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, doughnuts 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.”