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BOISHAKHI MELA – CELEBRATING CULTURAL DIVERSITY

on June 19, 2013

The 15th annual Boishakhi Mela (Bengali: বৈশাখীমেলা)took place on Sunday 12th May 2013. The event is a celebration of the Bengali New Year with music and cultural events. The Bengali New Year falls on 14/15 April. The event always takes place in May, as April tends to have a high risk of rain.  It is the largest open-air Asian festival in Europe. It was previously hosted at Weavers Fields, Brick Lane, London.  After the Notting Hill Carnival, it is the second-largest street festival in the UK attracting over 80,000 visitors from around the country. This year, it was held for the first time in Victoria Park, Tower Hamlets, London to attract a larger audience but the number of visitors failed to match previous years.

The parade kicked off from Weavers Field with dancers, performers featuring local school children and local groups, showcasing vibrant colours, music and culture. Celebrating cultural diversity, the event was shown live on the NTV channel (Sky 852) and was hosted by BBC Asian Network presenter Nadia Ali.

Some of the biggest names in Bengali music took to the stage including Bappi Lahiri, a music director in the Hindi film industry, Liza, S I Tultul and others.  10 finalists of the ‘Boishakhi Star 2013’ also performed live on stage. Lutfur Rahman, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, also made an appearance at the Mela.

Market stalls complimented the Mela with Asian snacks, drinks, arts, crafts, jewellery and clothing. To celebrate 50 years of Tollyboy rice (one of the bestselling brands of rice in the UK today), visitors were treated with free sample bags of long grain and basmati rice. The demand was high.

Funds were being raised for the Beani Bazar Cancer hospital project in Bangladesh, the first-ever comprehensive cancer hospital in Sylhet. Author, Shahida Rahman, was also signing copies of her historical novel ‘Lascar’.

Wind and rain swept in by the mid-afternoon, but that failed to dampen the party atmosphere. Organisers of the event say, ‘The blend of multicultural performers and activities will ensure integration of people of different ages and ethnicities to come together and improve community cohesion through culture and celebration.’

Anu Sidhu, a student, is a regular attendee of the Mela. ‘I love coming here every year and enjoy the sights, tastes and smells! It is like being in Bangladesh for a short while,’ he said.

Published in ‘Asian World’ newspaper, June 2013

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