The colourful and vibrant Cohesion Plus produced Fusion Festival came to Gravesend Town Centre on Saturday June 15. The pop up street festival showcased a range of artists and art forms including a roaming elephant, dancing lions, mime artists, samba, bhangra, brass, choir and calypso.
The aim of the festival was to bring culturally diverse arts to the heart of local communities and to showcase new performances especially in an area like Gravesham which has had traditionally low levels of engagement with the arts.
The Festival also saw the premiere of Cohesion Plus’s new production working with Festive Road the “Dancing Maharaja’s” which brought the Town Centre to a standstill. The show features a large colourful elephant accompanied by an entourage of bhangra dancers and dhol drummers from Four by Four Bhangra. The show was part processional and part static performance with lots of interaction with the crowd.
Other highlights included performances by Bloco Fogo Samba, No Street Limit Band, Dancing Chinese Lions and the Rock Choir as well as stilt walkers, mime artists and LV21 who delivered interactive arts workshops for young people.
The festival was organised by Cohesion Plus working in partnership with Kent Equality Cohesion Council, and was supported by Gravesham Borough Council and Arts Council England.
According to Gurvinder Sandher the Artistic Director of Cohesion Plus “There was a real positive vibe in the town centre during the Fusion Festival and I am very proud of what we achieved. I believe strongly that the arts is a great way of bringing communities together and the Fusion Festival is an example of this. We had some great culturally diverse artists performing from different genres and the response to the Dancing Maharajas show was excellent.”
The popular street based Fusion Festival will be taking place in Gravesend Town Centre and the Gravesham Borough Market on Saturday 15th June between 10.30am to 2.30pm. The festival will bring exciting street artists and art forms to the heart of the local community with performances taking place around the Town Centre including on the High Street, King Street, new Road as well as in Gravesend Borough Market and Windmill Street.
Highlights include Gravesend based No Limit Street Band, Bloco Fogo Samba, Chinese Lions, The Rock Choir, Phase 5 Steel Band and an array of street performers including stilt walkers and human statues. The Festival will also see the premiere of Cohesion Plus’s new production working with Festive Road called the “Dancing Maharaja’s” which will feature a large colourful elephant accompanied by an entourage of dancers and drummers.
The festival is organised by Cohesion Plus working in partnership with Kent Equality Cohesion Council, Gravesham Borough Council and is supported by Arts Council England.
According to Gurvinder Sandher the Festival Producer “The Fusion Festival has always been a stellar day out for the family and builds upon our recent successful Saint George’s Day celebrations which highlighted the positive community relations enjoyed in the borough. Watch out for the roaming elephant, the giant stilt walkers and the amazing human statutes as you make your way through town! The festival brings an exciting array of culturally diverse performers into the heart of Gravesend transforming the town into a hive of creative activity. We hope the local community will come down and enjoy what promises to be an amazing day out.”
Cohesion Plus and Festive Road are proud to announce a new show titled the ‘Dancing Maharajas’ which is currently in development stage. The first test performances are due to take at the Gravesham Fusion Festival on June 15th and the Tunbridge Wells Mela Festival on July 7th. Further work will then place during the summer for a series of performances in October linked to Diwali celebrations in the South East.
Inspired by the true story of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the show aims to captures the opulence, colour and vibrancy of the Sikh empire in India. Accompanied by Dhol drummers and flute players, the Maharaja will enter the festival on his elephant alongside his royal entourage, wearing full authentic colourful costumes, interacting with members of the audience before bursting into a choreographed dance piece which the Maharaja’s elephant will mimic with her trunk and ears. The piece will be performed by British born Asian artists from migrant backgrounds, who will present their own interpretation of traditional Bhangra Folk dance and music.
The show is jointly produced by Cohesion Plus and Festive Road with choreography from Bill Singh and will feature renowned dance company Four by Four Bhangra. The new production will be flexible so that it can be performed at both outdoor parades and festivals and the work is being funded by Arts Council England and Milton Keynes Council.
