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Chapter 18 Mela in the UK: A ‘travelled and habituated’ festival

DOI: 10.23912/978-1-910158-15-9-2639

ISBN: 978-1-910158-15-9

Published: January 2015

Component type: chapter

Published in: Focus On Festivals

Parent DOI: 10.23912/978-1-910158-15-9-2599



Mela in the United Kingdom has become, in its short thirty year history, one of the most popular forms of festival entertainment. The word ‘mela’ itself, is based on the Sanskrit, meaning a community gathering or meeting, and in its many forms mela in the UK has remained true to this broad sense of people, families and communities congregating together in an atmosphere of festivity. At its roots, mela in the UK has evolved out of South Asian religious rites and rituals, and can also be seen to be built on South Asian folk and rural culture and traditions. However, at the core of the definition of mela is the notion of a gathering. This is most appropriate here in that it does not necessarily refer to any mono-cultural or religious focus, and is important when we observe how mela has ‘travelled’ and become ‘habituated’ in the UK. Carnegie and Smith (2006) identify Edinburgh Mela as having travelled but in this chapter, whilst recognising the travelled nature of mela that they refer to, we indicate that it is the habituated nature of mela that more clearly identifies its nature and existence in the UK. Therefore, this chapter will document that, after 25 to 30 years, mela in the UK can be seen to be adopting its own traditions and connotations. Moreover, by the very nature of the modern diverse British population, mela is now largely urbanised and many continue to reflect South Asian religious festivals, be they Boishakhi Melas (Brick Lane London), Holi Hai Melas (Oxford) or Eid Melas (Birmingham), but others have lost touch with these roots as the demands of festival and cultural event management and venue availability have led to other requirements taking priority. The focus of the research presented here is concerned with the manifestation of mela in the UK and, in particular, how it has adapted to the various town and city locations in which it is now a fundamental part of the cultural events calendar. The importance of mela in terms of economic impact and tourism may be one reason why mela is popular with local authorities.

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  • Rakesh Kaushal (Author)
  • Chris Newbold (Author)

For the source title:

  • Chris Newbold, De Montfort University (Editor)
  • Christopher Maughan, Freelance writer (Editor)
  • Jennie Jordan, De Montfort University (Editor)
  • Franco Bianchini, Leeds Beckett University (Editor)

Cite as

Kaushal & Newbold, 2015

Kaushal, R. & Newbold, C. (2015) "Chapter 18 Mela in the UK: A ‘travelled and habituated’ festival" In: Newbold, C., Maughan, C., Jordan, J. & Bianchini, F. (ed) . Oxford: Goodfellow Publishers http://dx.doi.org/10.23912/978-1-910158-15-9-2639


Carnegie, E. and Smith, M. (2006) Mobility, diaspora and the hybridisation of festivity: the case of the Edinburgh Mela, in D, Picard and M, Robinson, (eds.) Festivals, Tourism and Social Change: Remaking Worlds, Clevedon: Channel View.


Newbold, C. and Kaushal, R. (2014) Mela in the UK: A 'travelled' and 'habituated' festival, Discussion Papers in Arts and Festivals Management, Leicester: De Montfort University.

Thussu, D. (2007) News as Entertainment: The Rise of Global Infotainment, London: Sage.


Published in Focus On Festivals

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