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Cohesion Plus produced 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 produced by 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 Cohesion Plus Artistic Director 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 Artistic Director of Cohesion Plus commented: “I am very proud of what we achieved in Maidstone this year working with Maidstone Cultural Group and our community partners. 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. Our programme showcased a range of culturally diverse acts from around Kent which we as an organisation are committed and I was really pleased with the response we received to the Afro Bhangra Fusion which we will be touring around Kent this summer.”

The Maidstone Community Mela returns!

Preparations are nearly complete for the Maidstone Community Mela which will be returning on Sunday 14th July at Whatman Park between 12.30pm and 6pm. The Mela is produced by Cohesion Plus working in partnership with Kent Equality Cohesion Council and the Maidstone Cultural Group. The Community Mela is a great celebration of culturally diverse art and showcases a range of Kent based artists.

The stage programme features folk band Ukelear Fallout, rapper Bando Black, Phase 5 Steel Band and the Chinese Dancing Lions. A number of Maidstone based acts will also be performing including the Maidstone Nepalese Community Group, the Maidstone Malayalee Group and Kitka Bulgarian Folk Dance.

A particular highlight will be the Cohesion Plus produced Folkin Fusion Afro-Bhangra performance which brings together music and dance from North India and Southern Africa to create a unique show featuring the ever popular Four by Four Bhangra, Bill Singh and Lucky Moyo. The Community Mela will be headlined by the renowned Kings of Motown who will be performing Motown classics along with their signature dance moves.

Off stage there will be a wealth of activity including the World in a Tent featuring Nepalese and Roma culture and heritage, free creative arts workshops, food from around the world as well as for the first time a prosecco and beer bar.

Gurvinder Sandher the Artistic Director of Cohesion Plus commented: “I am really proud of the artistic programme we have on offer this year both on and off stage. The Maidstone Community Mela is very close to my heart as this was the first event that Cohesion Plus produced and despite the challenges of recent years we have managed working with local community groups to keep the Mela alive. I’ve always said that the arts is a great way to bring diverse communities together and the Maidstone Community Mela is an excellent example of this.”

Tunbridge Wells Mela Proves a Hit

The 14th Tunbridge Wells Mela Festival proved to be a big hit with the local community with thousands attending and enjoying the festivities in Calverley Grounds.

The Mela was organised in partnership by Cohesion Plus and the Kent Equality Cohesion Council with the support of Arts Council England and celebrates the diversity and cohesion of the borough through music, food and dance.

One of the highlights of the Festival was the “Dancing Maharajas” show which saw the crowd wooed by a life size elephant walking through the crowd joined by an entourage of singers, dancers and drummers. The show produced by Cohesion Plus and Festive Road featuring Four by Four Bhangra aimed to capture the opulence, colour and vibrancy of the Sikh Empire in India and was very well received by the audience.

Other highlights included performance by local Tunbridge Wells Groups Fireflies who opened the Mela Festival, Just Dance a group of primary school aged children who performed a fusion of Hollywood and Bollywood, Sahrudaya who performed music and dance from South India, and the ever popular Paul Dunton Orchestra.

Artists from a further afield included the Sussex Syrian Trio who brought the sounds of the Middle East to the event, the energetic Dance Asia who had everyone up and dancing, DDFK Brass Fusion who played a string on popular hits and Common Denominator who performed classic reggae hits.

Off stage there were also lots of activity for those attending to enjoy including free aerial workshops, arts and crafts activity and an array of food stalls serving culinary delights. There were food stalls from North and South India, Caribbean, Thailand and Greece as well as ice creams, donuts and fudge whilst the Tunbridge Wells Forum Bar served craft alcohol from around the Globe. The response was really positive in the food zone with many stalls selling out.

Gurvinder Sandher the Artistic Director of Cohesion Plus commented “Anyone who knows about the Mela Festival in Tunbridge Wells will know that I have been involved from the start. Each year we work very hard on the artistic programme showcasing local, national and international artists both on and off stage and I really pleased with what we were able to achieve. Our stage programme had a range of genres including Bollywood and Bhangra which you would expect at a Mela but also Brass, Reggae, Pop, Syrian Folk which you would not. Off stage we had a range of arts activities for young people to enjoy and the overall feedback has been positive. The support that we receive from the local community and Arts Council England has really allowed us to be more ambitious with our programming and cultural offer.”

Mela Festival returns to Tunbridge Wells on July 7th

The hugely popular Tunbridge Wells Mela Festival will return to the borough on July 7th. The Mela Festival is now in its 14th year and takes place in Calverley Grounds between 12.30 pm and 6.30 pm. The Mela which is organised in partnership by Cohesion Plus and the Kent Equality Cohesion Council with the support of Arts Council England celebrates the diversity and cohesion of the borough through music, food and dance.

As in previous years, the Mela Festival promises to be a great free day out for the family. This year’s stage programme boasts a range of leading culturally diverse artists with an international flavor including Dance Asia, Sahrudaya West Kent Karalites Sussex Syrian Trio and DDFK Brass Fusion. They will be joined by local favorites Fireflies, Just Dance and the Paul Dunton Orchestra.

The Mela Festival headliners are the Cohesion Plus and Festive Road produced “Dancing Maharajas” featuring Four by Four Bhangra and Common Denominator who will be performing classic reggae hits.

The off stage activity will be just as colourful. Highlights include Airheadz who will be providing free aerial workshops for young people and LV21 who will be delivering free arts workshops.

Alongside the exciting artistic programme, there will be a food zone where there will be countless delicious dishes from around the World for audiences to enjoy including Thai, Indian, Greek, Chinese and British food as well as Ice Cream, Donuts and Fudge.

Gurvinder Sandher the Artistic Director of Cohesion Plus commented “The Mela Festival in Tunbridge Wells is a great example of the arts bringing communities together, showcasing all that binds us together as residents of Kent. I am really pleased with the artistic programme we have created both on and off stage and am looking forward to the response we will get to our new show the “Dancing Maharajas”. It will be the first time that the Dancing Maharajas will be performed in an enclosed festival format and the show has been adapted to make it more interactive with the audience. We work very hard to raise the funds to put the Mela Festival on and look forward to welcoming the community of Tunbridge Wells to Calverley Grounds on July 7th.”

Mayor attends Community Dhol Beats Project

Cohesion Plus has a proud history of delivering free arts based projects to local communities in Kent. The Mayor of Gravesham Cllr Gurdip Bungar visited the Community Dhol Beats Project on Friday 14th June and watched special performances put on by the young people who have benefited from this project to date as well as awarding certificates for participation to date. The free sessions are led by renowned Punjabi Dhol maestro Bill Singh and Four by Four Bhangra Youth Club and take place at the Guru Nanak Art Studio and are supported by Youth Music.

In addition to Dhol classes the young people have the opportunity to gain nationally recognised Arts Award qualifications. Over the past year, working with local schools Cohesion Plus have enabled around 300 young people to gain an Arts Award qualification in Gravesham. Following this success, the project has now expanded into Dartford and work will be taking place in schools over the coming months.

Gurvinder Sandher Artistic Director of Cohesion Plus commented “We are delighted to have the support of Youth Music with the Community Dhol Beats Project. I believe it is important that there is provision locally for free culturally diverse music sessions for young people. Over the coming weeks and months we will be going out to local schools in Gravesham and Dartford to provide taster sessions and also give opportunities for young people to gain Arts Award qualifications. I believe strongly that the arts can open many doors for young people, providing diversionary activities and also helping to promote positive community relations.”