Zee Sandwell and Birmingham Mela brings out the crowds

Tens of thousands of fans flocked to the biggest Asian music festival in Europe this weekend.

An estimated 70,000 people swept through the gates into Victoria Park, Smethwick, to soak up the sounds of stars from as far afield as Canada and India as well as the UK.

Mela is a word that means a friendly assembly and it certainly lived up to its name as people of all colours and creeds joined together to enjoy the Zee Sandwell and Birmingham Mela.

The show, which was headlined by the three Waris Brothers from Canada, was staged across Saturday and Sunday.

There was also the biggest travelling fun fair in the UK, food from India, Mexico, Italy and Britain and 100 stalls selling everything from clothes to arts, crafts and face painting.

The Royal Navy, St John’s Ambulance and Cancer Research were also represented.

Jan Vallance, aged 51, from Kings Norton who sat in front of the stage enjoying a picnic with friend Jade Price, 24 from Salsa Road, Edgbaston and Jade’s one year old daughter Amelia, said: “It is a lovely day out and bring the community together. You hear different music and sample different cooking smells.

“I was very impressed with the security which allowed you to sit back and enjoy yourself without worrying about youngsters misbehaving.”

Jade added: “Its great – like being abroad on holiday. We will certainly come again.”

Sophie Hamidi, aged 24, was with her Iranian husband Amir, a 37-year-old Netherton Pizza bar owner, their 15-month-old son also called Amir and the father’s brother Reza, who lives in West Bromwich.

She said: “All the different communities come together. Asian, white and black people mix without trouble and everybody has a nice time with their children.”

Ijaz Mahood, a 33-year-old foundry worker from Windmill Lane, Smethwick who came to this country from Pakistan 18 years ago and was with children Ayesha, eight and Amaal, two, revealed:

“I have been coming to this Mela for years.There are marvellous rides for the kids and it is a great atmosphere. Everybody is welcome.”

Ayesha added: “I like the bouncy castle best but the only thing I don’t like is the haunted house.”

Security supervisor Paul Hockey, who was working at the event for the second year, declared: “With all the atrocities that are going on in the world at the moment it is wonderful to see people from different backgrounds coming to the same event and getting on so well. It is a fantastic sight that restores your faith in human nature.”

Danny Singh, who has been Event Director of the Mela for the past seven years, said: “It is a South Asian themed festival to which everybody is invited.

“We have been working to get people from other communities to come and sample the atmosphere. There is a lot going on with great entertainment offering families to enjoy quality time together. We have not had any trouble while I have been director.

“It is a great opportunity for people to come together to strengthen community cohesion. This has become increasingly apparent year after year and tells the lie of those who claim a wedge is being driven between different communities in this country.”

Plans for the Mela next year will start in about three months time. Around 40,000 free tickets are distributed at shopping centres, libraries and other venues to promote the event.

Organisers said the Zee Sandwell and Birmingham Mela was the perfect showcase to express Britain’s diverse and vibrant communities.

Mela is a word that means a friendly assembly and it certainly lived up to its name

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