Famous for being the first event of its kind here in the UK, the Leicester Mela Festival is one of the most popular and established free community events in the UK. Back in 1982, when the local authority and Belgrave Neighbourhood Centre set about bringing together local community groups to help organise a one off festival called the ‘Belgrave Carnival’, no one could ever have dreamed it would become the internationally recognised festival it is today. For four years until 1986, the small fete
in Cossington Park, attracted hundreds of people from around the Belgrave area for a day of celebration. As word of the festival began to spread, the crowds grew and in 1986 the festival was renamed the ‘Belgrave Mela’ to reflect the diversity of the community and honor the way in which the festival brought the people of the community together, just like traditional Mela festivals in India. By 1999, the festival’s reputation had spread not just across Leicester, but across the region and even the UK and it wasn’t long before it was renamed the ‘Leicester Belgrave Mela’ in recognition of its national status. The South Asian arts and Indian cultural festival set the bench mark for dozens of similar summer festivals which began to take place in other major cities across the country.
The festival soon outgrew its native of home of Cossington Park and from 2000 to 2004, the Leicester Belgrave Mela was held a mile further down Leicester’s famous ‘Golden Mile’, Belgrave Road, in Abbey Park. At its peak, the two day weekend festival attracted crowds in excess of 120,000 people, not just from the UK but across the world and firmly put Leicester on the map. The Mela festival attracted some of the most famous faces on the Asian music scene as well as receiving mainstream media coverage.
In 2005, the celebrations moved to Leicester City Centre, opening the festival up to not just the Asian community, but all of the different ethnic groups that made Leicester the beacon for community cohesion that it is today. Described as a glittering mix of live music, dance, fashion and food, the unique outdoor one-day spectacular is also broadcast worldwide by the number one Asian television network , Star, helping the Mela become a cultural icon across the world.