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Redbridge Bengali community celebrate their New Year in style

PUBLISHED: 16:11 19 April 2016 | UPDATED: 10:10 22 April 2016

Members of the Bengali community celebrate Bengali New Year in Ilford town centre with a parade. Photo: Shamshia Ali

Members of the Bengali community celebrate Bengali New Year in Ilford town centre with a parade. Photo: Shamshia Ali

Shamshia Ali

Members of the Bengali community came out in force on Sunday to celebrate Boishakhi Mela, the Bengali New Year.

Members of the Benagli community celebrating Bengali New Year with a parade. Photo: Shamsu IslamMembers of the Benagli community celebrating Bengali New Year with a parade. Photo: Shamsu Islam

As many as 4,000 people turned up to enjoy the festivities at Redbridge Town Hall, High Road, Ilford.

Chairman of the Redbridge Boishakhi Mela Trust, Shamsu Islam, said he could not have asked for a better turn out.

“The town hall was packed,” he said. “We had to get three security guards to stop people from coming in. People were queuing up outside.”

Traditionally known as Pohela Boishakh - Bengali New Year is observed on April 15 and is tied to the Indian solar calender.

Redbridge Mayor, Barbara White, presenting an award at Bengali New Year celebrations. Photo: Shamsu IslamRedbridge Mayor, Barbara White, presenting an award at Bengali New Year celebrations. Photo: Shamsu Islam

In order to make tax collections easier in Bengal, Mughal Emperor Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar, introduced a revised calendar in 1584.

As taxes were collected in line with the Islamic calender, it meant farmers faced severe difficulties when paying levies out of season.

The occasion marked the first official celebration of Boishakhi in the borough and started off with a parade outside Kenneth More Theatre, Oakfield Road, Ilford.

“It went like a dream,” said Shamshia Ali, who helped to co-host the event. “It was absolutely amazing. People came from as far as Italy.”

Included in the fun was traditional food, clothes stalls, music and dancing.

“The event brought a bit of the traditional to the modern world and we showed the younger generation how things used to be done,” added Ms Ali.

“It was great to see young people taking part in their cultural identity enjoyed by a diverse audience.

“I felt so proud and privileged to be a part of it.”

The organisers paid for the event themselves and through money fundraised within the community and cost around £12,500 to put on.

During the past five years, the Bengali community in the borough has grown.

“It came to our attention that people were living in isolation,” added Mr Islam.

“We thought it was time to organise an event so people could meet others and build community cohesion.”

The organisers now plan to hold a bigger event next year outside in a park so more things can be put on for children.


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