Celebrations of city’s diverse communities at mini Mela

Dancers in full flow during the mini Mela.
Dancers in full flow during the mini Mela.
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Sunderland proved it has 21 good reasons to be a capital of culture as talents from all background showcased their skills.

A mini Mela was hosted as Sunderland City of Culture 2021 Bid team paired up with Sunderland Black and Ethnic Minority (BME) Network to host a celebration of nationalities before a packed audience.

The organisers gathered together 21 acts to perform at Sunderland Bangladesh International Centre in Hendon to show the range of talent from across its communities.

Indian dancing group Hindu Naeu Sang, martial arts experts, Afrian drummers and fruit carvers joined blind Polish DJ Rafal Marzec on the bill.

The night was opened by deputy mayor of Sunderland, Councillor Doris MacKnight, followed by Rebecca Ball, director of the bid, and Kam Chera, of The Funky Indian restaurant.

The organisers had aimed to bring together people from 21 different countries for the celebration, but bettered that by another three, with a family from Syria and people originally from Eritrea among them.

Vijayalakshmi Subramani  with her carved fruit display, which was created in front of the crowd.

Vijayalakshmi Subramani with her carved fruit display, which was created in front of the crowd.

Food was also served thanks to restauranteurs.

Steve Donkin supported Sunderland BME Network’s chairman Kamareswaradas Ramanathas to help plan the event, which also drew on the backing of the Friend of the Drop In, based at St Mary’s RC Church, Young Asian Voices, International Community Organisation of Sunderland and the Gentoo housing group.

African People of Sunderland, WISH and Fast Feet Sunderland also helped volunteer for the night, with the use of the hall given to the event by the venue’s leaders.

Steve said: “The whole intention was to really drive home how diverse the community is across the whole of city of Sunderland.

The whole intention was to really drive home how diverse the community is across the whole of city of Sunderland.

Steve Donkin

“It all came about around five weeks ago, so it was 21 acts lined up in around 21 days and people from all the communities got behind it.

“It was a tremendous evening and we are grateful for the kind support of all the organisations, Gentoo Sunderland 2021, Sunderland Council, Funky Indian.

“With the support of all parts of the community, we know that the bid for city of culture 2021 will be successful.”

Mr Donkin assisted in this role with Sentient Business Development, which works with the network.

Polish man Rafal, a DJ who is blind, takes to the decks.

Polish man Rafal, a DJ who is blind, takes to the decks.

The performers were singer Jessica Dale and singer and guitar player Lewis Colin, who appeared in the Genfactor talent competition, along with Olivia Glover, Genfactor winner 2016; fruit sculptor Vijayalakshmi Subramani, Barry Etherington; Thornhill Schoo student Chloe Donkin; Daisy Pringle, winner of Cities Search for a Star; DJ Rafal Marzec; The VIP Girls; rapper Yousuf; Zahra Pornamazeh; vocalist Keith Gregson and Mark Leadbeater, head of Hislop House Thornhill School.

Countries represented were Bangladesh; Afghanistan, Egypt, India, Iran, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Portugal, Poland, the USA, Togo, Somalia, Syria, Sri Lanka, the Ivory Coast, Turkey, the Philippines and the UK.

The VIP Girls take to the stage.

The VIP Girls take to the stage.

An Indian dance group perform at the mini Mela.

An Indian dance group perform at the mini Mela.

The acts and guests gather for a celebratory photo at the end of the mini Mela.

The acts and guests gather for a celebratory photo at the end of the mini Mela.