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Leicester's big Diwali bash

October 09, 2003 17:10 IST

The city of Leicester, north of London, is preparing to receive tens of thousands of revellers as preparations get underway for what has been billed as the biggest Diwali celebration outside India.

Leicester is expected to become the first Indian majority city in the UK within the next decade and a half. It is currently home to thousands of Kenyan and Ugandan Indian families who fled Africa and resettled in Britain.

Some 30,000 visitors are expected in Leicester this Sunday when celebration lights are switched on and another 70,000 are expected to pass through the city over the week.

City councillors have confirmed that roads will be closed and diversions enforced in preparation for what they say are festivities celebrating the triumph of light over darkness.

Leader of Leicester City Council Roger Blackmore said, "Diwali celebrations in Leicester are renowned throughout the world. I am confident that the celebrations this year will prove as enjoyable and popular as ever."

Indian Lord Mayor of Leicester Councillor Ramnik Kavia said, "Diwali is an auspicious occasion for all Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and all the citizens of Leicester."

City police have warned anyone seen setting off fireworks in public could be prosecuted. Motorists have also been urged to use caution when parking or else to leave their cars at home.

Police commander Inspector Julia McKechnie said, "The event is intended to be a celebration and our main aim is to ensure that people attending the event have a night to remember for all the right reasons.

"I would ask those planning to come to the event to consider others and to park sensibly or, if possible, leave their vehicles at home and not to bring fireworks with them or set them off in public places."

Celebrations are due to formally start at 1800 GMT, Sunday, and Councillor Kavia will switch on the Diwali lights at 1930 GMT. A fireworks display is due to start at a recreation ground in Leicester city centre at 2000 GMT.

Shyam Bhatia in London