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Panni Poh Yoke Loh


The beginnings of the Abbeyfield Multicultural Festival, 1999

Colour photograph of a Chinese lion dancer at Abbeyfield Park Community Festival.
Chinese lion dance at Abbeyfield Multicultural Festival, 2002. © Panni Poh Yoke Loh

I was living on Abbeyfield Road in 1989 with my daughters, aged two and four years old, when a carnival procession came down our street. We rushed out into our front garden to watch. It was very exciting as Caribbean women wearing tall head dresses danced just feet away from us as they progressed down our street!

Some years later I became aware that, for many years, there were hardly any public or community events going on in the area. Being of Chinese heritage and newly working at Green City Action in Abbeyfield Park, I decided to put on a Chinese Lion dance in February 1999 to reawaken the area. About 200 hundred people came even though it was a cold day. This meant a great deal to me. It was a moving and very personal experience but it also made me think about the dozens of different cultures, ethnic groups and languages spoken here in Burngreave. I realised that there must be a possibility of having a much bigger celebration that involved as many other people as possible. Inspiration dawned as I began to have a vision of a festival where people from many different backgrounds celebrated their cultures on that same earth.

It was after much hard work that in July 1999 the Abbeyfield Park Multicultural Festival was founded.

Written by Panni Poh Yoke Loh, June 2006.