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Mela in Mote Park celebrates the diversity of the borough

Despite the overcast conditions over 3,000 people attended the Maidstone Community Mela in Mote Park on Sunday September 19th. The free festival which celebrates music, food and dance from around the World was produced by arts organisation Cohesion Plus working in partnership with the Maidstone Cultural Group and the Maidstone Mela Advisory Group. The Mela was funded by Arts Council England, Maidstone Borough Council, Unison and Kent Equality Cohesion Council.

The stage programme offered an array of diverse talent showcasing arts from the world including Bloco Fogo Samba, Reel Eire Irish Dance, Kings of Dhol who fused songs from east and west with their traditional drums grime artists GTown Talents and Square Peg Arts the award winning local charity who work with children and adults with learning disabilities. They were joined by other Maidstone based groups including the Kerala Culture Association who performed dances from South West India, and the Maidstone Malayalee who performed a series of Malayalam dance pieces also from Kerala; they were followed by the ever popular Maidstone Nepalese Community Group.

One of the highlights was the Cohesion Plus produced Folkin Fusion Collective which featured Uzambezi Arts and Four by Four Bhangra. The performance fused music and dance from Southern Africa and Northern India and had everyone up and dancing during the interactive show. The Mela was headlined by Bollywood Brass Band who wooed audiences with their dynamic interpretations of popular Bollywood hits.

Off stage there was a mouthwatering selection of world foods on offer including Indian, Chinese, Nepalese and Caribbean cuisine, as well as traditional burger and chips and Ice Cream. There were also free arts workshops for children as well as a range of charity and community stalls including Victim Support, Kent Police, Adult Education, UNISON, Involve Kent and the Maidstone Dawn Patrol Rotary Club.

The Mayor of Maidstone Cllr Fay Gooch was in attendance along with the Deputy Lord Lieutenant Bill Cockcroft DL and Cllr Martin Round Chair of Economic Regeneration & Leisure Committee, they all spoke from the stage about how pleased they were to see the Mela back in Mote Park after a 6 year absence and the importance of having events like this in the borough.

Gurvinder Sandher the Mela producer commented: “I have been involved with the Mela since we started it in 2003. I am so proud that working with community partners and Maidstone Borough Council that we were able to produce a positive event which showcased the diversity of Maidstone. It was wonderful to get a lot of positive comments on the day, for many audience members it was their first big outdoor event they had attended since the start of the pandemic which is a great testament to the appeal of the Mela. A date for next year has already been secured and fundraising permitting I look forward to building upon what we have learnt this year to put on an even bigger event next year. I always said that one day we would get the Mela back to Mote Park and we did it!”

The Maidstone Community Mela is around the corner!

Preparations are nearly complete for the much loved Maidstone Community Mela which will this year be returning to the site of its birth place Mote Park on Sunday 19th September. The Mela will run between 12pm and 6pm and is organised by a joint community partnership including Kent Equality Cohesion Council, Maidstone Cultural Group as well as being supported by Maidstone Borough Council. Cohesion Plus is also back as the long-standing event producers.

The Mela will again be celebrating music, food and dance from around the world with an exciting programme of culturally diverse acts performing on stage including Samba band Bloco Fogo, Reel Eire Irish Dance, Square Pegs Choir, Four by Four Kings of Dhol, GTown Talents, the Kerala Culture Association, Maidstone Malayalee and Maidstone Nepalese Community Group.

They will also be joined by Afro Bhangra Fusion a performance which brings together music and dance from North India and Southern Africa to create a unique show. DJ Amit will also be in attendance playing all the current smash hints and to top it all off, the incomparable Bollywood Brass Band will headline and close the show with the unique signature party sound.

Off stage there will be a mouthwatering selection of world foods on offer including Indian, Chinese and Caribbean cuisine, as well as traditional burger and chips and Ice Cream. There will also be a prosecco and beer bar on hand for the grownups!

Gurvinder Sandher the Mela producer commented: “We are so pleased to be bringing the beloved Mela back to Maidstone for its 17th year after missing last year due to the lockdown. To be bringing the Mela back to Mote Park however is the true icing on the cake as the site is where the Mela was born. We are dedicated to putting on another memorable event in a safe and responsible way and hope everyone can make it out to celebrate given the past difficult 18 months we have all been through. The Mela 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. I am excited for everyone to see what we have planned this year and of course we wouldn’t have been able to bring the Mela back to Mote Park without the partnership of Maidstone Borough Council, Maidstone Cultural Group and the Maidstone Advisory Group. Special thanks also go to Arts Council England who is our principle funders.”

Maidstone Community Mela 2019 a great success!

The Maidstone Community Mela in Whatman Park again proved to be popular with over 3000 attending the annual celebration of music, food and dance from around the world. The Mela which is organised by a small group of community partners and volunteers led by Kent Equality Cohesion Council, the Maidstone Cultural Group and Cohesion Plus has proven to be popular in the borough since 2003 despite the many challenges it has faced over recent years.

