Leicester, a city in the east Midlands that openly told thousands of Indians expelled by Idi Amin’s regime in Uganda in the early 1970s not to move there, has successfully integrated them over the years and is now hiking the annual budget for Diwali celebrations to over £100,000.
Considered a poster town for multiculturalism in Britain and Europe, the city has one of the largest concentrations of people of Indian – mostly Gujarati – origin. Twinned with Rajkot, it claims to offer the best of Indian cuisine and is home to several Indian banks and other links with India.
Leicester City Council funds annual Diwali celebrations that are reputed to be the largest outside India. The Diwali funding has almost touched one-third of its total budget of £384,500 for cultural events as the festival increases in popularity across faith groups.
The council has now proposed to raise the Diwali budget from £88,000 to £108,000. The plans include dropping £20,000 in funding for Navratri celebrations because it is “religious in nature and primarily for one faith group”.
In 1972, the council had advised thousands of Indians facing expulsion from Uganda, in a newspaper advertisement, that it is “in your own interests and those of your family...(to) not come to Leicester”.
The new funding proposals are part of a review of funding for cultural events.
Assistant mayor Piara Singh Clair said: “Leicester’s packed calendar of events make a huge contribution to life in the city, bringing communities together and helping to make the city an attractive destination for visitors.”
He added: “This review gives us an opportunity to look again at the events that we support, helping to ensure that we continue to fund festivals that appeal to as many people as possible, that allow the cultural life of the city’s diverse communities to flourish, and that help boost the local economy.”
More than 27,000 Ugandan Indians had fled in the 1972 resettlement, leaving behind all their possessions, and with only the £50 in hand.