In this city of some 140,000 inhabitants located north of Liverpool and Manchester, the “Preston City Mela” puts South Asian culture in the spotlight every year for a day.
And this year, in addition to celebrating its 25th anniversary, the festival also celebrates the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.
“Of course, we live in this country and we love our queen, but it’s good, for once, to have our culture and those of the whole Commonwealth in the spotlight”, enthuses Hanifa, a resident of Indonesian-born Preston.
For the start of the Jubilee celebrations on Thursday, Hanifa watched the military parade on TV and was “moved” to see Queen Elizabeth on the Buckingham balcony with her family.
– Samosas and Ed Sheeran –
“But what makes the atmosphere particularly nice today is that there are lots of different influences and cultures,” says the 60-year-old, who came to enjoy the festivities with friends from the neighboring town of Blackburn.
“We incorporated the jubilee into the program to get as close as possible to a Commonwealth theme,” explains Gulab Singh, the organizer of the day, which expects several thousand people. “We have Chinese dancers, African musicians, it’s not just South Asian culture, we’ve expanded the theme to better reflect the Commonwealth perspective.”
The Commonwealth, of which the Queen is the head, is an organization of 54 member states including 15 kingdoms, often former territories of the British Empire.
Above all, smiles Shreya Ghodke, another organizer, “this year we have a ceremony to cut the cakes. That’s really very British!”
Sitting in the sun, Amit Chauhan, 58, eats vegetable samosas while shaking his head in time to the music. On stage, a dancer sways her hips in a sari to “Shape of You”, the hit by British singer Ed Sheeran, here remixed with Indian influences.
“I think it’s good that the Preston Mela is taking place this year during the jubilee. Since Thursday, we’ve seen a lot of so British festivities but not a lot of things that put British immigration in the spotlight,” says- he to AFP.
“My parents arrived in the North West of England in the 1960s, they worked in the textile factories of the region, like many other Indian or Pakistani migrants at the time”, he says. .
A former prosperous industrial city thanks in particular to the cotton industry, Preston saw the arrival at the end of the 1950s of many people from India and Pakistan in particular, who went to work in textile factories in a region then in short supply of labor. ‘work.
“Honestly, the queen and the monarchy, I don’t really care, I think it’s much ado about nothing… But I’m British, you have to deal with it,” said Mr Chauhan, smiling.
While some 60% of Britons want to keep the monarchy, only 37% of ethnic minority Britons support it in its current state, according to research published last month by the organization British Future.
Laila, 16, did not participate in the Jubilee celebrations at all. “It allowed us to have a long weekend. But for us, it’s above all an opportunity to meet up with friends,” says the teenager, who decided to defy the parental ban to make a henna tattoo.
“Thank you to the queen,” she says, proudly showing her tattooed hand.