build-up.”
Maidstone council’s Cabinet Member for Community and Leisure Services, Councillor John A. Wilson, said “What a fantastic event! The Mela was a great chance for us to celebrate Maidstone’s cultural diversity, and I was delighted to see that a bit of rain didn’t put people off! Congratulations to everyone involved in planning and delivering yet another successful Mela.”
Click here to see picture gallery
Pouring rain did not put off Bhangra superstar Jazzy B from putting on an energetic and colourful performance at the Maidstone Mela Night event performing from his catalogue of hit songs including “Romeo”, “Rambo” and “Guddi”. Jazzy got an excellent response from the audience who had braved the poor weather to attend.
He commented after his performance “The vibe was really positive from the audience. I wanted to put on a great show for them, thanking them for coming out in the poor weather and they responded to my style of music. I look forward to coming back to Maidstone soon, hopefully the weather will be better next time!”
Jazzy was followed on stage by the Suitcase Blues Brothers who had the crowd dancing and rocking with a memorable performance.
Gurvinder Sandher the Director of Cohesion Plus “I would really like to thank Arts Council England and Maidstone Borough Council for their support in allowing the Mela night to happen. We are trying to showcase artists to new audiences and the different styles we had today reflected this approach. Both Jazzy B and the Suitcase Blues Brothers performed great sets despite the poor weather and the responses we had from people as they left were so positive”
The Maidstone Mela Night was organised by Cohesion Plus in partnership with Maidstone Borough Council and Kent Equality Cohesion Council and was part funded via Arts Council England.
Here are some photo highlights from the Maidstone Mela 2009. The photos were taken at the event by Chris Brunt. Click on the thumbnails to view them.
One of the most exciting aspects of the Maidstone Mela is the different dance forms performed at the event. The 2009 Mela saw many varieties of dance entertain audiences.
The Mandy Ellen Performing Arts School performed contemporary dances fusing soft piano melodies with hard edge street beats. The male and female dancers dressed in black dance clothes swayed on the stage with intrinsic dance moves and steps. Projecting modern forms of dance and street style moves in their act.
The dance school is based in Maidstone and encourages local participation. In 2008, the school formed Hip Hop crews and competed in their first regional competition and came 3rd. Some of the performers from the were lucky enough to reach the Live Semi Finals of Britains Got Talent on ITV1 in 2008 and 2009 which is such a fabulous achievement.
Bhangra dancing was performed on stage by Dhol and Dhaki Fusion featuring the 4×4 Dancers, who performed to music from Michael Jackson to traditional dhol beats of the Punjab. The Bhangra dancing was accompanied by numerous dhol players and a singer on stage singing folklore songs to the loud beats.
Bollywood dancing was performed by girls from Mahua Arts. They performed to Bollywood hits like ‘Nach Leh,’ ‘Duhai Hai Duhai’ and ‘Dhola Re’ from Devdas.
The Kent Indian Dance Academy dancer Priya performed a classical and traditional Bharatanatyam dance. Nepalese and Greek communities and even a Gothic Morris dance troop performed too.
More than 10,000 people attended the 2009 Maidstone Mela, which celebrated the diversity of the borough through music, food and dance. The Mela was organised in partnership by Maidstone Borough Council and North West Kent Racial Equality Council.
As well as exciting acts on stage, there were more than 60 stalls ranging from diverse local community organisations such as the Finnish Community Association, Congo Action, Voluntary Action Maidstone and Dawn Patrol Rotary Club to public sector agencies such as Kent Police, Kent Fire and Rescue, the Environment Agency and HM Prison Service, as well as a special Maidstone Borough Council information village.
The previous Mayor Elect of Maidstone, Morel D’Souza, himself Goan, is married to Karin who is from Finland, and they were both promoting diversity of cultures as part of the Finish Community Association, present at the Mela.
For children there was a range of fairground attractions and activities such as dhol drumming workshops, which proved to be very popular.
One of the great things at a mela that brings people together is food. And the food stalls at the Maidstone Mela were a big hit with dishes from Finland, Britain, India, China, Poland, Thailand and Greece.
The 7th Maidstone Mela proved to be a great success. For the first time with the help of funding form Arts Council England the Mela took place over 2 days.
The Mela Night featured Bhangra Star Jassi Sidhu who performed with his full live band. He wooed the crowd with a string of his hits from over the last decade. Although the majority of the crowd would not have understood the lyrics Jassi managed to create a positive interaction with them and by the end many of them were dancing along to the bhangra beat.
Jassi was followed on stage by Mercury a Queen Tribute Band who proved to be as equally popular. In addition to the live performances plus there was an amazing light installation by Emergency Exit Arts which had been commissioned by Cohesion Plus.