Belfast Goes To Bollywood

Bollywood at Partners

Amid Rioting and Unrest Members of the Chinese, Indian, British and Irish communities in Belfast defied rioters to come together to raise more than £3000 for charity, at a Belfast hair salon’s Bollywood night, just hours after the area was the scene of wide-scale riots.

The aim of the event was to raise money for a charity that is organising for the salon’s owner, Paul Meekin, to fly India in November to train disadvantaged young people to become hairdressers.

Paul, owner of Paul Meekin Partners Hair & Beauty in east Belfast, was originally supposed to join the charity trip in 2015, but when one of this year’s German hairdressers pulled out at short notice, he was invited to step in to take his place. To help raise money for the charity, salon staff swung behind Paul in organising a themed Bollywood night at the salon last week, on Wednesday 27 August.

More than £3000 was raised for the Shaping Futures charity on the night, with clients, neighbours, staff and friends all coming together to support Paul. But just 24-hours beforehand, the area saw intense rioting and civil unrest, with paint and petrol bombs being thrown and cars being burnt on the road outside the salon. Paul wasn’t sure if his Bollywood fund-raising evening would even go ahead, as TV crews, police and local politicians gathered outside the salon to survey the carnage left behind after the rioting.

Although Paul was advised to cancel or postpone the event, after a quick discussion with the salon team and the local MLA (Robin Newton) it was decided that the event would go ahead with an increased police presence in the area and after Mr Newton arranged with Belfast City Council to have the area cleaned and the debris and burnt out cars removed.

IMG_5509Paul, a multi-award winning stylist with more than 30 years of experience in the business, is one of a team of hairdressers going to India, in an initiative organised by the charity ‘Shaping Futures’. As a brand guardian for Schwarzkopf Professional in Ireland, Paul will join German colleagues to travel to the SOS village in Bawana (north west of Delhi).

It’s said that if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, but if you teach him to fish you help to feed him for life. With this in mind, the aim of the trip is to teach young people there a skill or trade so that they are able to support themselves and their families for life, giving them a hand up instead of a hand out. Each student will also be given essential hairdressing equipment as part of the course.

“I’m immensely excited about being the first Irish Hairdresser to be invited to be part of this team,” says Paul. “It came about when one of the German team members had to pull out at short notice and I was asked to go in his place. My involvement in the charity fulfils a lifelong ambition of mine, to pass on my hairdressing skills to disadvantaged people.”

He continues: “Clients and friends of the salon generously donated over 30 prizes for the ballot held on the night and so prizes included a hotel break in Belfast’s Park Avenue Hotel, a meal for 4 at the House of Zen restaurant in Belfast’s City Centre and a meal for 4 at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.

“We also had Bollywood dancers, a henna tattooist and a saree demonstrator, who were all provided by the organisers of the recently held and very successful ‘Arts EKTA Mela’. They also provided the decorations which added colour to the evening while guests were treated to a tasty authentic Indian curry cooked by a local Indian lady.

“More than 90 people attended and were treated to a demonstration on how to correctly wear a saree, followed by an amazing display of Bollywood dancers and before guests had time to recover they were treated to a spectacular display of Fire Breathing by a personal trainer friend of mine, Raj, who, to the delight of the guests and the crowd that had gathered in front of the salon, rounded off the evening’s entertainment.”

Another fund-raiser will be held in October. As people left the salon on Wednesday, Paul’s partner, Qiang, an avid baker, gave each guest a homemade cupcake along with an invitation to take part in the ‘Great Partners Bake Off/Afternoon Tea’ to raise more funds for the Shaping Futures Charity.

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