Her Majesty The Queen’s 90th Birthday

The atmosphere were buzzing with excitement as people browsed around cultural stalls with items on sale ranging from jewelleries and hair accessories; colourful pashmina scarves; henna art painting; information & services; face painting & nail painting; St. Johns Ambulance showing first aids.

In the next room, the sounds of Bollywood dancing by KSPARK Entertainment attracted some people especially children and young people to join their 1hour workshop where they learnt some new dance moves. Much to our delight, a special appearance by KSPARK’s Karan Paragali (who catapulted to fame as the sole UK representative to make the final of Bollywood’s Hrithik Roshan’s ‘Just Dance’ competition in 2011) to our event and rehearsing with the children for the evening cultural performance.

From there, people were greeted with the wonderful aroma of mouth-watering international cuisines that came from the Members Lounge on the first floor, and ascended up the staircases decorated with international flags to represent the diversity of our communities. And organic hot drinks of tea and coffee (by local company) and cold drinks were on sale to quench our thirst.

The event was opened by The Worship of Mayor of London Borough of Harrow, Councillor Rekah Shah, who also hosted a Special Mayor Reception for all speakers/ performers who joined us for the evening. Also in attendance were some of the leading figures of Harrow Council and across London including Navin Shah, Assembly Member; Councillor Sachin Shah, Leader of the Council, Strategy, Partnerships & Corporate Leadership Portfolio Holder; Councillor Sue Anderson, Community, Culture & Resident Engagement Portfolio Holder; Councillor Manji Kara; John Purnell GM QPM DL, Patron of HUDC; Margaret Purnell, Patron of HUDC; Mei Sim Lai OBE DL, Representative Deputy Lieutenant London Borough of Brent; and Asif Iqbal MBE, President of HUDC.

At the special reception with drinks and canapés provided by Waitrose, Hasnian Somji, Cake Chef of Caketastic, with his young son, presented a spectacular birthday cake to mark the occasion of Her Majesty The Queen’s 90th birthday. The cake was later cut by the The Worship of Mayor of London Borough of Harrow, Councillor Rekah Shah with John and Margaret Purnell, Patrons of HUDC and Asif Iqbal, President of HUDC in front of the audience at the Council Chamber in between cultural performances.

The evening cultural performances were fully packed with guest speakers and performers who thoroughly entertained us. The Mayor gave an opening speech on the importance of celebrating International Festival, the diversity of our communities and thanked Harrow United Deaf Club for organising a fantastic programme.  

Together in unity with John Purnell, GM QPM DL, Margaret Purnell and  Mei Sim OBE DL of Brent; Asif Iqbal MBE gave a special visual presentation to wish Her Majesty the Queen’s 90th birthday, showcasing photos of The Queen’s early years to her present days and ended with a birthday greeting where everyone joined in singing/ signing ‘Happy Birthday’ to the Queen.

Councillor Sachin Shah, Leader of the Council gave a brief speech of support to the event and highlighted the importance to mark the occasion of BSL Charter that Harrow Council has signed up to last Oct 2015. He explained that in his new role as Leader of the Council, he is keen for the Council to work closely with Harrow United Deaf Club and promoting equality and diversity.

Councillor Manji Kara of the Conservative Group and HUDC Ambassador thrived on attending HUDC events, said how much he learnt from HUDC on the challenges of deaf people in accessing to information and services and the importance for everyone to work together to remove barriers and to celebrate/ promoting equality & diversity.

Everyone was thrilled to see the performances by KSPARK, Karan explained that through his dance academy, children and young people were able to showcase their dance talents. We also had fantastic Bengali dance performance by Nadia Choudhury; Tamil dance performance by three young women from Harrow Tamil School Association; African dances from children of Harrow African & Caribbean Association and Spanish Flamenco dance performance by Natalia Vilches and her daughter Lidia Vilches.

Graham Welton of British Deaf Association shared a message of support from BDA’s Chair Dr Terry Riley OBE: The Queens celebrations are a special time for all communities here in the UK, and it is great that Harrow are showing how diverse our nation is and how much we all hold the Queen in our hearts”.BDA celebrated their 125years anniversary and Asif championed on the importance of BSL Charter and successfully supported two London Councils in signing up including Harrow Council. Asif thanked Navin Shah, London Assembly Member who worked closely with Asif and led the victory for the new Mayor of London to sign up to BSL Charter for London, urging all London councils to support in removing barriers and promoting inclusion for deaf Londoners.

