Temperatures soared at the beloved Maidstone Community Mela in Mote Park on Sunday September 10th which celebrated 20 years of bringing communities together from across the borough and was supported by Arts Council England, Maidstone Borough Council and Unison South East.
Kent Equality Cohesion Council and its predecessor North West Kent Racial Equality Council have been involved with the Mela since its inception in 2003 when it was founded by the former Mayor of Maidstone the late Morel D’Souza in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. He wanted to organise an event to celebrate the diversity of Maidstone bringing communities together. The Mela for the most part over this period has traditionally taken place on the second Sunday in September.
The 20th anniversary of the Mela was marked with a special presentation which was arranged by the KECC CEO Gurvinder Sandher and featured the High Sheriff of Kent Nadra Ahmed, Deputy Lieutenant of Kent Brigadier Wood, Kent County Council Chairman Gary Cooke and Mayor of Maidstone Cllr Gordon Newton. A silver salver was presented to Karin D’Souza, the widow of Morel recognising his contribution and leadership to the Mela over many years.
There was a 6 hour stage programme with an array of diverse artists cultures represented on and off stage. Highlights included Uzambezi traditional Zimbabwean singing and dance troupe, Kitka Bulgaria Dancers and Square Peg Arts an award winning arts organisation whose choir consists of young people and adults with SEND as well as local community groups including the Maidstone Nepalese Community Group, Kerala Culture Association and the Maidstone Malayalee Association.
Further acts included the Kings of Dhol the UK’s leading Dhol ensemble, Jassi Sidhu international Bhangra Superstar and One Love Orchestra who wowed the crowd with their renditions of Reggae classics.
CEO of Kent Equality Cohesion Council Gurvinder Sandher MBE DL said: “We are grateful to the local community and all of our partners for their support over the past 20 years. I never envisaged in 2003 that we would still be delivering the Mela in 2023. Much credit needs to go to our community partners who have worked so hard alongside us each year to enable to Mela to take place and to celebrate the diversity and cohesion of Maidstone, our County town in Kent.’’