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.”
The Maidstone Community Mela was officially launched at kalaRED Bar Restaurant on Wednesday 12th June. The event was attended by key partners including representatives from local community groups, businesses, Kent County Council, Kent Police and Maidstone Borough Council. The chief guests were the Mayor of Maidstone Cllr Marion Ring and Deputy Lord Lieutenant Mrs. Louise Bryant.
The Community Mela is organised in partnership by Kent Equality Cohesion Council, Maidstone Cultural Group and is produced by Cohesion Plus.
The purpose of the launch was to update partners around the plans for the Community Mela which this year will take place on Sunday July 14th in Whatman Park and to talk through the programme of activity both on stage and off stage. The Mela has been taking place in the borough since 2003 and despite many financial challenges in recent years has managed to survive and evolve.
Gurvinder Sandher, Artistic Director of Cohesion Plus and Mela Producer commented, “I have been involved with the Mela since its inception and have had the privilege of watching it evolve into an integral arts event in Maidstone’s calendar. I am especially proud of how local community groups and businesses have rallied around in recent years to support us in ensuring the Mela continues in Maidstone. We have put together an excellent programme both on and off stage this year and hope that the local community will come and support it on July 14th”.
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.”