“It’s the biggest Bengali festival outside South Asia and nowhere in the UK does it better than Tower Hamlets,” Julie Begum, member of the Boishakhi Mela Community Engagement Group (BMCEG), tells Eastlondonlines.
The Boishakhi Mela is a celebration of the Bengali New Year; a huge feast of music, dance, theatre, floats, cuisine and poetry. This year’s festival will take place on Sunday July 1 in Weavers Fields, Bethnal Green and is expected to attract at least 40,000 people.
It will be launched by a stunning procession making its way through Brick Lane and finishing by the Main Stage in Weavers Fields at midday, where the event will officially begin.
The procession will include floats depicting a tiger, an elephant and a peacock. Local schools, artists and community organisations are involved in the choreography, costume and prop design and will also be taking part in the mobile spectacle.
Away from the main stage, the Family and Arts Zone will provide a range of free creative and wellbeing activities for all ages to take part in, from midday till 6pm.
The Mela marketplace will feature a variety of stall holders selling a wide variety of Bengali and South Asian food, arts and crafts.
Internationally renowned and award-winning band Chirkutt will be travelling all the way from Bangladesh to perform as headliners at Weavers Fields, alongside folk singer Ashik.
The band describe their music as a ‘unique fusion of traditional ethnic melodic motifs with the power of modern rock’. They are one of very few Bangladeshi artists to succeed in the global scene.
Chirkutt told ELL: “We think this Bangladeshi community festival in Europe portrays the true colour, culture, values, warmth, essence of unity, creativity and strength of Bangladesh and its people. It can set an example of harmony and peace for the rest of the world.
“The brilliant organisers and associates of the Mela are taking Bangladesh to the next level, and by organising such a big event for so many years they are creating history.
“People and culture bring life to a place, and diversity makes it magical and beautiful. We think Tower hamlets is a great example of peaceful and harmonious coexistence of two amazing cultures.
“We are so happy to know that our Bangladeshi people and especially our Sylheti brothers and sisters are doing so many great things socially, economically, culturally by contributing to the British society.
“Considering [the festival’s] importance we are very honoured and proud to be invited to such a glorious event as the headliners.
“We are very much looking forward to win the heart of thousands sharing the root music and culture. Can’t wait!”
Begum, member of the BMCEG, co-founder and chair of the Swadhinata Trust, told ELL: “The event offers us, the British-Bangladeshi residents of Tower Hamlets, the opportunity to share and celebrate our rich cultural heritage with the wider community.
“The Mela is visited by people of all ages – families, young and elderly alike. Our audience is not just limited to East London alone; visitors come from all parts of the country and Europe.”
The Mela is the largest Asian open-air event in Europe. It was originally created in 1997 for the Bangladeshi diaspora in the UK and it’s been held each Spring/Summer since. As of 2009, the Mela was organised by the Tower Hamlets council.
The festival takes place across the area of Banglatown in Tower Hamlets, from Brick Lane to Weavers Fields and Allen Gardens in Bethnal Green. It is the largest street festival in the UK after the Notting Hill Carnival, usually attracting around 80,000 visitors from around the country.
Last year’s Mela featured some of the biggest names in Bangla music and dance, with headline acts including MILES and Rinku from Bangladesh.
A group of leading journalists, cultural, business and community members, the Boishakhi Mela Community Engagement Group, give their time and expertise freely every year to provide support and advice to the council.
Nobab Uddin, member of the group and Former President of the London Bangla Press Club, told ELL: “Members provide advice on various community issues including the selecting of international artists, theme songs, parade, what should be included in the Mela, publicity matters, security, Health & Safety, local issues, and more.
“We share our expert view with council officers and councillors and make suggestions based on our experiences and skills.
“I believe Tower Hamlets offers the best of London in the multicultural society. This is one of the biggest events for the Bangladeshi people living in UK.”
Tower Hamlets is hosting this magnificent Bengali festival as it has the largest Bangladeshi population in England, making up 32 per cent of the borough’s population (81,377 Bangladeshis); significantly larger than the proportion across London, which is 3 per cent, or England (under 1 per cent) according to the United Kingdom 2011 Census data.
In fact, there are more Bangladeshis than white British people in the borough.
To learn more about the 2018 Boishakhi Mela visit their official webpage.