With the first lights going on display in 1983, Leicester’s Diwali celebrations have evolved over the decades to today, becoming the largest outside of India. Tens of thousands of people flock to the Belgrave area every year to see the lights’ display, fireworks and take a ride on the Wheel of Light. But this year, when celebrations return on Sunday 24 October 2021, things will be slightly different.
The pandemic meant that 2020’s celebrations had to be virtual. However, as we ease ourselves out of lockdown, Leicester City Council have confirmed that festivities will once again take place on the streets of Belgrave. With that being said, there will still be precautionary measures that will be in place, making a change to some of the usual features of the event.
The stage which is usually located near the Belgrave roundabout will be replaced with a giant screen. A second giant screen will go up near Belgrave Road’s junction with Wand Street, with a third screen installed on Cossington Street recreation ground. This new approach will reduce crowding in one place at the same time.
On each of the three screens, a pre-recorded, cultural programme will run three times throughout the evening of Sunday 24 October 2021, starting at 5.30pm. The programme was recorded at Leicester’s Curve theatre and will include the Hindu Festival Council performing a religious ceremony, as well as entertainment from Nupur Arts, the Centre for Indian Classical Dance and Aakash Odedra.
Every year, one of the most eagerly anticipated displays of the event are the fireworks. This year however, attendees will instead be treated to a beautiful Fire Garden which will light up Cossington Street recreation ground with hundreds of candles and a dramatic flaming centrepiece.
In an exciting reveal, there will also be a trio of fire performers from Helter Skelter Arts – and two giant puppets representing the Hindu god Hanuman and the demon king Ravana, engaged in the battle between good and evil.
There will also be a Diwali Village featuring food stalls and funfair rides from 3pm-9pm at Cossington Street recreation ground, while the spectacular Wheel of Light makes a welcome return to Belgrave Road. Restaurants and shops will be open in the area, and if things couldn’t get better, there will also be £2,000-worth of prizes up for grabs for lucky Golden Mile shoppers.
Supported by funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Diwali Big Shop campaign, which aims to help the businesses in Belgrave bounce back from the pandemic, will promote the attractions of the Golden Mile during the Diwali celebrations – and give shoppers the chance to win some great prizes.
On the celebrations, deputy city mayor for culture Cllr Piara Singh Clair said: “We were determined to do all we could to bring the Diwali celebrations back to the streets of Leicester this year, while making public safety our priority, so I’m delighted that we’ve been able to do so.
“The new format of the event, using the three giant screens, means that people won’t need to congregate in the same space at the same time, as they have in previous years.
“By running the programme three times, we hope we can encourage people to join the celebrations at different times throughout the evening, without missing out on any of the fun.
“It should be a fantastic evening and I’d like to wish everyone a very happy Diwali!”
Belgrave Road will close to traffic at 5pm on Sunday 24 October for what will be the first of Leicester’s two Diwali celebrations. Diwali Day festivities on Thursday 4 November will also start with the closure of Belgrave Road at 5pm, followed by the showing of the cultural programme on the big screens.
By Gita Sarasia