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Cohesion Plus Summer and Autumn Programme

Cohesion Plus Summer and Autumn Programme – 2017

Cohesion Plus is pleased to confirm that as a result of a successful funding application to Arts Council England, we are now in a position to confirm our outline plans for 2017.

Our programme will start with the St Georges Day celebrations taking place in Gravesham and Dartford on April 21. This will be followed by the Fusion Street Festival in Gravesham on June 17 and the Tunbridge Wells Mela on July 9. Furthermore in recognition of 2017 being the UK – India Year of Culture, we will be producing a series of exciting collaborations working with Bollywood Brass Band, Nutkhut and Four by Four Bhangra for the summer.

Our autumn programme includes Festivals of Light in Gravesham, Dartford, Tunbridge Malling and Swale. We will be working with a number of key partners including LV21, Emergency Exit Arts, Same Sky Arts and Electric Cabaret on this element.

According to Gurvinder Sandher, Artistic Director of Cohesion Plus, “We are very grateful for the ongoing support being provided by Arts Council England, local authority and community partners which has allowed us to create an exciting programme of events for 2017 working across North and West Kent. We have a proven track record over many years of delivering innovative arts events which at their core promote cohesion and shared values working in areas which often have low levels of engagements in the arts. I very much look forward to delivering the Fusion Street Festival in Gravesham and the Festival of Light in Swale which are two new events in our portfolio”.

Mela Sunshine in Calverley Grounds

Sunshine, music, food and dance from around the world was the order of the day at the 11th Tunbridge Wells Mela Festival which took place in Calverley Grounds on July 17. The Mela was organised by Cohesion Plus and the Kent Equality Cohesion Council with the support of Arts Council England.

Gurvinder Sandher the Mela Festival Director commented “I have been involved with the Mela in Tunbridge Wells since its inception and am really proud of how we have managed to develop it over the years. This year despite the funding issues we have managed to deliver an excellent culturally diverse stage programme which showcased a number of local acts alongside internationally renowned artists like Jassi Sidhu. I am very grateful to everyone who attended and supported this community celebration. The Mela Festival is unique to Tunbridge Wells and I am determined to keep it going.” 

The Mela Festival stage programme featured a range of culturally diverse acts including local artists Sean Fennessey and Friends and the renowned Paul Dunton Orchestra, Kent based African ensemble Uzambezi, Bulgarian folk dance group Kitka, belly dancing troupe Anaconda and Phase 5 Steel Band. The headline act was International Bhangra Superstar Jassi Sidhu who had the crowd up and dancing with his unique fusion of bhangra and pop music. The Mela Festival was climaxed by Stevie One who sang the hits of Stevie Wonder. 

According to Jassi Sidhu “It was a great privilege to perform in Royal Tunbridge Wells. In recent months I have been performing in North America, Africa and India, so to come to an event like this where many in the audience are not familiar with my catalogue of hits and have them up and dancing was a great experience. I believe events like this are a great way to expose audiences to new styles of music and established artists in particular genres like me to new fans” 

Alongside the exciting stage programme there was a creative arts zone where Same Sky Arts delivered workshops, Four by Four Dhol Drummers taught members of the public how to play the popular Indian Percussion instrument and Nutkhut who performed with their special stilt walkers and had the audience up, laughing and dancing. There was also an array of food, craft and information stalls including Kent Police who were represented along with members of the Tunbridge Wells Independent Police Advisory Group. 

Dartford Festival of Light 2015

Lanterns, young people, music and creative arts were the order of the day at the 7th Dartford Festival of Light which took place on Friday October 23rd. Organised by leading arts organisation Cohesion Plus and Kent Equality Cohesion Council in partnership with Dartford Borough Council with the support of Arts Council England this year’s Festival was the biggest to date.

The aim of the Festival was to bring the communities of Dartford together through the arts and promote the key values of respect, excellence, friendship and equality.

In the build up to the event Same Sky Arts had been commissioned to work with 11 local schools to create colorful lanterns which the young people showcased on the evening. The lantern parade led by the Mayor of Dartford Cllr Ian Armitt, Council Leader Cllr Jeremy Kite and Gareth Johnson MP, started on the High Street before proceeding via Hythe Street, the Orchard Shopping Centre and Market Street to Central Park. The parade which involved some 500 young people with lanterns also featured the Four by Four Dhol Drummers, Crocodile Brass and Stilt Walkers.

Once the colourful spectacle reached Central Park there was a programme of entertainment which was hosted by comedy duo Payne and Pearce which featured performances of Samba, Bhangra and Brass. This was followed by presentations to local schools to commemorate their participation. The festival climaxed with a spectacular fireworks display which was enjoyed by the large crowd which had gathered in Central Park.

