Holi smoke! New landmark event in Corfe Castle’s history

For the first time, an official Hindu celebration has been held at a National Trust property, and the festival at Corfe Castle in Dorset was a joy-filled success despite the unpredictable spring weather.

The Holi festival of spring took place on Saturday 23rd March 2024, with around 2,500 people passing through the castle gatehouse into the outer bailey which was transformed by Indian flowers, decorated marquees and colourful sights.

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Crowds arrive for the Holi celebration in the picturesque grounds of Corfe Castle

Fully embraced a different culture

On a day which saw up to an inch of hail fall in parts of Dorset, Corfe Castle enjoyed long spells of bright sunshine and just a few sharp showers.

And once the festival was officially opened by the release of purple and yellow smoke canisters, a large crowd of all denominations threw themselves into the celebrations and fully embraced a different culture.

Holi, the Hindu festival of colours, love and spring, was organised by the Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch (BPC) Indian community together with the National Trust for perhaps the most riotous celebration the castle has seen in its 950 year history.

While Holi events are held in the UK, they tend to be private events for Hindu communities in large cities, not open inclusive festivals, and none have previously been held at a National Trust property.

Embracing a different culture at the 950 year old castle

A welcome to the festival from BPC Indian Association founders Anjali Mavi and Poonam Paranjpe

A group of friends share the love at Rang Barse Colours over Corfe Castle

“A colourful and joyful occasion”

Organiser Anjali Mavi, co-founder of the BPC Indian Community Association said:

“We have had such a great response to this inclusive festival, ITV and the BBC both wanted to film here today and we were absolutely delighted that more than 2,500 people of all faiths and cultures wanted to share this joyful day.

“We would so like to thank the National Trust for all their help – it would have been impossible without them.

“We started planning this journey two years ago when we were hoping to hold Diwali here, but Diwali is held in winter and we thought it would be nicer to hold a springtime event. Holi, which falls in March, is such a colourful and joyful occasion it seemed perfect.

The National Trust and BPC Indian Community worked together to create the ground breaking event

Event organisers and VIPs at the official opening in front of the castle

“We have all created history”

Anjali added:

“We have previously held Bollywood on the Beach at Studland together with the National Trust, which was such a success that it gave us a wonderful feeling about our joint plans for this Holi festival.

“Together, we have all created history, it is the first time ever any Indian cultural event has been held here at Corfe Castle and it is wonderful to feel the love here.”

Corfe Castle parish council chair Steve Clarke (right) was one of the guests of honour

Face decorations proved popular with the crowds

“A real first for Corfe”

Chair of Corfe Castle parish council Steve Clarke, one of the guests of honour, said:

“I would like to extend the warmest of welcomes to everyone here today, the BCP Indian Association and especially to the National Trust who have made all of this possible.

“This is a real first for Corfe, to open the castle to such a wonderful and colourful event.

“I didn’t know a lot about the Holi festival before I was invited, but I have discovered that it is about the coming of spring, the triumph of good over evil and about peace and love, and if we can bring about that then perhaps we should hold it every week!”

Setting up the sound system and dance arena before the start of the festival

Indian street food stalls proved popular

Indian music and Bollywood dancing

Decorated stalls selling Indian jewellery, clothing, henna painting, face decorations and traditional street foods soon built up large queues, while Indian music and Bollywood dancing got everyone on their feet.

The Flavours project team from Dorset Food and Drink in conjunction with the Dorset Race Equality Council also had a presence at the festival to show how they were bringing the county’s ethnic minorities and refugees together through food, drink, walks and storytelling.

Free packets of non allergenic, biodegradable paint powders were given away to festival goers

And everyone was keen to join in with the celebration…

… some a little too much!

Flavours of Dorset project

A member of the Flavours team attending the Holi festival, Ukrainian Anastasia Pikalova, who has helped to send 120 tons of aid to Kyiv, Kharkiv and Irpen since the Russian invasion of her country, said:

“Almost 2,000 Ukrainians have found a temporary shelter in the UK and we are infinitely grateful to the British people for opening their homes, and hearts and treating them us great care and support.

“Now, through Flavours, we are hoping to bring together people of refugee backgrounds and ethnic minorities to explore the beautiful landscapes of Dorset and become closer to the local community.

“Through walks, picnics, shared meals and storytelling we can all come together to celebrate the joy of landscape and food together, and share a passion for nature, friendship and delicious food!”

BBC and ITV presenters were among those filming at the festival

Social media photo opportunities were taken up by hundreds

Everyone is equal

The highlight of the day for many was the colour burst event which has become synonymous with Holi.

Non allergenic and biodegradable powder paints were provided by the Indian association for guests to share the Holi practice of throwing colours at each other to celebrate the idea that despite outward appearances, everyone is equal.

The sight of people walking through the village of Corfe Castle covered in red, green, purple and yellow became so common by the end of the day that no one was remarking on it any longer.

Organisers said a little prayer before the event and were rewarded with bright sunshine

Waiting for the festival to get under way

“We always say a little prayer”

Anjali Mavi said:

“Before every festival, we always say a little prayer to ask that everything goes smoothly for the whole event and I think that it was heard, especially by the sky god!

“We saw the sun for most of the day and everyone seemed to have a wonderful time – we were so pleased by the way it turned out!”

Further information

  • Plenty of other events are planned at Corfe Castle for Easter and beyond

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