Culinary delights at Multi-National Food Tasting Festival

On Friday last, over 200 people gathered to sample culinary delights of cultures from around the world at a multi-national food tasting festival. This unique event was held in St Patrick’s Hall, Strabane, with people from 16 nationalities attending from across the District and beyond.

food festival

Dishes on the menu came from India, Poland, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Thailand, Hungary and Greece. A variety of cultural entertainment set the scene for the food tasting, with performances from Celtic Storm and local piper Andy Patton. The Blue Thistle Highland Dancers, the Barrett School of Irish Dancing, traditional Indian dancer Chandini Guram and Bollywood dancer Natasha Sharma also performed to an appreciative audience.

The evening aimed to promote racial harmony and good relations between local residents and those from other countries. The event was a joint initiative by the community relations department of Strabane District Council and Strabane Ethnic Community Association (SECA). The festival was opened by Strabane District Council chairman, Gerard Foley, and the chairman of SECA, Dr Narenda Babu. Dr Babu forwarded a special thanks to the SECA members who prepared the delicious food served.

Speaking after the festival, Bobby Rao, development officer for SECA, said: “It was one of the most successful events of our calendar year, well supported by the community groups and our members. I would like to thank the council, all the entertainers, the staff of St. Patrick’s Hall and the Department of Social Development for their support.”

Source: Strabane Weekly News

Multi-National Food Tasting Festival

An international food tasting festival is being held in Strabane this week.

This is the second year of the ‘Multi-national Food Tasting Festival’ which has been organised by Strabane District Council and Strabane Ethnic Community Association. It will be held on Friday, November 30, in St Patrick’s Hall, Strabane, at 7.30pm.

A range of culinary delights will be presented from cultures around the world with a variety of cultural entertainment. Participants will be able to taste food from Hungary, the Philippines, Greece, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Poland and India.

Councillor Gerard Foley, Chairman of Strabane District Council said “We are committed to building relationships with citizens from all cultural backgrounds across the District. This event is all about bringing people together through their common enjoyment of food and music. The evening will serve to promote racial harmony and good relations between local residents and those from other countries. We want to promote the benefits of racial diversity and show how it enriches our society.”

Urging local people to attend, the Chairman added: “Come along and tickle your tastebuds! Participants are certain to have a very enjoyable night with the added bonus of learning things about other cultures too!

Bobby Rao, Development Worker for Strabane Ethnic Community Association, added: “This is the second year of the International Food Festival. Last year’s event went really well and we want to build on this success.”

Entry is free and everyone is very welcome to come along and sample the many culinary delights on offer.

Further information can be obtained by contacting Elaine Watson or Karen Tracey in the Community Relations Department at the Council Offices, 47 Derry Road, Strabane, or by telephoning 028 71 382204.

Source: Strabane Chronicle

Pohela Baishakh

Poila Boishakh (Bengali: পহেলা বৈশাখ Pôhela Boishakh or পয়লা বৈশাখ Pôela Boishakh) is the first day of the Bangla Calendar. Poila Boishakh is celebrated in a festive manner in both Bangladesh and West Bengal, as well as by Bengali people in Tripura. Hence, Poila Boishakh connects all ethnic Bengalis irrespective of religious and regional differences. In Bangladesh, Poila Boishakh is a national holiday and in West Bengal it is a public holiday. It falls on April 14 or April 15 of the Gregorian calendar depending on the use of the new amended or the old Bangla calendar respectively. In Bangladesh, it is celebrated on April 14 according to the official amended calendar designed by the Bangla Academy.

Poila Boishakh is also known as Nôbobôrsho (নববর্ষ), or Bengali New Year, as it is the first day of the first month of Boishakh in the Bengali calendar. This day is a very festive time for Bengalis.

Source: Wikipedia

Hola Mohalla

Hola Mohalla or Hola Mahalla, is a Sikh festival that takes place on the first of the lunar month of Chet which usually falls in March. This festival marks new year as per lunar Nanakshahi calendar of Sikhs.

Hola is the masculine form of the feminine Holi. The word “Mohalla” is derived from the Arabic root hal (alighting, descending) and is a Punjabi word that implies an organized procession in the form of an army column. The Guru made Hola Mohalla an occasion for the Sikhs to demonstrate their martial skills in simulated battles because he thought that the hindu celebration was not suited for sikhs and made no sense.

Together the words “Hola Mohalla” stands for “mock fight”. During this festivals, procession are organised in the form of army type columns accompanied by war-drums and standard-bearers and proceeding to a given spot or moving in state from one gurdwara to another. The custom originated in the time of Guru Gobind Singh who held first such mock fight event at Anandpur in February 1701.

