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 Kent Equality Cohesion Council CEO 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.
Kent Equality Cohesion Council CEO Gurvinder Sandher 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.”