Leicester: It is said that no place outside
India can hold a candle to the dazzling show that this multi-
cultural city in Britain`s East Midlands puts up during Diwali
- and this year was no exception.
The spectacular fireworks show yesterday at the
Cossington Park and the kaleidoscopic colours of Diwali along
Belgrave Road were symbolic of the distance this town has
travelled since the early 1970s when Indians expelled from Idi
Amin`s Uganda migrated here, but were openly unwelcome.
Leicester presents a poignant `then and now` picture, and
Diwali celebrations are symbolic of how the community has
prospered and integrated over the years.
Local residents insist the town hosts the largest Diwali
celebrations outside India.
In 1972, the Leicester City Council, worried that "the
entire fabric of our city is at risk" from immigrants, paid
for a tersely worded advertisement in a Ugandan daily, warning
potential immigrants: "In your own interests and those of your
family you should not come to Leicester."
Cut to 2011 and the picture could not be more different.
The same council now celebrates diversity and exerts to
make the once-unwelcome immigrants feel at home.
It funds and organises many events, including the annual
`switching on` ceremony of Diwali lights.
As traffic was closed on Belgrave Road yesterday evening,
Indian flags were waved amidst bright Diwali lights as
thousands of people of Indian origin and others as well sang and danced to latest Bollywood numbers, and relished the
delights of Indian cuisine as a statue of Mahatma Gandhi
looked on benignly.
Indeed, the town is now often held up as an ideal of
multiculturalism not only in Britain but across Europe.
And much of the credit of the town`s prosperity goes to
the influx of those immigrants from Uganda in the early 1970s.
Savyasaachi Jain, a researcher at the University of
Westminster in London, was among those travelled with their
families to Leicester to witness the Diwali festivities.
Outstation visitors to this year`s Diwali events included
visitors from Australia, organisers said.
"I am told it is getting bigger and better every year,
but what I saw was very impressive. White people, black
people, Chinese people, everyone - joined the gathering and it
was great to see them all enjoying the spirit of Diwali," Jain said.
Councillor Piara Clair, chair of the city council`s
Diwali working party, said he was "delighted" that people can
share the Diwali day celebrations "with people from far and
wide as well as with many different communities right across