The overcast weather did little to dampen the spirit of over 3,000 people as they attended the Maidstone Community Mela in Mote Park on Sunday 19th September. The free community festivities celebrate diverse cultures, art forms, food and dance from around the world. Produced by arts organisation Cohesion Plus, working in partnership with the Maidstone Cultural Group and the Maidstone Mela Advisory Group. The Mela was funded by Arts Council England, Maidstone Borough Council, Unison and Kent Equality Cohesion Council.

The stage programme offered an array of diverse talent showcasing arts from the world including Bloco Fogo Samba, Reel Eire Irish Dance, Kings of Dhol who fused songs from east and west with their traditional drums grime artists GTown Talents and Square Peg Arts the award winning local charity who work with children and adults with learning disabilities. They were joined by other Maidstone based groups including the Kerala Culture Association who performed dances from South West India, and the Maidstone Malayalee who performed a series of Malayalam dance pieces also from Kerala; they were followed by the ever popular Maidstone Nepalese Community Group.

One of the highlights was the Cohesion Plus produced Folkin Fusion Collective which featured Uzambezi Arts and Four by Four Bhangra. The performance fused music and dance from Southern Africa and Northern India and had everyone up and dancing during the interactive show. The Mela was headlined by Bollywood Brass Band who wowed audiences with their dynamic interpretations of popular Bollywood hits.

Off stage there was a mouthwatering selection of world foods on offer including Indian, Chinese, Nepalese and Caribbean cuisine, as well as traditional burger and chips and Ice Cream. There were also free arts workshops for children as well as a range of charity and community stalls including Victim Support, Kent Police, Adult Education, UNISON, Involve Kent and the Maidstone Dawn Patrol Rotary Club.

Civic guests included the Mayor of Maidstone Cllr Fay Gooch was in attendance along with the Deputy Lord Lieutenant Bill Cockcroft DL and Cllr Martin Round Chair of Economic Regeneration & Leisure Committee. They addressed the crowds of event attendees and spoke about how pleased they were to see the Mela back in its birthplace of Mote Park after a 6 year absence. They also spoke about how important it was to have artistic events such as the Mela in the borough.

Gurvinder Sandher the Mela producer and Artistic Director commented: “I have been involved with the Mela since it begun back in 2003 and have been incredibly proud to watch it grow from strength to strength each year. We have overcome many hurdles and logistical upsets but have always persevered with the support of our community led partners. We are also grateful to Maidstone Borough Council for their help and support this year and we look forward to working with them as well as our community partners to put on more Mela’s in the future. The Mela is so important to Maidstone as it provides a creative and cultural outlet to the diverse communities and residents of the borough, showcasing art forms, cultures and cuisines from around the world. Community pride and creativity are important key components to the success of the Mela and we will continue to work with the diverse communities of Maidstone to put on the best possible events in the years to come. Special thanks go to Arts Council England for their support. . A date for next year has already been secured and fundraising permitting I look forward to building upon what we have learnt this year to put on an even bigger event next year!”