Brick Lane prepares for Sunday’s Mela parade amid storm over being shunted away from Victoria Park
PUBLISHED: 12:22 28 July 2016 | UPDATED: 12:22 28 July 2016
The biggest Bengali New Year Mela parade outside Bangladesh returns to Brick Lane in the heart of London’s East End on Sunday amid a protest by campaigners wanting it to be staged further out at Victoria Park..
Protesters who packed the public gallery at Tower Hamlets Council’s meeting last week with placards demanding the Baishaki Mela be kept at Victoria Park say Brick Lane would be swamped by huge numbers of spectators.
“The narrow streets can’t cope,” petition organiser Shahmizamul Hoque told the East London Advertiser. “The Mela was very small when it started—now it’s much bigger and attracts 100,000 people.
“The families in Spitalfields will be suffering. This is politicising which is not good for the community.”
He presented a petition with 2,500 named to the council to move the Mela back to Victoria Park.
But the idea was rejected. The Mela had become “too commercial” at Vicky Park and the local authority was now returning it to Brick Lane with a family festival at Bethnal Green’s Weavers Fields.
Disgraced ex-mayor Lutfur Rahman was the man who took the festival away from Weavers Fields amid criticism that he was using the Mela for his own politics.
Tory Opposition leader Peter Golds told the council: “The previous administration took it over and was bitterly criticised for using it as a political election rally.
“It should not be what it once became—a party political broadcast for Lutfur Rahman and his Tower Hamlets First party.”
But a former member of the ex-mayor’s now-barred administration, Cllr Ollui Rahman, railed against the switch away from Victoria Park, accusing the current mayor of “failing to listen” to the protesters.
He claimed: “The reason Mela is being moved to Brick Lane is some Labour councillors don’t want it on their doorstep.”
But Vicky Park had already staged the huge Lovebox music festival just the weekend before last—there wasn’t time to prepare it for Sunday’s Mela.
Mayor John Biggs told the Advertiser this week: “Victoria Park just won’t be ready, even if we wanted to stage it there.
“The promoter staging it without a council grant in the past made it more commercial. So we’re making it part of the community again and Brick Lane is the heart of that community.”
The parade begins 11am, winding its way along Buxton Street, Brick Lane, Old Montague Street and Vallance Road to arrive at Weavers Fields by 12 noon.
The festival in the park has an arts hub, sports zone, stalls, children’s rides and funfair, with a marquee for community events and a stage with live performances like Bollyflex. Council organisers expect up to 60,000 spectators turning up.