Gurvinder Sandher, Artistic Director of Cohesion Plus commented, “This is a really exciting development. I believe the show once it is fully ready will bring town centres and festivals to a standstill with its energy, vibrancy and colour. We have already spent a lot of time developing the choreography so that there is interaction between the performers, elephant and the public. This is ground breaking piece of work for us and we look forward to working in partnership with Festive Road to showcasing it around festivals in the UK.”
Martine Frost, Executive Director at Festive Road stated, “This is a great opportunity for us to merge our visual art form with a choreographed performance element to create a show which we believe will leave a lasting impact on those who have the opportunity to witness it. This is a new partnership for us with Cohesion Plus and we look forward to working with them to make our vision a reality.”
Some of the biggest celebrations in England to commemorate Saint George’s Day took place in Gravesham on Tuesday April 23rd. 500 Children from 13 local schools took part in the event which was organised by Cohesion Plus in partnership with Kent Equality Cohesion Council supported by Gravesham Borough Council and Arts Council England. The celebrations aim to celebrate the patron Saint of England and bring together the diverse communities of the borough.
Celebrations began in Gravesend Town Centre with performances from Hartley Morris Men, Premier Brass Band, DDFK Brass Band, Folkin Fusion Drumming Collective, Saint George themed stilt walkers who entertained large crowds and a large scale mobile Dragon.
The highlight of the celebrations was the schools parade which was led by Saint George enacted by Gravesham resident Russel Palmer. They were followed by the Mayor of Gravesham Cllr David Hurley and local dignitaries and Deputy Lord Lieutenants of Kent, Dr. Bhargwara Vasudaven.
The parade made its way from Community Square and continued up Windmill Street eventually making its way through the Thamesgate Shopping Centre arriving back on Community Square. Throughout the parade members of the public waved their flags of Saint George and encouraged the children as the parade went by. Once the parade climaxed on Community Square the 500 school children sang Happy Birthday to HM The Queen to celebrate her 93rd birthday before the flags of Saint George were raised on Community Square.
Gurvinder Sandher, Artistic Director for Cohesion Plus commented “The arts are a great way of bringing communities together and celebrating our shared values. The Saint George’s Day celebrations in Gravesham are a great testament to this. I was especially pleased with the diverse range of artists and communities that took part further underlining the ethos and mission of our organisation. We strive to promote a cohesive and integrated society in Kent and anyone who attended the celebrations would have seen this in action.”
Preparations are now at an advanced stage for some of the biggest Saint George’s celebrations in the South East taking place in Gravesham and Dartford on Saint George’s Day itself Tuesday April 23rd. This year 22 local schools across the 2 boroughs have been taking part in arts workshops run by arts organisation Same Sky in the lead up to the parade and will display what they have made during the parade itself. The ethos of the event is to celebrate diverse England in the context of 2019 and to educate young people about Saint George the patron Saint of England.
Gurvinder Sandher the Artistic Director of Cohesion Plus commented “At a time of great division in our country I believe that it is important that we celebrate events like Saint George’s Day as there is more that bind us together as communities than divides us. I am very proud of what we have achieved over the last 10 years in Gravesham and Dartford with the celebrations and I hope like previous years that the local community will come out and wave the flag of Saint George with pride. The young people from Gravesham and Dartford who will participate in the parade have been working very hard over the past few months in preparation and this is a great example of how the arts can be used to bring people together.”
The celebrations in Gravesham will take place between 10am and 11.30am and in Dartford from 12.30pm to 2.30pm. Entertainment including Big Fish Brass Band, DDFK and Premier Brass Bands, West Hill Morris, Hartley Morris Men, Saint George’s themed Stilt Walkers, a Saint George in full armor and a large scale dragon will feature.
The annual celebrations are organised by Cohesion Plus in partnership Kent Equality Cohesion Council, supported by Gravesham Borough Council, Dartford Borough Council and Arts Council England.