(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
background, and a sports fanatic, I really enjoyed the experience, especially given the backdrop of the current England-India Test series… India
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
(the Band plays regularly at matrimonial events). India
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.