LEICESTER’s Golden Mile will be lit up by 6,000 sparkling lamps from Sunday 29 October, when the city holds its annual Diwali lights switch-on event.
This year will be the 40th anniversary of the switch-on, which started as a small neighbourhood celebration and now attracts people from all over the country and the world.
The first switch-on ceremony was held in 1983 when the lights, stretching from Dorset Street to Loughborough Road, were switched on by the community’s oldest resident.
This year’s event is expected to attract crowds of more than 30,000 people and will include a Diwali village on Cossington Street recreation ground, as well entertainment on stage on Belgrave Road.
The Wheel of Light – an illuminated big wheel that offers riders a birds-eye view of the city – will also return to Belgrave Road from Friday 13 October to Sunday 12 November.
Deputy city mayor for culture Cllr Adam Clarke said: “What was once a small community gathering has become one of the highlights of Leicester’s festival calendar, and I’m proud that our Diwali celebrations bring together people of all ages and all faiths, from all over the country, and from other parts of the world.
“If you haven’t joined us before for the festival of light, we look forward to welcoming you to the Golden Mile and to Leicester this year.”
This year’s event is once again being supported by the University of Leicester. Professor Nishan Canagarajah, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University said: “The University of Leicester was founded by the local community and is a part of the community – that is why our participation in this wonderful showcase event is so important. It literally shines a light to the world about the multi-cultural wonder of Leicester – Britain’s foremost superdiverse city. Our support speaks to our pride in Leicester, our commitment to community harmony and our mission to create a better future for all.
“I congratulate everyone involved for reaching this milestone 40th anniversary – it really is a spectacular achievement.”
The celebrations will begin at 3pm on Sunday 29 October with the opening of the Diwali Village on Cossington Street recreation ground. Open until 9pm, the Diwali Village will include children’s funfair rides and food stalls.
Visitors will be able to pop-in to Belgrave Neighbourhood Centre from 4pm to see the annual Rangoli exhibition, with its mixture of modern and traditional Rangoli styles. The stage programme on Belgrave Road will begin at 5.30pm and will include a programme of music and dance presented by the city council and Leicester Hindu Festival Council.
The switch-on of 6,000 colourful lights at 7.30pm will be followed by a spectacular firework display – best viewed from Belgrave Road.
Diwali Day will be celebrated on Belgrave Road on Sunday 12 November. Local arts organisation Inspirate will be providing new and exciting elements for this year’s event, including two stages for DJs and musicians, a lantern procession and walkabout theatre production consisting of two giant puppets, musicians and dancers.
More information on both events and the Wheel of Light is on the Visit Leicester website.
Photo shows the lights on Leicester's Belgrave Road in 1983.