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Northampton Mela – you never realise how much you need it until you have one

Second festival of friendship in Beckets Park will bring the communities together for a day of entertainment

Humanity does seem to stack the deck against itself sometimes. We will declare a crisis at the drop of a hat but you really have to twist people’s arms to get them to declare a celebration.

If you say you’re going to have a party the first question you are likely to be asked is “why?”

Obviously people want to know if congratulations are due but there is also that other underlying assumption: you need a reason to have a party. Our ape ancestors would be shocked at how little animal there is left in their hairless descendants.

In the light of that the concept of a Mela – or festival of friendship – seems like an idea that has been staring us in the face all along. And now more than ever perhaps, we need reminding we can have a good time together.

On Sunday in Beckets Park, Buddies of Beckets second Northampton Mela will take place between noon and 4pm. Visitors to the free event will see an array of acts from Northampton’s different communities on the main stage, and there will also be stalls and displays from other community organisations to browse.

The Chairman of Buddies of Beckets Nick Stevens, a former Northampton police officer, said: “Basically we have organised a number of artists from different communities to come together and perform on a large stage in the park alongside food, art, information stalls and various entertainment.

“It’s free of charge. We have received funding from various partners. The borough council have been very kind alongside the University of Northampton and various other partners and individuals. It’s basically a free event so people come along and enjoy the park and enjoy the entertainment. It’s also really to ensure that people see and get to know some of our diverse communities in Northampton, to promote a bit of understanding between our diverse communities. 

“We’ve got Russian dancers, Irish dancers, African fashion, we have got young and old people coming together. We’ve got Hindu and Sikh performers and a whole host of different things going on.

“Mela is an ancient indian word for a gathering or festival and our first Mela had a sort of Bollywood theme to it and again we have an asian theme this year. Unlike other Melas that happen across the world we do open up to all different communities in Northampton to come along and show what they can do on stage: have a stand, have some entertainment. It is about what the different communities in Northampton can do together.”

An event like this is packed with hidden gems. A couple to get you started: watch out for a performance from the Kristiana Rihanoff (Strictly Come Dancing legend and wife of England Rugby World Cup winner Ben Cohen) dance school and on a different tack the I Am Human display from Northampton Interfaith Forum.

NIF Chairman Ken Howlett explained: “NIF is an organisation of seven faiths in Northampton. We have representation from those seven faiths and we work to promote friendship and understanding amongst those faiths and those communities, so anything we can do to promote those things we are in there.

“Last year we did a project called I Am Human. We involved some primary school children and with the help of the unversity we produced a film with that title and that was shown at Derngate and at the Deco and in quite a number of schools now and is still in circulation.

“As a follow up we decided this year we would do an art project on that theme, so we got five primary schools to get involved with this and we took assemblies at each of these schools. The staff were over the moon, they really did want to get involved in this and the children for those age ranges, the artwork and the poems and the literature they produced I found almost unbelievable. They certainly taught me a lesson. 

“This is what the children came out with: it doesnt matter where you live, where youve come from, what you look like, what language you speak or what you believe in, we are part of one human family. That is an absolute fact. We are. The planet Earth is one country and mankind if you like, is its citizens.

“We now are in the process of producing a display with selected artwork from these five schools and the first showing of this will be at the Mela. Then there are lots of other people who want to display it. We are hoping to really get  the media involved in putting this message over because it is so needed today. It’s time we grew up, it really is.”

The various “Friends of” organisations around the town are having a real impact on improving quality of life at a community level. Buddies of Beckets has been particularly successful.

He said: ” Myself and a friend started Buddies of Beckets in 2016. We live nearby and both realised the park appeared to be a bit unloved, unkempt. We suggested a friends group to try to raise the profile of the park. Since 2016 we have campaigned for improvements in the park, we have liaised the borough council, the contractors, with our neighbours the univerisity and businesses to improve the park and encourage greater community use, and that’s what we want. We want everyone to come down and enjoy the green space by the river, it’s a little oasis for people from the town to go into. If people are working they can come and have their lunch in the park. It’s a relaxing area. It’s pleasant and we just want to raise the profile of it.”

For more details about the Mela go to its web page here

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