Monday, 14 June 2010

Asian Melas 2010: 'Coming of Age'

It's mela season all over the UK! No, it's not a fruit. A 'mela' is a word from various northern sub-continental languages traditonally meaning a kind of rural fayre. These days, and especially in the UK, it's come to mean a kind of festival of music, dance, food, etc. - some small, some grander. And get this - as if that were not enough, these events which will be taking place all over the UK in the coming months, are overwehlmingly FREE.   They will take place in the parks, commons and squares of many of the UK's major towns and cities.

To coincide with the mela season an exhibition and book has been launched which celebrates 21 years of Melas in the UK.  Coming of Age kicked off at the end of May at the New Arts Exchange in Nottingham - it will show there until 24th July 2010. It will be open to the general public at Cartwright Hall in Bradford from 7th August to 7th November 2010. The press release of the book describes the importance of melas like this:
"In 21 years of mela history in the UK, Asian music and arts have become very much part of the style, fashion and fabric of mainstream Britain. Jay Sean has become an international R’n’B star; artists like Madonna and Kylie Minogue famously styled themselves around Indian themes; and Bollywood has started to appeal to western audiences with films such as Moulin Rouge and Bride and Prejudice taking influence from them, and more recently ‘My Name is Khan’and many more being financed and distributed by Hollywood Studios. Asian music has also been sampled by Hip-Hop / Rap musicians, most famously with the Bhangra beat behind Missy Eliot’s 'Get Your Freak On’ and Jay-Z and Punjabi MC’s ‘Beware of the Boys’; British Asian artists like Talvin Singh, Black Star Liner, and Nitin Sawhney have all been nominated for, and won the Mercury Music awards, and gone onto gain critical acclaim. One of Britain’s most respected visual artists Anish Kapoor, has just unveiled his plans for a definitive public sculpture as part of the Olympic Stadium, another example of how British Asian personalities are recognised and constantly coming to the fore.

British Asian culture and especially youth culture has become ‘Cool’. Very different to the negative image of bigoted, fundamental extremists; the image the public often sees as representations of Asian youth in national tabloid press.
This journey from an often invisible community with no significant voice in Britain, to a community that has a significant say in Britain’s artistic, cultural, political and economic landscape is explored in a new book Coming of Age. Mela festivals have been central to this growth, as an outlet of expression for Asian culture, values, and understanding between communities." Read the rest here.
The BBC Asian Network are going big on covering this summer's Asian melas (a last hurrah?). For more information on the BBC Asian Network’s Summer of Melas, you can visit – www.bbc.co.uk/asiannetwork

I've tried to put together the definitive list of every UK Asian mela I can find details about, with the relevant links (though I've some tidying to do..) - let me know if I've missed any and I'll add them. But importantly, if you go to any melas, let me have your review:

June:
Sunday 20 June - Glasgow Mela, Kelvingrove Park
        ["It’s been estimated that a record number of people, approximately 40,000, descended upon the festival which was celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. The Glasgow Mela is known as Scotland’s biggest multi-cultural festival...." Rest of the review here]

Sunday 27 June - Woolwich (London) Asian Mela, 10am to 8pm, Ha-Ha Road, (off the South Circular), London SE18 4UK (between 10am and 12pm is 'children and women's activites' (!) - you've got to love 'em)

Sunday 27 June - Oldham Mela, 12 noon to 8pm, Alexandra Park, Queens  Park [cool website]

July:
Saturday 3 - Sunday 4 July - Rochdale Mela
Sunday 11 July - Eastleigh, 11am to 6.30pm
Saturday 17 July - Southampton Mela Festival, 12 noon - 9pm, Hoglands Park, Southampton
Sunday 18 July - Leicester Belgrave Mela, Leicester City Centre (Eastenders and Bend it Like Beckham actress Preeya Kalidas, launches her pop career at this mela with her first live UK performance.)
Sunday 18 July - Nottingham Mela
Sunday 18 July - Tunbridge Wells (Kent) Mela, from 12 noon, at Calverley Grounds
24/25 July - Manchester Mega Mela
24 July - Liverpool International Mela, 12 noon to 7pm, Princes Park, Liverpool
31 July to 1st August
- Newcastle Asian Arts & Music Mela, Exhibition Park, 12 noon to 7pm
Saturday 31 July - Swindon Mela 
[Slough Mela - whenever it was to be, is cancelled for the 3rd year running]

August:

Sunday 1 August - Croydon Mela, 1pm to 8pm,  Lloyd Park, Croydon

Sunday 1 August - East London Mela, 12noon to 8pm, Barking Park, Longbridge Road, Barking IG11 8AT. Unusually, this one is charging.Gates open at noon and close at 8pm. Tickets are £5 for adults, £3 for children under 12.
It's being hosted by BBC Asian network presenter Sonia Deol. Among the big names is singer and EastEnders actress Preeya Kalidas (who plays Amira in the BBC soap). Others include Imran Khan, Mumzy Stranger, Abbas Hassan and Raghav.
[Apparently 18,000 people turned out - see review here at Bhangra.org]

? 1 August - Leeds Mela (2009 site here)
? 1 August - Luton Mela
6th-8th August - Edinburgh Mela Festival at Leith Links
Sunday 8 August - London Mela, 1pm to 8.30pm, Gunnersbury Park, Ealing, London W5 [the 'big one'...]
Sunday 8 August - Cardiff Multicultural Mela, Roald Dahl Plass, Cardiff Bay
Sat 28 & Sun 29 August - Belfast Mela, Great Lawns, Botanic Gardens, Belfast

September:
Sat 11 to Sun 12 Sept - Maidstone Mela

4 comments:

Plummy Mummy said...

Great list. I've never been to a mela before so I'm looking forward to the Woolwich one....really sad that's it is no longer the Plumstead Mela though as I now have to walk a little longer ;) Are you going to be there, if so maybe I will see you during the women's and children's activities?

Raven said...

I hope to be there, though we'll of course have to leave once the grown-ups' programme begins (yeah, right...).

Woolwich is closer for us though I like the mela being held on grass rather than on hard ground - I'm not sure where at the barracks it will be held - you can't exactly break out a rug and picnic unless it's on grass.

The Gunnersbury Park mela on 8 Aug is the really big killer one - my brother goes each year (with his Gujerati girlfriend btw) but it's a bit too far and big for me these days. So maybe see you on 27th.

Plummy Mummy said...

Oh...I think I've been to something in Gunnersbury but years ago. It was an asian meet but I'm not sure they were called Melas then.
A gujju girlfriend..ah the shame ;)

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