The celebrations were formally launched by the Mayor of Maidstone Cllr Marian Ring, Deputy Lord Lieutenant Bill Cockcroft and the Mela Producer Gurvinder Sandher. Those in attendance enjoyed a range of culturally diverse performances including Kent based Phase 5 Steel Band, Folk Band Ukelear Fallout, Maidstone Nepalese Community Group, Maidstone Malayalee Group and Kitka Bulgarian Folk Dance Troupe.

A Particular highlight was the Cohesion Plus produced Folkin Fusion Collective a high energy show bringing together music and dance from North India and Southern Africa which featured Four by Four Bhangra and Uzambezi Arts. The Mela was headlined by the Kings of Motown who had everyone up and dancing to the classic Motown hits.

Whilst off stage the arts activity continued with interactive performances by the Chinese Lions, interactive workshops in the World in the Tent which focused on Nepalese and Roma culture and heritage, and for the younger members of the audience there were free arts workshops delivered by LV21.

The food stalls also proved to be very popular with Indian, Chinese, Nepalese cuisines being served alongside burgers, doughnuts and hot dogs with many selling out whilst the Prosecco bar also did brisk trade.

Gurvinder Sandher the Mela producer commented: “I am very proud of what we achieved in Maidstone this year. People do not always appreciate how small the team is that puts the Mela on, but all the hard work is worthwhile when you get so many people turning up and supporting us. The Maidstone Community Mela I believe is very important for Maidstone, its ethos is to use food, music and dance to bring communities together and celebrate all that binds us together. The Mela was set up in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and its message is just as important today as it was in 2003 when we first started. I have been involved with the Mela from the start and I am very keen to develop it further next year and we are keen to take it back to Mote Park if we can get a date and also raise the necessary funding.”

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 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 Mela Again Proves Popular

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. “

Maidstone Mela Returns for 13th Year!

The popular Maidstone Mela – one of the largest Melas in the South East – will return to Mote Park for its 13th year on Sunday 13 September. The free festival is a celebration of the borough’s cultural diversity and local talent, with food, music and dance from around the world. Entertainment starts at 12:30pm, with the final act finishing at 6:30pm.

Exciting culturally diverse artists performing at the Mela include local band The Choos, Bulgarian Folk Dance Group Kitka, Dancers from the Kerala Cultural Association, popular Irish group Real Eire Dance, drama group GDS Productions, and Anaconda an award winning belly dance troupe specialising in Egyptian, Bolly, Romany, Tribal and Fusion. They will be joined by up and coming local trio Imminent, Piwnica pod Aniolami (Cellar under the Angels), an exciting Polish folk group who will bring a flavour of Eastern Europe to the Mela, the Maidstone Nepalese Community Group who have supported and performed at every Mela since its inception and the colourful and dynamic Four by Four Bhangra Dancers. Headlining the stage will be The Trenchtown Experience, an 8 piece band dedicated to the music of reggae legend Bob Marley.

In addition to the stage programme, visitors can try food from across the globe, explore craft and clothing stalls, and find out more about local charities and community groups to get involved with.

Councillor Gordon Newton, Chairman of Maidstone council’s Heritage, Culture and Leisure Committee, said: “The Maidstone Mela is a fantastic celebration of Maidstone’s cultural diversity, and it’s an event that the council is very proud to be involved with. This year’s event promises to be a wonderful day, and I encourage everyone to get involved with everything on offer – dance to the music, taste something you’ve never tried before, and enjoy the exciting atmosphere!”

Gurvinder Sandher the Artistic Director of Cohesion Plus commented “I am proud that we have been involved with every Mela since it started. I could never have envisaged all those years ago that the Mela would have grown like it has. We are very pleased with the culturally diverse stage programme we have with the majority of the acts from and around Maidstone, and we hope the local community will come out as it has in previous years to support this fantastic showcase of culturally diverse arts and food. Much credit needs to be given to Maidstone Borough Council for their ongoing support for the Mela.”

The event has been organised by Maidstone Borough Council in partnership with Cohesion Plus and Kent Equality Cohesion Council.

Poster 4x4    Poster Anaconda

Poster Imminent   Poster Kerela

Maidstone Mela 2015 Details

The Maidstone Mela will be taking place on September 13 at Mote Park between 12.30 and 6.30pm.

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There is an exciting stage programme featuring a range of culturally diverse artists including Bulgarian Folk Group Kitka, Kerala Cultural Association, Real Eire Irish Dance, Piwnica Polish Cabaret, Maidstone Nepalese Community Group, Four by Four Bhangra Group and Bob Marley Tribute the Trenchtown Experience.

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There will also be a wide array of stalls and stands including the principal Mela sponsor Mid Kent College, as well food from around the World.

For further information on stalls please contact Liz Flynn on lizflynn@maidstone.gov.uk

For further information on the stage programme please contact Gurvinder Sandher on info@cohesionplus.com