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East End Mela festival scrapped over safety fears

PUBLISHED: 19:29 10 March 2008 | UPDATED: 13:06 05 October 2010

THE main cultural festival for Britain's Bangladeshi community, the Baishakhi Mela which attracts 100,000 spectators to London s East End each year, has been cancelled just two months before it was due to take place. Tower Hamlets counil has refused to allow any public park to be used

By Ted Jeory

THE main cultural festival for Britain's Bangladeshi community, the Baishakhi Mela which attracts 100,000 spectators to London's East End each year, has been cancelled just two months before it was due to take place.

Tower Hamlets council has refused to allow any public park to be used for the event "on safety grounds".

Council bosses said that potential organisers of the three-day festival in Spitalfields and Bethnal Green, which celebrates the Bangladeshi New Year, had not been able to guarantee the safety of the crowds.

"Many people will be disappointed that the Baishakhi Mela will not take place this year," a council spokesman admitted.

"It was a hard decision to make, but we judged that the organisations that had applied to use the parks could not ensure public safety.

"This was the key factor in deciding not to grant permission."

Baishakhi Mela was due to start on May 11 in Brick Lane, Weavers Fields park and Allen Gardens. A replacement festival could be held in the autumn instead.

The Town Hall's decision comes amid continuing controversy over last year's festival, after it emerged that UK immigration chiefs granted dozens more work permits than organisers had stated.

Foreign Office sources told the Advertiser that the British High Commission in Dhaka received 62 work permit applications for the Mela, but alert officials rejected 29.

Bethnal Green and Bow MP George Galloway later voiced fears that the event could have been used to mask a 'people trafficking' operation.

The Town Hall later severed its contract with last year's organisers, the Baishakhi Mela Trust, after auditors highlighted loose controls over finances and health and safety regulations.

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