Celebrate the festival of light: Diwali events in Leicester
- Rowena McIntosh
- 6 October 2017
Light switch-ons, performances, feasts, exhibitions and kids activities in honour of Diwali this October
Diwali celebrations in Leicester have been running since the 60s and are famously some of the biggest outside India. Festivities kick off with the Diwali Lights Switch-On (8 Oct), followed by a week and a half of cultural events including performances, feasts, exhibitions and kids activities before the explosion of light and colour that is Diwali Day (19 Oct).
The Diwali Lights Switch-On takes place on Belgrave Road, where 6,000 lights illuminate the city. The event features traditional music, a fireworks display and a dance programme including three performances created by Curve. The popular Diwali Village returns to Cossington Street Recreation Ground with children's fun-fair rides, entertainment and a wide range of stalls, including food. Visit the LimeKiln Lock stall to make your own boat, that will be used to Light Up Limekiln Lock on Diwali Day.
Events for kids include Diwali Family Day (14 Oct) at the Curve Theatre, where there are activities for the whole family including workshops, backstage tours, live music, dance, storytelling, Diwali crafts and performances. Younger ones will also enjoy the thrills of the Diwali Wheel of Light, a 110-foot Ferris wheel offering a bird's eye view of all the lights. It's open until Bonfire Night so there's plenty of time to have a go, with extended opening hours for the two main celebrations. Or head to the Diwali Mela Bazaar (14 Oct) at Humberstone Gate to shop for Indian sweets, Asian fashion, jewellery and arts and crafts. You can also enjoy live stage entertainment from Sabras Roadshow and tuck into delicious south Asian cuisines from across the subcontinent.
The celebrations also include a number of theatrical performances. On Diwali Lights Switch-On day (8 Oct), Metro-Boulot-Dodo and Nupur Arts perform The Story of Light a contemporary rendition of the ancient Ramayana, the magical story of light over darkness, using a blend of storytelling, choreographed movement and immersive animation. On 14 Oct there is a performance of The Magic Fish at The Curve. Currently touring the UK, it is a classic Indian tale retold through dance, storytelling and beatboxing. Also at The Curve that day is a performance of Ramayana, an Indian tale of abducted princesses, monkey gods and noble princes for ages 5+. Afterwards you can join in with some finger puppet making, so you can create your own Diwali stories at home.
If you are interested in learning more about the rich tradition of Diwali in the city, the New Walk Museum and Art Gallery is running an exhibition called 6,000 Lights: The Story of Diwali in Leicester. Local people have shared their memories and photographs to create a unique record of how Leicester's Festival of Lights has been celebrated through the decades. Also at the New Walk Museum until 29 Oct is Splendours of the Subcontinent: A Prince's Tour of India 1875–76. This exhibition showcases some of the finest Indian treasures from the Royal Collection that tell the story of the grand tour of the subcontinent made by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) at the end of the 19th century. It includes watercolours, photographs and 74 exquisite works of art that were presented to the Prince as part of the traditional exchange of gifts.
The two weeks of celebrations culminate in Diwali Day, a night of music, Bollywood dancing and fireworks that brings tens of thousands of people out onto the streets of Leicester. The Diwali Day Village opens at 3pm with entertainment, children's funfair, craft stalls and food courtesy of Indian restaurants.