The foothills of the Shivaliks in Ropar district of Punjab‘s north-eastern region, especially around the historic townships of Anandpur Sahib and Kiratpur Sahib, have, since 1701 been playing host to Hola Mohalla. Recently, the Indian government accorded it the status of a national festival. The military exercise, which was personally supervised by the guru, was carried out on the bed of the River Charan Ganga.

This annual festival held at Anandpur Sahib in Punjab and now replicated at other Gurdwaras worldwide was started by the tenth Sikh Guru, as a gathering of Sikhs for military exercises and mock battles on the day following the festival of Holi at Anandpur Sahib. It reminds the people of valour and defence preparedness, concepts dear to the Tenth Guru who was at that time battling the Mughal empire and the Hindu hill kings.

On this three-day grand festival, mock battles, exhibitions, display of weapons, etc are held followed by kirtan, music and poetry competitions. The participants perform daring feats, such as Gatka (mock encounters with real weapons), tent pegging, bareback horse-riding, standing erect on two speeding horses and various other feats of bravery.

There are also a number of Darbars where Sri Guru Granth Sahib is present and kirtan and religious lectures take place. On the last day a long procession, led by Panj Pyaras, starts from Takhat Keshgarh Sahib, one of the five Sikh religious seats, and passes through various important Gurdwaras like Qila Anandgarh, Lohgarh Sahib, Mata Jitoji and terminates at the Takhat (Keshgarh).

For people visiting Anandpur Sahib, langars (voluntary community kitchens) are organized by the local people as a part of sewa (community service). Raw materials like wheat flour, rice, vegetables, milk and sugar are provided by the villagers living nearby. Women volunteer to cook and others take part in cleaning utensils and other manual tasks that need to be carried out. Traditional cuisine is served to the pilgrims who eat while sitting in rows on the ground. (Pangat)

Source: Wikipedia


Vaisakhi (Punjabi: ਵੈਸਾਖੀ, vaisākhī, also known as Baisakhi) is a long established harvest festival in Punjab that also has religious significance for both Sikhs[1] and Hindus.[2] It falls on the first day of the Vaisakh month in the solar Nanakshahi calendar, which corresponds to April 13 in the Gregorian calendar, except every thirty-sixth year when it falls on April 14.

Vaisakhi is one of the holiest days in Sikhism, commemorating Khalsa, i.e., the establishment of the religion in 1699; as such it also marks the Sikh New Year. It also is observed as the beginning of the new year by Hindus in West Bengal and some other regions of India.[2] The particular significance attached to the occasion shows regional variation. In Himachal Pradesh, Goddess Jwalamukhi is worshipped on Vaisakhi, while in Bihar, Sun-god Surya is honoured.[2] The festival is celebrated as Rongali Bihu in Assam, Naba Barsha in Bengal, Puthandu in Tamil Nadu, Vishu (or Vaishakhi) in Kerala, and the Sinhalese/Tamil new year festival in Sri Lanka. Besides Punjab, Vaisakhi is widely celebrated as a harvest festival in other northern states of India, such as Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal.

Source: Wikipedia

Mind Yer Tongue Breakfast Seminar

Business and community leaders in Strabane were amongst around 50 people who gathered last Thursday at a unique event aimed at raising the profile of the cultural and linguistic diversity of the Strabane and Lifford area.

Those at the breakfast seminar, held at the Fir Trees Hotel, were told to “Mind Yer Tongue” by learning some phrases in other languages.

Seven different nationalities were represented at the event, including those from Poland, Hungary, India, Phillipines, Ireland, Thailand and Sri Lanka.


The format of the event involved a host from a different nationality taking control of each table. Over the course of the breakfast, the participants were encouraged to ask questions about the other cultures, and to learn how to say commonly used phrases in their language, such as “hello,” “what is your name?” and “how can I help you?”

Organised by the Strabane and Lifford Development Commission, Strabane Ethnic Community Association and the Community Relations Council, the morning proved to be extremely successful with all in attendance in agreement that further exploration of cultural and linguistic diversity in the local area would be very worthwhile.

Speaking at the event, Donal Mac Lochlainn, Chairman of the Strabane Lifford Development Commission, said “The demographics of our community are changing as the last five to ten years have shown. Economic growth and mobility of labour means we truly do live in a global village. As a result our community must be able to adapt and welcome people from diverse backgrounds. This event is designed to highlight the cultural and linguistic diversity of our community and give delegates the chance to meet and learn from people from different cultural backgrounds. We hope the employers, community and statutory agencies attending the event will get an appreciation of the barriers faced by those from different cultural backgrounds and take steps to enhance access to employment and services.”

