A huge South Asian festival celebrating Sikh culture and faith will be held on the grounds of Walsall’s Bescot Stadium at the end of the month. ‘United Colours’ has been organized by the Sikh charity Global Sikh Union in association with Birmingham 2022 and will take place from 28-29 May.

The South Asian Culture Festival will feature over 400 musicians and will also host the Commonwealth Games Community Tour. A number of sports will be available for people to try, including a mobile squash court.

Along with sports and music, the two-day festival is an opportunity to celebrate Sikh history. Global Sikh Vision’s Chief Operating Officer, Ashveen Kaur Kohli, spoke about the historical elements attendees can expect at the end of the month.

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“The main thing we want to bring to the events is that we have a historical display. We will have an exhibition on the Sikh Empire and an art gallery.

“It’s about coming in and embracing history. Learn different things including different rulings of India and conjure up a timeline of history.

Walsall FC Bescot Stadium

“Let’s not be afraid and scared of history. Let’s see the whole timeline of what it was, engage and be proud of the story.

“Birmingham 2022 has been amazing and heavily involved in this event. ‘United Colours’ is an event for community cohesion and for the whole South Asian community – but we recognize that it is Global Sikh Vision, a Sikh charity organization.

“We have had back and forth meetings every week for the past two months. They have been amazing and we are grateful to have them join us.

The involvement with the Sikh community comes after Birmingham 2022 was criticized by Sikh religious leaders last month. Cllr Gurdial Singh Atwal had said: “Since the arrival of the Games, we have had little or no contact with the Games Organizing Committee, we are literally absent from the cultural program of the Games, as are other communities in the South. Asians like the Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities.”

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street met with both the Sikh community and Birmingham 2022 on April 28 to address diversity concerns that have been raised. Mr Street tweeted: “It was great to hear the clear commitment from Games organizers to take practical steps over the next 90 days that will make a real difference to communities.”

The upcoming festival will feature Birmingham 2022 hometown hero and wrestling coach Ranjit Singh giving a talk on Sikh communities’ links to wrestling with Games mascot Perry the Bull also in attendance. All of the day’s fundraising will go to the British Heart Foundation with funds used for lifesaving treatments as well as raising awareness in the South Asian community.

Ashleigh Mills, Head of Fundraising for the British Heart Foundation, said: “We are delighted to have been selected as the charity for this upcoming event. Heart and circulatory diseases are prevalent in South Asian communities, so we really want to do everything we can to help raise awareness and support attendees.

“We would love to do more and this is the first time in a few years that we have been asked to be included. This is something we really want to do more to help educate the community.

“There are so many things to do here. I feel like this is just the beginning.”

Birmingham 2022 has been working with Global Sikh Vision and Walsall Football Club for several months on the festival to ensure the event runs smoothly. Abigail Shervington, senior community engagement manager at Birmingham 2022, sees United Colours as a chance for people to get involved with the Commonwealth Games if they can’t attend the event this summer.

“We understand that many of the communities we engage with will not be ticket holders. This type of event is important to us so that local people can experience something of the Games, whether through our roadshow or cultural programs,” she said.

“The event will be heavily influenced by Sikh culture, it’s an inclusive model that celebrates their culture but it’s really for everyone.”

Adam Brearley, Commercial and Retail Director of Walsall FC, has spoken of the impact ‘United Colours’ will have on the West Midlands club. With Walsall in Ligue 2, events like these are a welcome boost

“It generates and provides income to the football club. We are not aware of TV deals and sponsorship given to Premier League and Championship clubs,” he said.

“The hard work we have done behind the scenes is really important to the soul of football clubs like ours. so that’s great from my point of view.

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