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!”