Bobby Rao, Development Officer with Strabane Ethnic Community Association, said “This is a unique project which encourages linguistic diversity and exchange with local people and the Ethnic Community Association is delighted to be involved.”

Source: Strabane Chronicle

Mind Yer Tongue Information Leaflet launched on European Languages Day

Languages from countries around the world were celebrated during two events held in Strabane Community Library to mark European Languages Day, on the 26th September.

77 local primary school children listened to storytelling in English, Polish, Ulster Scots and Irish. Pictured below with the school children is Roza Szadzvik, a member of SECA who read to the children in Polish. They also learnt simple phrases in each language, to help overcome this common barrier and help friendships to grow in school. St Mary’s Girls, Gaeilscoil Ui Dhochartaigh, Strabane and Bready Jubilee primary schools took part in the event, which was clearly enjoyed by the children.


Madeleine Coyle, District Librarian said “We are delighted to be hosting these events for European Day of Languages. Libraries work closely with all communities offering people access to information both in book form and through free access to e-mail and the internet.”

Following the storytelling, a leaflet containing a selection of everyday phrases in 7 different languages was launched by Strabane Ethnic Community Association (SECA). Each language is presented with English translations and guidance on how to pronounce the phrases. The languages are Polish, Hungarian, Phillipino, Indian, Sri Lankan, Thai and Irish.


This initiative is supported by Strabane-Lifford Development Commission and Strabane District Council’s Chairman, Councillor Gerard Foley. The leaflet will raise awareness of minority languages and encourage good relations between local residents and those from other countries.

Speaking at the launch, Development Officer of SECA, Mr Bobby Rao said “It is a good occassion; not only is it raising awareness of minority ethnic languages but it is also starting at a grass roots level with the children.”

The events were organised by Strabane District Council’s Community Relations Department, the Library Service and Strabane Ethnic Community Association. Thanks are warmly extended to all the staff involved, to the schools and also to the Community Relations Council, Gaelpobal and the Ulster-Scots Agency for their support.

Copies of the leaflet can be obtained by contacting Bobby Rao, SECA, 32- 36 Bridge Street, Strabane, Co. Tyrone, BT82 9AE or by telephoning 028 71 886419.

Source: Strabane District Council

SECA Welcomes Anna Lo to Strabane


The Strabane Ethnic Community Association (SECA) is delighted to be welcoming Anna Lo MLA to the Alley Theatre on June 19th to highlight the increasing diversity in today’s society and reflect on the struggles many in the ethnic community are faced with on a daily basis.

Bobby Rao, leading activist within SECA said he is delighted to be hosting Anna Lo’s first official visit to the North West. He said he found strength in her support in raising awareness of the increasing role of the ethnic community within the area. “It is a proud occasion for our Chairman Narendra Babu and SECA to have Anna here as she is the first ethnic MLA in Europe. After her election to the assembly it is the first visit she will be making to the North West area.”

As part of her trip to Strabane, arranged by SECA, Anna Lo MLA will be delivering a key note speech to a selected audience before the Northern Ireland Premiere of “Mushroom” at the Alley Theatre.

The play is a wonderfully witty piece of theatre that focuses on the lives of six young people – some from Ireland, some from central Europe. Their everyday lives collide and interweave, the play has twists and turns, parts are particularly amusing and parts will profoundly move the audience. The main characters are Martin, a young Irish man searching for information about his late Romanian mother, and Ewa, a young Polish woman, who journeys to Ireland searching for her estranged husband. Mushroom looks at the different ways in which immigrants view their relationships with their adopted state. Some find their new homes as strange and ugly, other view it with disappointment and some simply see it as another “galaxy” far away from the previous homeland.

Anna Lo said this week, “I am very pleased to be asked to open this play in Strabane. This is the first ethnic play to run in the new Alley Arts Centre and recognises the increasing diverse community in Northern Ireland. We all need to feel that we belong and it is not easy in Northern Ireland to be included all the time. I hope this play identifies barriers and encourages inclusion.”

Source: Strabane Chronicle

Family Support

S.E.C.A. helped alleviate isolation for some ethnic members by liaising with Strabane Sure Start which provided members of the Polish community with creche facilities and classes for parents such as baby massage.

During Christmas and New Year the members’ children received a treat and a trip to The Millennium Forum to see Sleeping Beauty.