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Colourful display in Bethnal Green at 14th annual Baishakhi Mela

PUBLISHED: 12:01 09 May 2011

©Olivia Harris Mela festival in Tower Hamlets on 8th May 2011; Photo credit should read: OLIVIA HARRIS

©Olivia Harris Mela festival in Tower Hamlets on 8th May 2011; Photo credit should read: OLIVIA HARRIS

Olivia Harris, (+44) 7881 810 878, www.oliviaharrisphotos.com

Thousands of people took to the streets and parks around Brick Lane and Bethnal Green for the biggest celebration of the Bengali new year outside of Bangladesh itself.

The streets came alive yesterday (Sunday) with dancers, singers, stall holders and visitors for the 14th A Baishakhi Mela celebrations in Tower Hamlets.

Brick Lane, Buxton Street and Vallance Road were closed to traffic for the performers’ procession from Allen Gardens to Weavers Fields at midday.

Almost 400 police officers were on patrol in the area but there were no big incidents or arrests by 2pm.

Ch Insp David Grainger from Tower Hamlets police said: “Even though so many people come here, it’s very much a family festival. We’ve had a good run since the festival began in 1997 and there’s not normally much trouble at all.”

The mela was expected to attract up to 100,000 people.

More than a dozen performers, ranging from rap artists and Bollywood performers to street dancers took to the stages at Allen Gardens and Weavers Fields.

Jyoti Haider, 28, and her troupe, Tanpura Music Studio, were of the many to have entertained the crowds.

Ms Haider said: “This is our biggest opportunity to enjoy our culture. We’ve been practising for a few weeks for it. I know people who have from Scotland and Birmingham for this festival.”

Trickyrix, a rapper from Quaker Street who performed in Allen Gardens, said: “This is the fifth time I’ve performed at the festival. There’s a positive vibe here, that’s why everyone enjoys it.”

Businesses too seemed to be enjoying a decent trade.

Sharon Gill, who has a Coventry based jewellery shop, set up a stall in Weavers Fields.

She said: “It’s the first time I’ve come here and we’ll definitely come back. It gets advertised on BBC Asia so I think it’s a big draw.”

Meanwhile, some anti cuts groups used the opportunity to reach large crowds to raise awareness of their campaigns.

Save Our NHS had a stall on Vallance Road and were handing out leaflets highlighting the effects of the cuts.


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