An adventurer, storyteller and writer with an insatiable curiosity for the fresh, the bizarre, the brilliant. Exploring life in North East England and elsewhere.

Holi Festival of Colours — Drinking, Dancing and Smoking our way to Equality

Holi Festival of Colours — Drinking, Dancing and Smoking our way to Equality

No one knows why Southern African cats are so obsessed with colour. They are called the ‘Rainbow Nation’ because of their colour obsession, yet they seem to be only interested in shades of brown, black and white. When Cat heard about Holi, a festival of colour, to be celebrated in the sacred Green Car Park of Wembley Land, she decided to embark on a journey to the South to discover more about the meaning of colour. She knew she arrived at the right place when a dubious bag of dyed powder was dropped into her hand — a ten pound note, torn and ground into five bags of holy powder symbolising love, peace and equality.

On the thirteenth full moon day of the lunar month of August, Wembley Stadium’s Green Car Park turned a bright tarry violet as thousands gathered to take part in London’s Holi Festival of Colours. When I got invited to the festival I had no idea what to expect. I was just told to wear white — the whiter the better, the purer, the readier to being reborn.

What awaited me was a spiritual experience of dehydration in a large concrete parking lot in London.

Wembley Park in London filled up with white-clad Holi partakers on the 13th of August

Wembley Park in London filled up with white-clad Holi partakers on the 13th of August

Traditionally, this religious Hindu festival is meant to take place at the end of winter to usher in the beginning of spring and is meant to be a day of reconciliation and sharing of love: forgiving, forgetting and knitting new relationships. The internationally commercialised version of the festival advertises itself as a place where people discover love ... by the age-old means of exchange of interests: girls were issued with Holi cash cards printed with the request: ‘Buy me a drink’; and guys displayed Holi cards begging: ‘Give me a kiss’.

Kisses were willing distributed. Steeply priced drinks were less willingly bought. But, to all intents and purposes, love must've been discovered.

A violet dream of love

A violet dream of love

Besides the pocket crippling drinks, Holi partakers could feast on a global spectrum of street food: Indian, Greek, French, Spanish, Japanese, good old Fish and Chips ...

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe ...

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe ...

The main purpose of the festival was of course the colour throws, which happened on every hour. The significance of the Holi colour powder, thrown into the air, is freedom and equality. It is meant to be a day when everyone is purified, washed white as snow, and coloured the same by the Holi powder. A celebration of equality. But the symbolism of true equality is only feasible for one day in our society — it cannot exist as anything else except a festival — a fleeting moment of drunken love and drugged acceptance. It disappears the moment the ruined, colour-stained clothes get dumped into the trash or put on multiple wash cycles.

True equality for a day

True equality for a day

Most participants (myself included) were most likely ignorant of the true origins or deeper symbolism of the festival. The ultimate objective of the day was simply to feel sexy in white, to get colourfully drunk and have a good time.

A day of unique, hot white outfits - surprisingly no one pitched up in a wedding dress.

A day of unique, hot white outfits - surprisingly no one pitched up in a wedding dress.

Nearing the end of the festival, orangified festival-goers posing for a photo in the middle of accumulating rubbish

Nearing the end of the festival, orangified festival-goers posing for a photo in the middle of accumulating rubbish

Greenified Red-Bull drinkers

Greenified Red-Bull drinkers

Only a handful of colour-throws are left as the sun makes a graceful exit behind the lattice arc of Wembley Park. Cat pushes her way through the colour-decked crowd, clutching her last bag of coloured powder. One last time, amidst the swaying bodies and nondescript stream of dance music, the count down starts. A feverish ripple runs through the crowd and then the colour bags are unleashed. Colour flies into the air creating a momentary powdered rainbow. It’s exquisite and unique. It hits untainted white fabric, lands on faces like snow, crawls up noses, into ears, into eyes, and decorates the surface of precious £5 drinks. Cat stalks away with the smell of chalk, the taste of chalk and chalky eyes. But it’s all OK, because music is playing, people are dancing, kissing, drinking and coughing up Holi powder together.

There is nothing as spiritually enlightening as a bag of chalky powder hitting you full in the face

There is nothing as spiritually enlightening as a bag of chalky powder hitting you full in the face

5 Essential Tips for Holi Festival Goers:

  • Bring lot of money or a rich friend
  • Drink as much water as your budget allows
  • Wear goggles or another form of eye protection (during colour throws)
  • Don't wear contact lenses (go geeky or blind)
  • Wear a mask or a respirator
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Journeying into 'The Way of Tea'

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