According to Gurvinder Sandher the Artistic Director of Cohesion Plus who co-ordinated the event “I was very overwhelmed by the positive support we received for the Festival and the excellent feedback from members of the public. The whole ethos of the Festival was to bring communities together and celebrate what binds us together as a community and I believe this was achieved. We are very grateful for the on-going support provided by Dartford Borough Council and Arts Council England without which the Festival would not have been possible.

To view the film of this event go to the Event Films page

Dartford Festival of Light 2015

Preparations are well underway for the Dartford Festival of Light which will take place on Friday October 23 between 6pm and 8pm. Organised by Cohesion Plus in partnership with Kent Equality Cohesion Council with the support of Dartford Borough Council and Arts Council England the Festival is now in its 7th year. In the build up around 600 young people have benefited from workshops delivered by Same Sky Arts to create lanterns for the Festival.

The aim of the Festival is to bring the communities of Dartford together through the arts and promote key values of respect, excellence, friendship and equality. The Festival this year is the biggest to date and is split into 3 distinct parts. Between 6pm and 6.30pm there will be entertainment on One Bell Corner as local vocalist Mark Lees sings some popular chart tunes.

11 local schools will then take part in a lantern parade starting around 6.30pm involving some 550 young people which will also involve the Four by Four Dhol Drummers, Bloco Fogo Samba, Crocodile Brass, Same Sky Arts and Stilt Walkers. The parade will be led by the Mayor of Dartford Cllr Ian Armitt, Artistic Director of Cohesion Plus Gurvinder Sandher and the Leader of Dartford Borough Council Jeremy Kite MBE and will start on One Bell Corner in the High Street. It will then go via Hythe Street, the Orchard Shopping Centre and Market Street to Central Park where it will climax by the Band Stand.

Once the Festival reaches Central Park after a series of short performances and presentations to the schools, there will be a spectacular fireworks display to climax the celebrations delivered by the awards winning Phoenix Fireworks.

According to Gurvinder Sandher the Artistic Director of Cohesion Plus “This is our third major event in Dartford this year and the most long running. I am really proud that this is our 7th Dartford Festival of Light. Each year we try and tweak it and make it better and this year I believe we have a great mix of visual and performing arts which will climax with a spectacular fireworks display which we hope will be a great addition to the Festival. All of our events in Dartford focus on the High Street and this is no exception, we hope the communities of the borough will come out and support the Festival and local business before and after it.”

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Maidstone Mela Again Proves Popular

Despite the poor weather thousands attended the 13th Maidstone Mela in Mote Park. The Mela has since its inception has been held on the second Sunday of September and has attracted a huge following and this year was no exception. The event was organised by Maidstone Borough Council in partnership with Cohesion Plus, Mela Steering Group and Kent Equality Cohesion Council.

The free festival celebrates the diversity of the borough through music, food and dance and provided an excellent showcase not just for artists performing on the stage but also for stall holders including food outlets, local charities and community groups.

The stage programme ran from 12.30pm to 6.30pm and was officially opened by the Mayor of Maidstone Cllr Daniel Moriarty and included a range of culturally diverse acts including popular local band The Choos, Kitka a Bulgarian Folk Dance Troupe who went into the audience and got them to join in with their routine and the Kerala Cultural Association who performed some popular South Indian Dance. They were followed by the award winning Reel Eire Irish dance troupe, drama group GDS who previewed their forthcoming show at the Hazlitt Theatre and Anaconda who performed a series of traditional belly dances.

In the second half of the programme local vocal trio Imminent again proved to be a hit. There was some further Eastern European flavour with the popular Polish folk group Piwnica pod Aniolami (Cellar under the Angels) performing, before the Maidstone Nepalese Community Group took to the stage to perform a number of traditional dances. The colourful and energetic Four by Four Bhangra Group had everyone up and dancing and copying their bhangra moves before the Mela was finished by the Trenchtown Experience who performed the hits of reggae legend Bob Marley and had the audiences singing along to his popular hits.

In addition to the stage programme there was over 50 stalls ranging from food from around the world to local charity and information stands as well as interactive arts workshops.

Gurvinder Sandher the Artistic Director of Cohesion Plus commented “I am very pleased that working in partnership with Maidstone Borough Council that we were able to deliver another excellent Mela. I was delighted to see so many people come out in the poor weather to enjoy what has become one of the largest culturally diverse celebrations in Kent. Great credit needs to be given not only to Maidstone Borough Council but all the volunteers who have helped make the Mela the success it has become today. When we started all those years ago we could never imagine how big the Mela would become in Maidstone. “

To view the film of this event go to the Event Films page