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24 September 2014

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You are in: Bradford and West Yorkshire > Entertainment > Visual Arts > Features > Bradford Mela memories!

Bradford Mela memories!

It might not seem that long, but it's actually 21 years since Bradford celebrated its first Mela! As the crowds gather at Peel Park this weekend for a very special 'coming of age', Bradford photographer Tim Smith's been looking back...

Excitement at the Mela © Tim Smith

Excitement at the Mela © Tim Smith

In September 1988 Bradford was the first to stage a free, outdoor and large-scale celebration of Asian culture in this country, and the UK Mela was born. Inspired by Bradford, other Melas soon blossomed across the country and they're now pretty much a staple of the British summer calendar.

Ice cream time at the Mela! © Tim Smith

Ice cream time at the Mela! © Tim Smith

Bradford Mela's celebrating its 21st birthday by featuring an exhibition of work by someone who has been there since the very beginning. Tim Smith has photographed the event every year since it began as a small gathering on a football pitch in the Great Horton area of the city.

To mark this milestone the Mela and Fabric, Bradford's art development organisation, has asked Tim to go through his archives and pick out 21 images that represent his own memories and show how the Bradford Mela has evolved into a nationally renowned event that attracts over 100,000 visitors each year.

"It's been fascinating to see how a relatively small and totally unique event has evolved."

Tim Smith

Mela 2009, which takes place over the weekend of 13th and 14th June in Peel Park, is the beginning of a year of activity to mark 21 years of Melas across the UK. It's hoped that Tim's pictures will stimulate people's memories of Bradford Mela which they are being invited to share in a recording booth set up within the exhibition marquee. Together with Tim's photographs and other material these interviews will be used to compile a book celebrating the anniversary and published later in 2009.

This is one of numerous exhibitions that Tim Smith has produced to reflect the experiences of many different communities who have made Yorkshire their home. As well as working with the Asian communities in the UK he has also travelled extensively in India and Pakistan.

For Tim, Bradford Mela has some very special memories: "Looking through thousands of pictures has brought back many magical moments for me. I hope the exhibition does the same for others and prompts them to share their memories as part of this important project to document the history of the Mela since 1988, when it was first held in the UK."

Family at the Mela © Tim Smith

Mela: It's a family affair! © Tim Smith

Prompted by a desire to celebrate Bradford's cultural heritage in general and its Asian communities in particular, Tim's also adamant that the city should be proud of its achievements: "It has provided the inspiration for so many other places to celebrate in a similar way. It's been fascinating to see how a relatively small and totally unique event has evolved, mirroring the development of British Asian culture as a whole. It's moved from the margins to the mainstream.”

Fabric Director Gideon Seymour adds: "This is a great opportunity to show the work of one of Bradford's leading photographers and demonstrates how photography uniquely captures moments in time."

last updated: 15/06/2009 at 11:23
created: 11/06/2009

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