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11 August 2011


(Sat. 6th August & Sun. 7th August, 2011,
by Adrian Shaw, 110811

I, along with many others, very much enjoyed this year’s Mela, which seemed to draw many younger people and families and a wider audience generally.

The first (Satur)day part of this year’s Mela, was held, as previously at the NAE. The weather picked up, despite a slow start, and by mid-afternoon, the building was crowded.
There was a large and varied range of activities, including a Karam board competition, as well as musical acts in the ground floor reception area.  (I think, incidentally, as a suggestion, that it would be a good idea to hold a Karam workshop and competition, perhaps on a more regular basis, and maybe invite the local media along, with food and music, perhaps).

There were also interactive and art workshops in the learning room, an entertaining (especially for younger visitors) juggling corner outside, and  really enjoyable performances of traditional Kathak and Belly dancing (with a workshop)  in the Performance space, which were enthusiastically received by all observers. Delicious food and drink were, as usual, provided in the canteen area for reasonable prices.

As a regular film-goer, a highlight was the 10th year showing of the celebrated ‘Lagaan’ (lengthy but with a break in between two parts), which like the classic ‘The Chess Players’, had a competition (this time cricket), representing the struggle between the colonised and colonisers in Raj Empire India, but with a ‘Bollywood’ love-triangle theme.  I found it very moving: it was also the first time I, personally, had seen the Film.  As myself of Anglo-Indian pre-Independent India background, and a sports fanatic, I really enjoyed the experience, especially given the backdrop of the current England-India Test series…

The second, main public day of Mela was, for the first time, incorporated into this Year’s Nottingham City Festival, held at the Victoria Embankment on the Sunday, with fireworks on the previous evening and a Dragon Boat competition on the day itself.  It was made more interesting, too, in that the musical performances at NAE’s stage at the Festival, were of a ‘World Music’ nature, with cross-cultural fusions, perhaps appealing to a wider audience than usual.  Certainly I, like many others who would perhaps not have attended previous melas (and for me this was the first time I had attended anything on the Victoria Embankment), found the whole thing a great experience, despite occasional drizzle.  Since the Mela itself (under NAE auspices) was held at the main City side entrance, many punters could see and appreciate its particular flavour at the centre of the fairground thoroughfare.   For younger people, the fantastic ‘Ekko & Raxstar’ box-rap act brought out their enthusiastic response and participation: but one didn’t need to be under 21 to get into this! The final performance, given so colourfully and memorably – and noisily(!) – by the Jaipur Kawa Brass Band (apparently quite famous and well-


travelled) brought back for me fond wedding and other celebrations in India (the Band plays regularly at matrimonial events).

In summary, this year’s Mela experience was extremely colourful, memorable and worthwhile - though perhaps mitigating against more involvement by the Muslim community, given the timing during religious fasting.  This is an important caveat, but given that Mela celebrations this year were dictated by constraints on local government, and that future forms may still follow a more regular time and date schedule, standing as a more usual single, separate event, this unfortunate aspect should be avoidable.   As it was, even in its modified format, Mela did, as usual, further celebrate the Sub-Continent and the contribution of its community to Nottingham, in particular, and the East Midlands in general.

c. AS, 11/08/11

06 August 2011

Mela Weekend

Mela weekend (6/7 Aug 2011) brings an international arts and cultural extravaganza to Nottingham connecting with Riverside Festival for the first time! Nottingham has always pioneered an artistic and innovative Mela - and incidentally delivered the very first National Mela (1988) in the UK through Apna Arts - driven by Parbinder Singh (Pabs) and a young volunteer team, of which I joined all those years ago...makes me realise the power of art, big festivals, something real and relevant, passionate people who believe in something strong and how such notions and components add value to who we are, what we deliver and where we end up. As a volunteer from 1992/93 I came back as CEO of NAE to deliver something meaningful with a rooted history and an exciting future. Hats off to pioneers like Pabs who make a difference to people's lives. To continue the progress and stay relevant Mela will reincarnate appropriately, watch this space... That's all folks from me, hope to see more interesting comments and responses from you all out there in cyber space and hopefully physically here at NAE too. Soon speak,Skinder

04 August 2011

Launch of the **NEW BLOG**

Welcome to the NEW NEW Art Exchange blog! A place to share thoughts and ideas, to discuss asthetics and theory. Don't be shy, email and tell us what you think of the exhibitions and events at the gallery...