The University of Leicester’s Vice-Chancellor will be lighting up Leicester’s world-famous Diwali celebrations this Sunday.
Leicester City Council has invited Professor Nishan Canagarajah to flick the switch at Sunday’s lights switch on (October 9), which will see the city’s Golden Mile illuminated with 6,000 colourful lamps.
Professor Canagarajah said he is honoured to be chosen to kick off one of the largest Diwali celebrations outside of India, which is expected to draw crowds of over 40,000 people.
“My first impression of Leicester when I arrived here three years ago was at the Diwali lights switch on. I marvelled at how fantastic the occasion was in bringing people together and celebrating Leicester at its vibrant and colourful best,” he said.
“A true city of cultures. I vowed that the University would support the celebrations but I never imagined I would be called upon to perform the switch-on ceremony. It is a great honour and a wonderful opportunity to wish everyone a Happy Diwali.”
The University is supporting the celebrations, which are funded by the city council.
The Wheel of Light, a Diwali Village and a spectacular aerial firework display will all make a welcome return to the switch-on event which attracts people from all over the city, county and UK.
The celebrations will begin on Sunday, October 9 at 3pm, with the opening of the Diwali Village on Cossington Street recreation ground. Open until 9pm, the Diwali Village will include a full stage programme showcasing local talent, as well as children’s funfair rides and food stalls.
Lighting up the park will be a dramatic two metre-tall fire installation called The Fire Head, which will burn brightly throughout the evening, while a trio of fire performers will light up the night sky with their spectacular show at 6.30pm and 8.30pm.
Visitors will also be able to pop in to the Belgrave Neighbourhood Centre from 4pm to see the annual Mela Rangoli exhibition, with its mixture of modern and traditional Rangoli styles.
The stage programme on Belgrave Road will begin at 5.30pm and will include a vibrant programme of music and dance presented by the Leicester Hindu Festival Council and Leicester City Council, supported by Curve theatre and compèred by the Leicester Hindu Festival Council with BBC Radio Leicester.
Highlights include a dance piece inspired by Curve’s summer project, Finding Home, Leicester’s Ugandan Asian Story at 50, featuring community performers and the Curve Young Dance Company.
There will also be a Bollywood dance extravaganza from the Aakash Odedra Company called Celebration of Light, which will get everyone in the crowd singing and dancing to celebrate Diwali.
At 6.15pm and 7.15pm, the battle between good and evil will be re-enacted by two giant puppets, representing Hanuman and Ravana, with the switch-on of Leicester’s famous Diwali lights taking place at 7.30pm.
The switch on will be followed by a spectacular firework display – best viewed from Belgrave Road.
Other events taking place as part of the festival include the Diwali Mela Bazaar on Humberstone Gate on Saturday October 15, which will offer arts, crafts, Indian cuisine and live entertainment, and a special session of Diwali Crafts & Stories at Belgrave Library on 18 October (1pm-4pm).
Belgrave Road will be the focus once again for Leicester’s Diwali Day celebrations on Monday 24 October, when the Diwali Village will return to Cossington Street recreation ground from 3pm, along with entertainment on stage from 6pm.
Fireworks will round off the Diwali Day celebrations at around 8.10pm, with an aerial display created and choreographed by local company Bright Spark Fireworks producing layers of spectacular colour and sound, exploding hundreds of feet above the Belgrave Road.
The Wheel of Light, a 110-foot ferris wheel that provides a glittering centrepiece to the festivities, will be on Belgrave Road from Friday 7 October to Sunday 6 November.
A full programme of Diwali events is available at visitleicester.info/diwali