London: A record crowd of an estimated 9,000 British Goans attended the annual British Goan Festival in Hounslow, the organisers said. Two British MPs, Keith Vaz and John McDonnell, were among the VIPs at the event organised by The Goan Association (UK).
Keith Vaz, of Goan origin, with his family put in a brief appearance. Among the celebrities was Miss India 1966 Rita Faria Powell with her husband.
The Goan Voice UK reported: "In ideal weather conditions, an estimated crowd of over 9,000 turned up for this mega event which probably witnessed the largest ever turnout of Goans outside Goa. There was also a full capacity turnout for the British Goans Oral History Project."
Labour MP John McDonnell visited the Save Goa Campaign stall organised by Carmen Miranda, a Goan-origin British resident, to highlight the environmental destruction due to illegal mining in Goa.
McDonnell tabled a motion in the House of Commons to raise this issue and asked the British government to bring pressure on the Goa government to save its natural resources. There has been some opposition from an MP in Goa who calls this "interfering in the country`s affairs". McDonnell feels environmental damage is a global problem.
A few days earlier, July 18, the issue of illegal mining in Goa reverberated in the British parliament after being raised by John McDonnell, the MP for Hayes and Harlington, who married Cynthia nee Pinto, ex-Nairobi, in 1995.
There is a substantial population of Goan origin living in Britain, nominally represented by Keith Vaz.
Carmen Miranda said she expects the issue to be consistently highlighted in the British parliament.
The event began with an open air Holy Mass at the Cranford grounds stage with hundreds of faithful attending.
The Mass was conducted by three priests, the main celebrant being Fr. Francis of the Pilar Society with guest priest Fr. Remmy, also from the Pilar Society, who had come all the way from Goa.
Goans from far and wide in Britain had come there to enjoy and feel the touch of Goa with traditional food, songs and games for children.
The food stalls were the main attraction, with delicious Goan food sizzling in every stall as the rich and mouth-watering aroma wafting in the air attracted hundreds.
Many Goan singers and comedians regaled the crowds in Konkani. The visiting tiatrists from Goa with Sammy Tavares were a big attraction.
Lawrie Travasso sang with his melodious voice while Aniceto sang a song of late Alfred Rose and Sammy also performed capturing the hearts of everyone who gathered to hear that song.
Eddie Fernandes, editor of Goan Voice UK; Selma Carvalho, who presented a documentary of the story of East African Goans who migrated to Britain; and historian Cliff Pereira, who conducted a discussion on this subject, also attended.