Circus in Thetford for finale of Norfolk and Punjab Festival
The Norfolk and Punjab Festival closed with colour, vibrancy and music on Thetford’s Riverside on Saturday.
The county-wide 50-day celebration of the life and achievements of Maharaja Duleep Singh and his family’s contribution to the county saw cooking demonstrations, talks, exhibitions, performances at the Norfolk World Music Festival and Bollywood dance workshops.
The festival culminated in the form of Mela, a Sanskrit word meaning an Indian religious festival, fair, or gathering of people.
Indi Sandhu, creative director of the Essex Cultural Diversity Project, who organised the festival said: “The grand finale of the festival brought a vibrant and colourful spectacle to Thetford that was enjoyed by all diverse communities and celebrated the life and achievements of the Duleep Singh family and their contribution to Norfolk.”
There was a variety of acts entertaining more than 1,200 people throughout the five-hour event, such as the Rajasthan Heritage Brass Band from India, who played a diverse repertoire including the Cantina Band Song from Star Wars, Virsa Punjab Bhangra Dancers, Leicester-based DEA Dhol Drummers and Folk Dance Remixed, who gave the crowds a mix of Maypole and Hip-Hop dance with a hint of African and Bollywood.
One of the crowd favourites of the day was Circus Raj, a supergroup of elite street circus performers from the northern India state of Rajasthan.
The group, who had members star in Tim Burton’s Disney remake of Dumbo this year, entertained the crowds with feats of slack rope walking, knife jugglers, stilt walkers and one performer even span around on his stomach whilst balancing on a tall bamboo pole.
Stalls included henna painting, an authentic curry stall and a pop up exhibition from Arts in Transit, which was a colourfully decorated transit van with display panels inside telling the story of Princess Sophia Duleep Singh.
Also during the Mela, the town’s Ancient House Museum, in Whitehart Street, was open and invited visitors to a Sophia Duleep Singh exhibition with costumed characters helping to tell the story of her life and achievements.
This year’s finale followed 2018’s highly-successful Thetford and Punjab Festival parade, which saw a huge procession of performers through the town.
Councillor Mark Robinson, Executive Member for Community, Leisure and Culture at Breckland Council, who part funded the Mela, said it provided a fantastic boost for the town.
He said: “I was delighted to see the Thetford Mela, the grand finale of the Norfolk and Punjab festival, take place in the heart of our wonderful Breckland market town.
“The festival not only highlighted the strong cultural links between the Punjab and Norfolk, but the contribution Thetford played in the dramatic story of Duleep Singh’s family, the last Royal family of the Punjab.”
- For more pictures from the Mela, pick up a copy of the Bury Free Press.