Tag Archives: Morel D’Souza

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 Mela Launch 2010

The formal launch of the Maidstone Mela took place on July 14 with some 350 children joined by teachers and parents parading through the town centre led by Dhol Players, African Drummers and the Bloco Fogo Samba Group. The launch was made possible due to funding secured from Arts Council England.

The schools worked with our partners the renowned arts company Samesky on visual displays which the schools showcased during the parade. The schools involved were St Michael’s CE Junior, Archbishop Courtenay Primary, St Francis Primary, Hollingbourne Primary and West Borough.

The launch event parade started outside Marks and Spencer in Week Street, it then went down Fremlin Walk, into Earl Street, back up Week Street before finishing at Brenchley Gardens where the acts involved in the parade performed for a short time before the Mayor of Maidstone Cllr. Eric Hotson raised the Mela Flag to formally launch the celebrations and activities for the Mela in September.

Gurvinder Sandher the Director of Cohesion Plus said “The Mela launch here in Maidstone goes from strength to strength and it was so great to see so many people coming out and supporting the parade. I am very grateful for the supported provided by Arts Council England without which this event would not be able to happen. The feedback from schools has also been really positive”

Photos courtesy of Sarah Knight and Chris Brunt.

 

Diversity dominates Mela 2009

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.