THE demise of the Bradford Mela festival was bemoaned during a discussion on the creation of a new 10-year ‘Cultural Strategy’ for the district.

Councillor Rizwana Jamil (Lab, Bowling & Barkerend) spoke during a meeting of the Regeneration and Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee and said that a “disservice” had been done by not keeping the event going.

The Mela was set up in 1988 as a celebration of South Asian culture, and regularly attracted over 100,000 people.

Over the years the event has been held in Lister Park, Bowling Park and Peel Park, but after the 2012 Mela was cancelled due to heavy rainfall, the event was incorporated into the annual Bradford Festival.

In its early days, the Bradford Mela was the largest event of its type in Europe, and it fast became one of the highlights of the city’s calendar, but the full event has not been held for seven years.

Cllr Jamil highlighted how Bradford had pioneered the event and how it had attracted tens of thousands of people from all over the country.

She said that it was a “bit of a disservice” that it hadn't continued.

“The crowd was diverse. It was people from all over the district who were enjoying what the event had to offer,” she said.

Last year, Bradford Council revealed the Mela could make a return.

A ‘Make your Mela’ day was held in City Park, acting as both a pilot and consultation event to prepare for a possible return of full Mela this year, but it has yet to make a comeback.

Steve Hartley, Director of Place at Bradford Council, said the Mela had gone through a series of phases where it wasn’t delivering, but it would be a good thing to look at the principle of the event and how to achieve the diversity it had.

Councillor Ralph Berry (Lab, Wibsey) said he missed the Mela as it was “way back at the beginning”, but by the end it had become a trade fair which no longer had a community root.

He said in the early 1990s it was multicultural, with involvement from grassroots organisations and the voluntary sector.

While Councillor Riaz Ahmed (Lib Dem, Bradford Moor) said the event had been about community cohesion when it first began, but then became a money-making exercise.

In a reader vote in the Telegraph & Argus last year, 62 per cent of those who participated said they would like to see the return of the Mela.

Councillors were discussing the creation of a new 10-year cultural plan for the district, with the voice of young people, a district-wide approach and the need to engage with people to ask what ‘culture’ means to them being highlighted.

A brief for Cultural Strategy, tender says: “Bradford is a great northern city, home to enterprising and creative people with strong productive businesses.

“With a proud industrial and cultural heritage and a growing economy, Bradford has one of the youngest and most diverse populations in the UK.”

It adds: “The strategy will look at a wide definition of cultural development with a particular emphasis on the arts heritage and film. It will look at social, economic and place-based benefits of cultural development and seek to address the inequalities of access identified by recent research in the city.”