South Asian Arts and Indian Culture Festival
The Leicester Mela now in its 35th year, has in that time expanded into a cultural extravaganza of dance, music, poetry, culture and food of the Indian subcontinent.
Over the years I have enjoyed a wide range of activities that take place all around the city center, however even when pressed for time, as I was this year, the one event I won’t miss is the South Asian Market.
Sunday turned out to be rather dull looking with grey clouds throughout the day, so what I needed was some colour in my life, and there is no better place to find that than at the festival. Leicester Market, normally closed on Sunday was transformed into a colourful multicultural hive of activity with stalls offering a vast range of exotic hot foods as well as having an eclectic mix of goods and services on offer. From freshly crushed sugar cane drinks to henna artists ready to decorate your hands, there really was something for everyone to enjoy.
Knowing how crowded it can get I kept my kit to the very minimum of one camera body and my standby 24-70mm lens, but dispensed with the camera bag as its far to cumbersome in a crush. I arrived in the early afternoon and the place was already heaving with a mass of people moving between the stalls so all you can do is dive into the throng and be carried along by it. Having set a reasonably high ISO of 800, as the market is not the brightest of locations, would allow me to capture the action but still get a sense of movement in the pictures especially when you are constantly jostled by passers by, so realistically its a case of taking lots of grab shots and hoping for the best.
I do battle with myself at such an event over which will come first, food or photography, so I decided to do both simultaneously, its something of an acquired skill to shoot with a heavy SLR in one hand while balancing a plate of samosas and onion bhaji’s in the other, thank goodness for auto focus! What was in my favor was everyone’s friendliness and the general willingness of people to be photographed, even when I had to resort to clambering up onto a stall at times to get a better composition. Getting in close with a wide angle lens so your subject knows that they are in your picture, a big smile on your face, and lots of thank you’s works wonders.
Don’t expect to see any masterpieces in the images but hopefully they give a flavor and and impression of just one part of the festival.