Following months of hard work and sheer perseverance the Maidstone Community Mela took place in Whatman Park on Sunday 22nd July. The Mela which has taken place in Maidstone since 2003 was organised by Kent Equality Cohesion Council working in partnership with Cohesion Plus, local partners and volunteers.
The free community event took place in soaring temperatures and was officially opened by the Mayor of Maidstone Cllr David Naghi and Helen Grant MP who thanked all the volunteers who were involved in bringing the event together stressing the importance of events like the Mela in Maidstone. A special presentation was given by the Mela Advisory Group and Gurvinder Sandher in memory of the late Mr. Morel D’Souza former Mayor of Maidstone who was hailed as the founding father of the Community Mela.
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 with exciting acts such as Maplesden Noakes School, Reel Eire Irish Dancers, Lambrego Brazilian band, Kitka Bulgarian Folk Dance, Maidstone Nepalese Community Group, Dance Asia Bollywood Fusion and the Kudos Combat’s Chinese Lion Dancers. The Mela was 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 and dancing and Tanni Browne one of the UK’s leading Bob Marley Tribute acts.
Off stage the food festival offered something for everyone ranging from Indian, Nepalese, Chinese and German cuisines as well as doughnuts, ice cream, juices and hot drinks. In addition there were a number of information stands including National Citizens Service, Kent Police, Unison, Amnesty International, Gullands, Nepalese Community Group and the Rotary. The Mela this year was funded through Awards for All, KCC Members Fund, Golding Homes as well as donations from members of the public.
According to Gurvinder Sandher CEO of Kent Equality Cohesion Council “The entire ethos of our work is to bring diverse communities together celebrating our shared British values and the Maidstone Community Mela is the embodiment of this work. Despite an uphill struggle with funding, I was delighted that the communities from the borough came out to support and participate in the festivities really highlighting the positive outcomes of events like the Community Mela. I am incredibly proud of what we continue to achieve in Maidstone and of the small team of partners and volunteers who believe in the Maidstone Community Mela as much as we do and worked tirelessly to pull the event together.”