Last gasp go-ahead for Mango festival
by David Owen
Leicester will host its first ever Mango festival on Bank Holiday Monday after 11th- hour plans came together just in time for the extravaganza to go ahead.
Organisations across the city answered Leicester East MP Keith Vaz's SOS call issued through the Mercury last week.
The politician admitted he cut it fine, but it has been confirmed that Belgrave's Golden Mile will replicate the world-renowned fruit festival held in Delhi every June.
Cossington Recreation Ground will be a sea of yellow and orange, with city residents from all communities invited to come along and join the fun.
In keeping with tradition, four giant ornately-carved wooden elephants will be the centrepiece of the festival, which will include Indian cooking demonstrations, dancing and music.
Mr Vaz hailed the staging of the festival an "organisational triumph" for the city.
"We really had our backs to the wall," he said. "But Leicester has been able to pull this together in just 10 days.
"It has been a magnificent effort and I want to thank the City Mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby, the city council's festival team, the police, Belgrave Traders Association and others for pulling this together at very short notice.
"I am particular delighted that a home has been found for the six elephants that will come especially from India."
The elephants that could have proved the sticking point, with Mr Vaz appealing for local organisations to provide a home for the giant wooden animals. "A number of local groups, organisations and individuals contacted me offering a home for the elephants," he said.
The four life-size carvings will arrive on Monday, with two 24ft by 12ft giants arriving the following week after the BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir temple, on Gipsy Lane, Shreeji Dham Haveli temple, Melton Road, and Leicester City Football Club agreed to look after the elephants.
The Mango Festival will take place from 3pm, with activities for all ages, including cooking with celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor, dancing with Bollywood choreographer Shiamak Davar and a visit by Bollywood movie art director and set designer Nitin Desai.
Dharmesh Lakhani, chairman of Belgrave Business Association, said: "It's taken a lot of hard work but the fact it's going ahead is thanks to the effort put in by Keith and everyone else involved.''