‘People meeting people’: London Multicultural Festival returns on Sunday

On June 12, 2022, Londoners can head to the Covent Garden Market for the return of the London Multicultural Festival, presented by the London Multicultural Community Association. Kate Otterbein / Global News

After a two-year hiatus, the London Multicultural Festival returns to the Covent Garden Market in London, Ont., on Sunday.

“The core of the festival is the ethnic displays of local communities,” said Jack Malkin, president of the London Multicultural Community Association.

Read more: TD Sunfest returns to in-person event in London, Ont.

Londoners will be able to experience various performances by local artists, engage in cultural dances, and take in displays set up by vendors at the market, all in celebrating and “enjoying the diversity in London.”

“And what’s an event without food?” Malkin said. “We have 10 different cuisines so it’s all about the combination of food, displays and performances and we also have activities for children.”

Partnering with the London Children’s Museum, the festival will hold a booth called “The Science of Sound Programming,” where children will be able to experiment with tuning forks, a resonance bowl, and other culturally inclusive instruments.

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Mira Noordermeer, marketing and communications coordinator for the London Children’s Museum, stressed the importance of having accessible activities and exhibits available to all children and families.

“When we say accessible, we mean culturally, physically and financially,” Noordermeer said. “This program is designed to be open-ended so children can bring their own identities and experiences to that and also allow themselves to explore that in new ways with other families.”

Malkin said that not being able to hold the annual festival for the past two years was difficult, to say the least.

“London has become very diversified, much more than what it was 10 or 20 years ago,” Malkin said. “The local ethnic communities that are so proud of their culture and heritage, they’re so happy about every opportunity that they have to showcase it and talk to people from the broader community and share experiences and stories.

“It was difficult not to do it for two years,” Malkin said. “People have been waiting for this and all the energy is bursting out.”

Despite the anticipation for the long-waited festival’s return, Malkin said that they were under an abbreviated time frame in preparing for this year’s event.

“In a normal year, we start planning for the June event in January. But this year, believe it or not, we started to plan at the end of March,” Malkin said.

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“But the community and the volunteers stepped up to the plate willing to do it, and we are in very good shape now.”

Amy Shackleton, assistant general manager and event and marketing manager for the Covent Garden Market, said “it feels great to finally be able to do these types of things again and celebrate diversity here in our community.”

Click to play video: 'London, Ont., marks 1 year since attack on Muslim family'
London, Ont., marks 1 year since attack on Muslim family

Earlier this week, the London community honoured the Afzaal family and the anniversary of their death in what authorities have called a hate-motivated attack.

On June 6, 2021, the Afzaal family was out for a walk when they were struck by a man in a pickup truck on the corner of Hyde Park Road and South Carriage Road.

Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Afzaal and Salman’s 74-year-old mother Talat Afzaal were killed. The couple’s nine-year-old son sustained serious but non-life-threatening injuries and survived the attack.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the attack “an act of hatred and terror” as police said the family was targeted because of their Muslim faith.

Nathaniel Veltman, 20, is accused of deliberately hitting the family with his pickup truck. He is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder in what prosecutors say was an act of terrorism.

Marking the anniversary of the attack last Monday, various events including a prayer service and public vigil was organized for the London community to honour the Afzaal family.

“This was here in our home, and it was brutal,” said Shaikh Aarij Anwer, director of religious affairs for the London Muslim Mosque. “We were faced with this reality in a very difficult way.”

Shackleton expressed the importance of showcasing and celebrating the various cultures and communities and people who have chosen to call London their home.

“It is important to celebrate different cultures, different foods, ethnicities, and just show that everybody can come together all in one space,” Shackleton said.

Malkin hopes to see just that at the London Multicultural Festival on Sunday.

“It’s all about people meeting people and sharing experiences,” Malkin said.

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