Thousands watch Diwali Lights switch on event
Around 30,000 people packed onto Leicester’s Golden Mile last night to watch the switch on ceremony for the city’s Diwali lights.
A colourful programme of live stage performances, dancers, drummers and medleys from Bollywood musicals entertained visitors from 5.30pm, while a stone’s throw away the 110-foot Wheel of Light offered breathtaking panoramic views over the city.
The lights were officially switched on by 14-year-old Jodheen Kaur Rai, who won the chance to turn on the illuminations in a competition run through local Hindu, Sikh and Jain places of worship, in which entrants wrote 200 words on how Diwali had inspired their actions.
Local author Bali Rai chose the winning entry.
Following a firework display over the Golden Mile, Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri took to the stage, accompanied by Filbert Fox and the Premiership Trophy, to the delight of the audience.
Festivities carried on at nearby Cossington Street Recreation Ground, which this year has been transformed into a Diwali Village, featuring two breath-taking new displays - an interactive light installation called Ocean of Light, and a rangoli-themed dance performance called Colours of Radiance, along with children’s funfair rides and stalls serving traditional Indian food.
Leicester assistant city mayor for culture, leisure and sport, Cllr Piara Singh Clair, said: “It was a fantastic evening, and I’m delighted that it went so well. The switch on is always eagerly-anticipated, and having Claudio Ranieri as a surprise guest at the event was the icing on the cake.
“The Golden Mile looks at its very best during Diwali, and it was wonderful that so many thousands of people turned out for the stage show, fireworks display and the Diwali Village which made its debut this year.”
For those who missed out on yesterday’s celebrations, the Ocean of Light installation and Diwali Village funfair will remain at Cossington Street Recreation Ground on Monday, October 17.
Nearby at Belgrave Neighbourhood Centre, the Mela Rangoli Exhibition will also run 9.30am to 7pm on Monday. The Wheel of Light will remain in operation on Belgrave Road until Sunday, November 6.
The two-week programme of Diwali festivities will also see scores of small and large events at venues across the city, some to tie in with the schools’ half-term holidays.
From October 17 to 30, New Walk Museum is running a Diwali Colour Trail for young visitors to explore light and colour through the museum’s objects, while on Tuesday, October 18, a Diwali community day will offer visitors a guided tour of the 6,000 Lights – The Story of Diwali in Leicester exhibition.
Belgrave Neighbourhood Centre will host exciting Diwali-themed art and drama events from 1pm to 4pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday this week, while on Tuesday and Thursday, it will host Mela Family Rangoli workshops from 10am to 1pm. Also on Friday it will host a Rangoli making workshop, running from 2pm to 4pm.
Newarke Houses Museum will host a day of Indian dancing, silk painting and crafts activities on Tuesday, October 18, from 11am to 3.30pm.
A montage of Diwali images will be projected onto the windows of Soft Touch Arts in New Walk throughout this week and from Monday to Thursday next week.
Throughout the two weeks, libraries and community centres across the city will host a series of Lottery-funded Diwali storytelling events, where visitors can create puppets to help bring tales to life. The first takes place on Tuesday, October 18, at Rushey Mead Library from 2-3.30pm.
Belgrave Library will also host a Diwali storytelling event on Friday, October 21, from 4.30pm to 5.30pm.
Other attractions taking place later in the two-week festival include a Diwali Mela Bazaar, Diwali family day at Curve, Amit and Sumit Kumar at De Montfort Hall and the Diwali Day celebrations on the Golden Mile on Sunday, October 30.
Full details about all events are available at www.visitleicester.info/diwali
Information is also available online at: http://publications.leicester.gov.uk/diwaliguide2016/
The Diwali 2016 guide is also widely available from the Visit Leicester centre in Gallowtree Gate, as well as customer service centres, libraries, shops and cafes.