The sun shone down on the crowds of people who came to Leicester city centre for the 25th Leicester Belgrave Mela on 10th July.
Humberstone Gate, Gallowtree Gate and Leicester Market boasted the sounds, tastes and colours of South Indian culture. Crowds gathered on Humberstone Gate to watch performances by artists including Missy K, Jaipur Kawa Brass Band and Botown. The audience were singing along to well known hits and enjoying the festivities.
This family friendly festival wouldn’t be complete without some hands-on activities for families with children. There was a chance to try your hand at printing, make yourself out of clay and even sign your name on the Leicester City Football Club flag. As well as hands-on activities there was also hook a duck, a helter-skelter and fairground rides for young children. Children of all ages were enchanted by the experience, smiling and thoroughly enjoying themselves.
There was even a traditional rangoli artist from Baroda, Janak Chauhan. He used ground-up marble to decorate the city’s pavements. There was the chance to have your name written on the pavement using this traditional rangoli method.
One of the highlights for children and adults alike was ‘Trunk’, the giant puppet elephant. Each of his feet moved so that he could ‘walk’ around the city centre with people watching wherever he passed.
Leicester Market was full of stalls selling South Asian objects ranging from carved wooden cups and clocks to jewellery, bags and watches. There were stalls with traditional decorations for your home, brightly coloured clothes and even healthcare.
There were also several food stalls tempting passers by with the aroma of curry and traditional sweets. The food was piping hot and spicy and was sampled by several people sitting in groups near the market.
There was an eclectic mix of South Asian culture and English culture with iced cream vans next to Kulfi stalls.
The atmosphere was friendly and relaxed. Children with balloons looked excitedly at all the stalls with their parents. Families spanning three generations sat and ate or watched the main stage acts.
Melvyn Wade has been helping out with Leicester Belgrave Mela for years. He said, “It helps bring people together. There’s a bit of everything here. I’ve never known there to be a bad Mela.”
Raj was working on the Connexions stall. He added, “It is a very cosmopolitan event. There’s such a variety from the marketplace to the music to the information stands. It’s a very family event. There’s something here for everyone.”
Leicester Belgrave Mela was the first event of its kind to be held in England and it’s 25 year anniversary didn’t disappoint. There are now Melas held in many major cities and Leicester Belgrave Mela has grown from its humble beginning in Cossington Park in 1986.
The tens of thousands of people who converged on Leicester City Centre today were not disappointed as the Mela continues to be a delight for families and a chance for people living in Leicester to experience true South Asian culture.