Behind the scenes at Barking Park’s East London Mela

PUBLISHED: 11:51 18 June 2012

East London Mela at Barking Park - Longbridge Road, Barking, in 2011

East London Mela at Barking Park - Longbridge Road, Barking, in 2011


»Months of detailed planning and hard work go into the East London Mela.

About 10,000 people attend each year to see top Asian acts perform on stage at the festival inspired by the traditional melas of the Asian sub-continent.

But the well-known names and groups who perform are just a small part of the effort which goes on behind the scenes and this year’s event in Barking Park on July 1 is no exception.

Kelly Williams, who works for organisers East London Festival Limited, co-ordinates everything from artist liaison, stage set up, security, health and safety, trade and food stands, to helping contractors decide on where to put the toilets.


She works alongside a team of up to 50 people from staff, contractors and volunteers.

“Thousands turn up every year to see about five per cent of what we actually do and that’s the acts on stage which is, of course, very important,” she said. “What many don’t realise is that, for months and months before this, 95 per cent of the work has been done to make this amazing event happen.”

She helps co-ordinate the team and holds regular meetings with the council and emergency services to cover every eventuality that could arise at a large public event.

Involved since the first mela was held in Valentines Park, Ilford, about ten years ago, she said: “Its appeal has grown, it’s phenomenal. Mela in the UK has taken its traditional roots of the Asian sub-continent and added its own flavour. It’s not just for the Asian community but the whole community and has embraced this country.

“Our aim is to put on the best possible event in the safest possible way and that takes a lot of planning.

“The first East London Mela Festival was held in Ilford. The response was amazing and we moved to the bigger Barking Park the following year.”

She says one of her most memorable moments was about four years ago when singer/songwriter Sukshinder Shinda performed, adding: “It was pouring down with rain, no-one cared. It was like a Glastonbury moment when the rain poured and everyone ignored it and just enjoyed the moment. It was awesome and at that moment you realised all the hard work was worth it.”

Referring to Jazzy B, who is set to perform this year, as a “phenomenal” artist, she also praised the team of volunteers and fully expects the mela to be a great success next month – come rain or shine.

n To book tickets, call the box office on 01753 362 362 or the East London Mela Enquiry Hotline from Monday to Friday on 07841 918 434. Find out more at

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