Photos of Worcester mela dancers
Photo of Worcester mela team

An exciting project has become a reality thanks to a group of volunteers and a successful Arts Council England bid being accepted. The funding of around £15,000 plus a further £8,000 from Worcester City & County Councils and Talk To Me Worcester, has been granted to the Worcester Mela for two interlinked projects that capture the history and culture of the early South Asian settlers within the city. The unique initiative celebrates the contribution that South Asian residents have made to Worcester & charts their journey to the city through the Mela Voices Project. The second project pays tribute to those that have lost their lives through covid through the installation of a piece of art at Worcestershire Royal Hospital.

Councillor Jabba Riaz Chair of the Worcester Mela said “The Art Installation will symbolize hope and transition from a period of darkness into one of light, commemorating all those who have lost their lives especially Key NHS workers and staff who deal with trauma on a daily basis, it aims to revive an area at the heart of the hospital which has been underutilized, aiming to breathe new life into it and give a sense of hope and optimism for the future”.

Vice Chair Anjali Fowler who has been instrumental in securing the bid stated that:

“A Mela is essentially a celebration and a happy Festive series of events, we felt we could not move on to a celebration without recognizing this dark period that has affected so many, we hope that the NHS will accept our small gift so that we can move on to a happier more celebratory time where we are able to celebrate the beauty of the South Asian Culture bringing joy and colour to the city. The Mela Voices Project will tell the story of early settlers in the city and how they came to call Worcester home, it will document and record the history and contribution of this community within the city.”

Peter Knott, Area Director, Arts Council England said: “We’re pleased to be supporting the Worcester Mela Partnership for these two projects celebrating the South Asian community in the city.

“It’s a great opportunity for Worcester residents to engage with a creative and educational project, as well as pay tribute to those who have helped support us all during what has been a very challenging time.”

Photo of Worcester mela dancer

South Asian led, national outdoor arts organisation, Nutkhut, have provided wider input into the development and future strategic aims of the Worcester Mela committee. Nutkhut, through its national initiative, the Mela Partnership, have supported and developed a number of UK wide community and volunteer-led arts organisations in areas of low engagement in order to develop creative ideas into reality. Nutkhut actively encourages the combining of art, heritage, oral history – for communities to celebrate local identities and intergenerational stories through faith, language, culture and the arts, all through the lense of diaspora communities.

Worcester Mela is an excellent example of how local, volunteer led initiatives can make a difference to the wider community. This project was activated during the pandemic and is a testament of the resilience and desire to bring people together during difficult times. Mela means to meet or gather and the determination of the chair and the wider board to focus on the coming together of all of Worcester is a remarkable feature of what’s to come.

Ajay Chhabra Nutkhut/Mela Partnership

Councillor James Stanley, Chair of Worcester City Council’s Communities Committee, said: “Our city’s South Asian community makes an essential contribution to Worcester’s vibrant culture and the City Council is proud to make a grant of £4,175 towards these two exciting initiatives from the Worcester Mela Partnership.”

Cllr Riaz also thanked Arts Council England, Worcestershire County and City Council, Severn Arts and Talk to Me Worcester for their contributions.

The Worcester Mela we would like to thank the City and all our volunteers and partners including Worcester Festival who have made this vision a reality. We hope that this is the Catalyst of a series of events and festivals that will culminate in the Worcester Mela Becoming a regular fixture in the city’s events calendar and a Mela that becomes the most creative and diverse in the UK.

Our First Event Mela -Voices is taking place on Saturday 11th December at unity House and is aimed at bringing all those that have had a connection with the Indian Sub-continent together and capturing/ recording their memories and stories so that we can document and preserve the wonderful stories for future generations.

Please come along and bring old photos, memorabilia and your stories! The only criteria is that you have a connection either through migration or through a blood relative. It will be a chance to remember your loved ones and enjoy some traditional food and fun.

If any of you would like to become part of this wonderful story that aims to unite and celebrate our cultural diversity, then please get in touch we will welcome you with our underlying message of ‘love not hate’.

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