There were a vast range of speakers who spoke on issues relating to International Festival, promoting equality and diversity. Penny Beschizza explained the importance of Teamwork, using Christianity faith and bible history to demonstrate how importance for different people to be involved in teamwork. She explained, “To make it a success, we need teamwork of people with different skills, experiences to influence for positive changes.”Dr Junhui Jang, a Senior Lecturer of Deaf Studies at University of Central Lancashire, shared her experiences of Chinese culture and her collaboration with UK-Chinese Partnership project, working with Chinese Deaf communities.  

Kevin Buckle, a well-known Black historian gave us an insight in celebrating Black History by discussing how Asian curry was brought into Britain in early 18th century and to the Caribbean in 19th century. Sarla Meisura shared her personal experiences as Asian woman, rising to the challenge as a positive role model. She founded Asian Deaf Women Association and was involved in many positive changes including London Ethnic Deaf Association and attending International BME conferences in India and USA.  

Dexy Wallace shared his personal journey and how he embraced Islam after going through a hardship whilst growing up including being bullied and mixing with the wrong crowd. He learnt a lot from his mistakes and fell in love with a Muslim girl. Whilst he was shocked by his love of someone from a different religion, he researched a lot on Islam and realised it meant peace. He embraced Islam and is a practising Muslim for the past 13years and the girl became his wife. He also explained about the challenges of Muslim communities and the attitude toward deafness, he works closely with those families and teaching Islam to deaf children with a Al Isharah, a Deaf Muslim charity.  

Sylvia Simmonds shared her personal journey and the importance of identity as Deaf, LGBT and how much she learnt whilst growing up, she was bullied at university – she overcame those adversity and became stronger – she used those experiences as positive catalyst for changes by being involved in Unison to support deaf and disabled people discriminated at workplace; championing on international LGBT issues and as a result, was invited as a World Deaf Federation Rep on LGBT. Her presentation gave powerful messages, she advised: “Never ever make a negative comment to any client groups”; shared the importance of working and supporting each together in unity and stated for Deaf communities, “Diversity means D – Deaf, Identity, Values, Emotional, Respect, Signing, Information, Together, Yourselves” and all those are needed for the society and deaf people to work together, promoting diversity and equality inclusion.  

Reita Realie Bansal, a traveller, shared an insight of meeting international deaf communities across the world where she visited 43 countries, 223 cities and even had a police escort when visiting remote island of Fiji as it was considered unsafe for Reita to travel alone. She explained how warm and welcoming deaf communities across the world everywhere she went and how they welcome Reita into their home and showed them around local area.

Margaret Tyler, an avid Royal fan shared her experiences of her Royal collection and how her house is full of photos and collectable items of the Royal family including The Queen, Lady Diana, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Prince William and Katie, Duchess of Cambridge with their two children Prince George and Princess Charlotte. Margaret also brought a stall of some collections of Queen Elizabeth and baby photo of Prince Charles. Margaret explained how she followed the Queen’s life and found her to be inspiring, making time for the nation even having a family of her own. The Queen saw so many changes in the past 63 years of her reign including World War II and her growing families.

The performance ended with a lively Irish/ Scottish piping band and drummers lead by David Mackinnon and his team, together with a closing summary by Councillor Sue Anderson.

Feedback from the public found the event amazing and inspiring and well-organised programme and the event provided opportunity for people to meet old and new friends and networking. Everyone left on a high. “What a fantastic, enjoyable and very professionally organised event”“Well done for a fantastic, interesting and colourful day”“Thank you, I had a wonderful time tonight and had the chance to meet a lot of old friends”

Asif Iqbal MBE, President of Harrow United Deaf Club was pleased with the success of the International Festival: “It was such a fantastic day, aiming to bring people together, celebrating and respecting the diversity of our communities and to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday. Key themes echoed throughout the day around teamwork, working together in unity, valuing and respecting people from different cultures/ backgrounds, raising awareness and educating all on the challenges that deaf people faces within society and how we can work together to remove barriers.”

