Waitrose & Partners Weekend Issue 613

18 AUGUST 202 2 38 WEEKENDING HEAR IT NOW Stuart Maconie Events Photography: © Bindi Sandhu/ Silver Fox Pictures, Steve Taylor ARPS / Alamy, © Netåix, © Julia Donaldson and Axel Schefåer 2010, © Nadia Shireen, 2019 – Jonathan Cape, Penguin Random House Children’s, © Jessica Love, Manuel Harlan The 6Music presenter on the Melā festival Melā is the ancient Sanskrit wordmeaning ‘tomeet’. But it’s taken on a more joyous definition – an outdoor festival withmusic, food, dance and art that showcases the cultures of South Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Music is undeniably the beating heart of anyMelā festival, and it’s particularly true of the one in Birminghamover the bank holiday weekend (27-28 August), whichmakes a welcome post-Covid return and celebrates its 10th anniversary. For the Asian community in theMidlands and beyond it’s become established as one of the seasonal music highlights of the UK’s cultural calendar, alongside the likes of Glastonbury and the Proms. Themusic on o er can rightly claim to e ortlessly span both the above. Naturally, there are Bollywood stars and bhangra dancing, but also amix of traditional Indian classical music, ragas and folk, plus British Asian urban acts. The result is a dance party like no other, this year with performances fromHorseMeat Disco, The Turbans, Balimaya Project and others. Many towns and cities with sizeable Asian communities host Melās in late summer, includingManchester, Belfast, Nottingham, Preston and Southampton. But the BirminghamMelā is the largest in Europe. It’s held in Victoria Park, Smethwick and is a huge, colourful, sizzling, rhythmic, bold, artistically led celebration of Asian culture and creativity. The cultural net is cast wide. It’s also the largest outside India to champion new work in a variety of media, and is known as a platform for emerging British visual artists. I’ve lived for many years just around the corner fromVictoria Park. The desi pubs (owned or managed by a landlord of Indian origin), street-food stalls andmusic at Melāmake it a brilliant place to be. The streets are full, the vibe inclusive. It is properly diverse and very Indian, yet in some ways an extremely British party. This year, it is being held yards from the newly built Sandwell Aquatics Centre in Smethwick, one of the Commonwealth Games venues that helped ‘Brum’ become the focus of the world. Many of the performers and dancers who dazzled at the opening and closing ceremonies can be seen taking part at the festival. More than 130,000 people are expected to attend andmore than a quarter of these will be fromnon-Asian communities. If you can’t get to Birmingham, try to visit aMelā near you. There’s little to match them in the UK calendar for atmosphere and vibrancy. I have tomention the food too – huge, fragrant pans of biryani, sizzling tikka, crunchy bhel puris and rich, aromatic curries of every strength. Anyone passing within half amile of aMelā will find themselves lured by their nose. No o enceWimbledon, but that puts even strawberries and cream in the shade. @StuartMaconie ‘I have to mention the food – pans of biryani, sizzling tikka and aromatic curries. Anyone passing a Melā will be lured by their nose’ COLOUR AND FLAIR Traditional giddha dancers Desi Divas will perform TAKE A TOUR TO ENJOY BANKSY’S STREET ART Hemight be a household name now, but artist Banksy was once just another kid on the streets of Bristol with a can of spray paint in his hand. Some of his earliest work is still there to be discovered around the city, in spots including a health centre car park and a street tucked away behind the Central Library. The Visit Bristol website has a guide to some of the key works, or download the self-guided audio tour A Piece of…Banksy! which takes in 13 significant locations. It’s got commentaries by JohnNation, an internationally recognised authority on the global gra ti art movement, and a central figure in the Bristol and Banksy story from the 80s. A £10 ticket works on two phones, for up to 24 hours, and there are recommendations of things to do along the way, so you canmake a weekend of it. visitbristol.co.uk CELEBRATE THE IMPACT OF REBEL CHARACTERS Think back to childhood reading and chances are your favourite characters were rebels – Tracy Beaker, Pippi ON SHOW Banksy’s street art in Bristol (above); Stranger Things: The Experience (right)