Hasina Sacranie checks out fun, colour, dance, music, shopping and great food
The Swindon Mela took place in Swindon Old Town Gardens yesterday for the 6th year running. It is described as a celebration of South Asian arts and culture. The all day event has cookery demos, arts, crafts and performances, and even a Health Zone.
The day began with the tradition of the town Mayor cutting the Mela cake, which has been made every year by West Swindon cook Melba Sheffield who said that, even though 70 eggs, 140 oz of flour, margarine and sugar went into the mixture, her creation would only serve 800 of the 18,000 people attending the day.
“It’s about ordinary people having fun”, said Swindon Mayor Steve, who after half an hour of the opening ceremony was already sporting a bright orange turban. “What’s really good is the colours, the music, the food and the smells, act in some sort of way of welding the community together for the day”.
As always, the showcase stage remained a favourite with the crowds. This stage is where all the community groups and amateur dance groups can perform their work. This year there was Goan, Mugha, Saraswati and Bollywood dance groups. Sharma McCallum, a 14 year old from Swindon, performed in the Bollywood Dreamers Junior Dance group. “It was a really good experience. It was very hot, and I think we danced ourselves out… but we survived!”
This year was the first that time there was a dedicated time on stage for performers from Swindon’s growing Nepalese community. Julia, 14, originally from Nepal, though living in the UK for several years, thought that the Nepalese dancing on stage was “cool”. “I think it made sense, seeing as Nepal is next to India.” And she even thinks that she would get involved next year.
The Mela continues to be a colourful event in every way. “It’s not so much an Indian event anymore, it’s a Swindon event” says Munira Jeewanjee, the organiser of the Activities Zone. Compared to the first year where the majority attending were Asian, there are all kinds of people from all different races enjoying the day.
There were plenty of places where people could join in with the day’s activities. For the first time this year there was an Artizone. Visitors watched cooking demos, learned Tabla drumming or how to play the sitar, or took part in turban tying workshops. Children loved having fun and getting messy with painting and printing workshops.
The Old Town Bowl provided the ideal place for professional acts, and the acts get bigger every year as the Mela grows. This year DJ Gamma, Imran Khan and the homegrown Punjabi artist Jassi Sidhu were on stage. Towards the end of the day Sidhu’s audience had grown and he had a huge group on their feet dancing.
Jon Webb, who has moved to Swindon from Nottingham only four months ago, was impressed with his first experience of the Mela, “It’s a really good atmosphere. Yeah, I like it.”