Sindhuya Saseetharan, Chair of Harrow United Deaf Club was so proud of everyone involved in making the event a great success: “HUDC members did an amazing job working as a team, organising everything in the past 4 months for the event and it went really well. I am so pleased that everyone really enjoyed themselves and am so proud of my fabulous team and their hard work definitely paid off! Hats off to all including all our volunteers, interpreters and communication support workers who donated their time, making our event a great success”.

Sindhuya Saseetharan, Chair of Harrow United Deaf Club was so proud of everyone involved in making the event a great success: “HUDC members did an amazing job working as a team, organising everything in the past 4 months for the event and it went really well. I am so pleased that everyone really enjoyed themselves and am so proud of my fabulous team and their hard work definitely paid off! Hats off to all including all our volunteers, interpreters and communication support workers who donated their time, making our event a great success”.

Feedback/ Reviews of HUDC’s International Festival:

Fabulous photos; what a great celebration (and achievement). Well done!  All the best Lynne Barnes, University of Central Lancashire

The Department for Communities and Local Government is encouraging communities across the country to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday and your celebrations look like a great success.” Amina, Press Office, Department for Communities and Local Government

“I feel honoured to have presented at the HUDC’s International Celebration event.  I am grateful that you introduced me to Mayor of London Borough of Harrow, Councillor Rekha Shah. I am very impressed by your excellent leadership in the Harrow Community and the HUDC. Over 240 participants attended and the HUDC committee organised this event well. It was very fantastic and successful. Best wishes, Junhui” (Guest speaker)

“Thank you, it was a lovely evening, well organised and was wonderfully fit for everyone deaf and hearing… I thank you very much for including me and my daughter in the event and to let you know that we loved every minute of the whole event… I invited a lot of my friends both deaf and hearing and they loved it too… ” Natalia Vilches (Flamenco Dancer with her daughter)

“I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the event, the dancers were exceptional and whole event was an eventful one, especially to celebrate the Queen’s 90 Birthday; it is was a memorable moments for me.” Graham Welton of British Deaf Association (BDA)

“I would like to say thank you very much for kind invitation to me to give presentation. I really enjoyed at your wonderful Event programme yesterday and it looks great interesting. I really like that venue, it look good with clear visual and middle of the stage for speakers and performers – fantastic!” Reita Bansal (Guest speaker)

“Thank you for inviting me. So much hard work and effort has gone into producing the programme for the Celebration of the Queen’s 90th birthday.  Many congratulations to you and all involved at Harrow United Deaf Club for a highly successful and enjoyable event.” Mei Sim Lai OBE DL, Representative Deputy Lieutenant, London Borough of Brent

“Wewere very pleased to be part of the HUDC Event that day.  Our congratulations to you and the Organisers for a successful turnout that contributed to a full complement of the diverse communities within the Borough.” Patricia, Harrow African Caribbean Association

It was a pleasure to be part of the celebration. Our students really enjoyed. Thank you very much for giving us an opportunity to perform. Really appreciated.”  Sandrasegara Sadachchara, President, Harrow Tamil School.

“Congratulations on such a fabulous day! What wonderful pictures and coverage from the press as well.” Jenny Rogers, Access & Inclusion Manager, Royal Collection, St James Palace

“I hope you are all well and resting as you deserve it. The event was phenomenal in every possible way and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Congratulations and thank you very much for all your hard work in making sure each and every one of us benefitted from it and had an enjoyable time! I just wanted to take this opportunity to also thank you all very much for allowing me to participate as a CSW.  It was my first time so I was a little nervous. However, you all put me at ease and it was a brilliant experience.  Thank you also for the presentation of the certificate and beautiful gift. I really am grateful.  I pray for your continued success. Take care and have a wonderful weekend.” Sukaina Railey


  • Deaf couple meets Karan at HUDC’s International Festival, 4th June 2016, click hereWith thanks to Nirmal HK Thakkar for a lovely video with Karan which took place at HUDC’s International Festival.
  • International Festival & Queen’s 90th birthday celebration, click hereWith thanks to Harrow Council for sharing the video.