It has become a theoretical truism that diaspora encompasses both mobility and settlement, change and continuity, roots and routes. Nevertheless, sociological accounts of diaspora identities have been largely focused on diaspora identities as part of a process of placemaking and claims-staking in the place of arrival. Such accounts have largely downplayed questions of origin, continuity and connection, and of the role of history and structure in shaping diasporic cultures ‘on the ground’. Focusing on the annual Boishakhi Mela in East London, this paper explores some of the tensions and ambiguities of diaspora spaces and cultural practices. It empirically examines the encounter between ‘authentic’ and ‘commodified’ cultures and the contested faultlines around gender, generation and religion that are played out in this public spectacle.