Friday, 20 September 2002

UNISON Mela sponsorship celebrates diversity and all that's best in Scotland

The late Hamish Henderson's celebrated anthem to freedom, peace and friendship - 'Freedom Cam A' Ye' - brought the house down at the UNISON sponsored 'The Roses Turn to Bloom" concert at the Edinburgh Mela last week.

A new arrangement by Colin Blakey tugged at the heart strings as verses were sung by Sheena Wellington and Bani Battacharya individually and as a duet, and by the full choir (Sangeet Mala).

The orchestra of pipes, horn section, guitar, keyboard, percussion, dhol, repenique, surdu, tambourim, timba and much more produced a stirring blend of Asian, Scottish and Caribbean flavours, building to a crescendo of sound and rhythm before finishing movingly with the voices of Sheena and Bani Battacharya.

The audience wouldn't let them away with one rendition and they let their hair down dancing and clapping through the encore.

"The aim is to articulate in both musical and visual terms that this is truly and international anthem of Scotland, relevant to all the cultures that make up our increasingly wonderful diversity. It is celebration of Mela", said the programme notes - and they were right.

John Stevenson, Chair of its Scottish Communication and Campaigns Committee said: "This was an ideal opportunity to celebrate all that's best in Scotland - its commitment to equality, its diversity and the host of cultures that enrich it. There is no better way to challenge the narrow racism that poisons those ideals."

The Edinburgh branch has always supported the Mela through advertising but this year the General Political Fund put in the lion's share of funding, with contributions from UNISON Scotland and the Edinburgh City Branch as part of the 'Positively Public' campaign.

"Public services are about people. They should be responsive to people's needs, offer complete equality of access and recognise the rich diversity in the communities they serve.

"This can only be done by public investment in quality services delivered by a properly trained and properly rewarded public service team", added John.

It is hoped that a video of the concert will be ready in time for the National Black Members Conference in Glasgow this November.

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