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.
Despite the poor weather thousands attended the 13th Maidstone Mela in Mote Park. The Mela has since its inception has been held on the second Sunday of September and has attracted a huge following and this year was no exception. The event was organised by Maidstone Borough Council in partnership with Cohesion Plus, Mela Steering Group and Kent Equality Cohesion Council.
The free festival celebrates the diversity of the borough through music, food and dance and provided an excellent showcase not just for artists performing on the stage but also for stall holders including food outlets, local charities and community groups.
The stage programme ran from 12.30pm to 6.30pm and was officially opened by the Mayor of Maidstone Cllr Daniel Moriarty and included a range of culturally diverse acts including popular local band The Choos, Kitka a Bulgarian Folk Dance Troupe who went into the audience and got them to join in with their routine and the Kerala Cultural Association who performed some popular South Indian Dance. They were followed by the award winning Reel Eire Irish dance troupe, drama group GDS who previewed their forthcoming show at the Hazlitt Theatre and Anaconda who performed a series of traditional belly dances.
In the second half of the programme local vocal trio Imminent again proved to be a hit. There was some further Eastern European flavour with the popular Polish folk group Piwnica pod Aniolami(Cellar under the Angels) performing, before the Maidstone Nepalese Community Group took to the stage to perform a number of traditional dances. The colourful and energetic Four by Four Bhangra Group had everyone up and dancing and copying their bhangra moves before the Mela was finished by the Trenchtown Experience who performed the hits of reggae legend Bob Marley and had the audiences singing along to his popular hits.
In addition to the stage programme there was over 50 stalls ranging from food from around the world to local charity and information stands as well as interactive arts workshops.
Gurvinder Sandher the Artistic Director of Cohesion Plus commented “I am very pleased that working in partnership with Maidstone Borough Council that we were able to deliver another excellent Mela. I was delighted to see so many people come out in the poor weather to enjoy what has become one of the largest culturally diverse celebrations in Kent. Great credit needs to be given not only to Maidstone Borough Council but all the volunteers who have helped make the Mela the success it has become today. When we started all those years ago we could never imagine how big the Mela would become in Maidstone. “
See some wonderful footage of the 12th Maidstone Mela which captured the colour, fun and artistic quality. The Mela was organised in partnership by Cohesion Plus, Maidstone Borough Council, Kent Equality Cohesion Council, Maidstone Mela Advisory Group with the support of Arts Council England.
The 12th Maidstone Mela attracted which is organised in partnership byMaidstone Borough Council,Cohesion PlusandKent Equality Cohesion Councilattracted record numbers to what is now the largest culturally diverse arts festival in Kent. The celebrations commenced on the Friday with theMela Carnival Paradewhich went through Maidstone Town Centre and involved 7 local schools and around 350 young people alongside the Bloco Fogo Samba Group, the Maidstone Grammar Schools for Girls Samba Group and the Four by Four Dhol Drummers. The parade was led by the Deputy Mayor of Maidstone Councillor Daniel Moriarty and Kent County Council Chairman Councillor Peter Homewood.
On the Sunday the entertainment moved to Mote Park where in excess of 12,000 enjoyed a day of music, dance and food from around the World. The Mela was officially opened by the Mayor of Maidstone Councillor Richard Thick and the High Commissioner for the Bahamas Eldred Bethel. The stage programme a number of local acts including the Phase 5 Steel Band, Kerala Cultural Association, Reel Eire Dance, Bollywood Blast and the Maidstone Nepalese Community Group. Particular highlights were the performances by comedy duo Danny and Dan and the Cohesion Plus produced “Afro-Bhangra” Fusion which was performed by Four by Four Bhangra and Uzambezi Arts. The Mela was brought to an exciting climax by the headline act Soul star Ruby Turner.
In addition to the stage programme there were over 25 food stalls serving delicacies from around the World as well as interactive arts workshops for children and information stands.
Gurvinder Sandherthe CEO of Kent Equality Cohesion Council and the Artistic Director of the Mela commented “I have been working on the Mela since its inception in 2003 and this year was our biggest attendance to date. I am really proud of what we been able to achieve and the Mela underlines how the arts can be used to bring the diverse communities of the borough together. I would like to pay tribute to our partners Maidstone Borough Council and the Mela Advisory Group who have continued to support the Mela and have worked with us to build upon its success year upon year.”
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 Memberfor 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.”
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.
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.