This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Festival promises taste of Asian life
The tastes, sights and sounds of Asia will take over the city centre this weekend for the annual Mela festival.
On Sunday, two stages in the city centre will host dance and music while the market place sizzles with the finest curries, bhajis and samosas.
The organisers of the Leicester Belgrave Mela promise it will be "a glittering mix of live music, dance, fashion and food".
Festival director Sanjib Singh Sahota said: "It promises to be bigger and better than ever before.
"This summer, we are inviting the whole of the UK to experience our famous Mela Shopping Bazaar, a whole host of free South Asian arts activities, delightful dance, music, electrifying entertainment – and a few celebrity guests.
"It's going to be a great day out for the whole family."
Special guests flying in from India especially for the event will include Rucha Hasabnis and Vishal Singh, who play the characters Rashi and Jigar in the popular Star Plus series, Saath Nidhana Saathiya.
BBC Asian Network, which helps organise the Mela, has invited performers including Navin Kundra, the Stranger Family, Foji and Mobo award-winner Raghav.
Hosts on the stages will include Leicester-born Star TV presenter Nishil Saujani and BBC Radio Leicester's Rupal Rajani.
Other fun will include a climbing tower and sports activities.
Pradip Popat, of Mirch Masla restaurant, which will have two stalls at the Mela this year selling food, said: "There's always an amazing atmosphere with brilliant music and culture and there are always more people than ever in the city centre when the Mela's on.
"I've got my fingers crossed for good weather and I think it will be the best and the biggest ever."
About 25 youngsters from Kuntal's School of Bollywood Dancing will be performing on the main stage in Humberstone Gate and on the smaller stage near the Clock Tower.
Kuntal Indulkar, who runs the school, said: "We have dancers aged from six to 25 who will be performing and they're very excited.
"It will be our third year taking part. We had rehearsals at the weekend with the costumes all the parents helped make and we can't wait for Sunday."
The Mela was first held in 1982 on Cossington Recreation Ground, Belgrave, as the Belgrave Festival before moving to Abbey Park, and then the city centre. It became the model for similar summer festivals in Manchester, London, Cambridge and Newcastle.
This year's event, which will be broadcast on BBC Asian Network, starts at 11am and finishes at 6pm.
Photo from 2011 Leicester Mela sourced from Kiran Parmar, with permission.