20 JUL 2017

Maidstone Mela

Kent Messenger Column - 20-07-17 

Perhaps I am becoming wiser with the years, or maybe it is an emerging sign-of-our-times, but the importance of community has never been more prominent in my psyche; those vital human needs of belonging, togetherness, sharing and caring, shielding and sheltering.

In Maidstone we are blessed with a multicultural community, home to a rich range of traditions and lifestyles. The harmony we enjoy is something to be celebrated and promoted because it says something very important about our people and modern Britain; we are not a divided society, much though the wicked atrocities of recent months have sought to undermine it.

Maidstone's annual Mela has been running since 2003, last week staging its 14th celebration at tranquil Whatman Park on the banks of the Medway. The festival embodies much that is great about diversity and inclusion; music, dance and international cuisine against a consensual multi-faith backdrop with audiences and performers from all walks.

Like many other local authorities, Maidstone Borough Council has faced funding challenges for a plethora of projects and tough decisions have had to be made. I get that, but under the prevailing circumstances I see the Mela as being a critical aspect of creating and maintaining sustainable communities.

It further concerned me that MBC levied a charge of £800 upon the festival for refuse and sanitation services, something that surely could have been waived. Consequently the lead organisers 'Cohesion Plus' were faced with an enormous struggle to find this year's cash and the fact that the event went ahead at all was a remarkable achievement. I take my hat off to Gurvinder Sandher and his team for their perseverance and commitment.

I have pledged to work with them toward a much better funded event for next year, hopefully with at least some help from MBC, for the good of everyone in our community. To help, contact me or www.cohesionplus.com.

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