Video does not show Rishi Sunak’s staff celebrating Hindu festival in Downing Street

25 January 2023
What was claimed

A video shows members of Rishi Sunak’s staff attending a Hindu festival in Downing Street.

Our verdict

False. The video was filmed in Canada, not London and features officials from Ontario.

Multiple Facebook posts are falsely claiming to show footage of members of Rishi Sunak’s staff taking part in a traditional Hindu celebration at 10 Downing Street. 

One post states: “UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hosted a traditional feast for his staff to celebrate Pongal at his official residence at 10 Downing Street in London.”

Pongal is an annual, four-day harvest festival celebrated by members of the Tamil community in India and Sri Lanka which took place between January 15 and January 18 this year. 

A video attached to the posts shows a group of men and women, including a couple of uniformed police officers, sitting at a long table and enjoying a meal. 

The video quickly went viral in India where it was tweeted by several local media outlets, claiming that it showed UK officials or Mr Sunak’s staff, and viewed hundreds of thousands of times.  

However, the video was posted on 15 January to a page belonging to the Tamil Culture Waterloo Region, a community organisation that promotes Tamil culture and events in the Waterloo region of Ontario, Canada. 

The caption of this video said it showed a Pongal celebration with “region of Waterloo politicians, Regional Chair City Mayors, councillors and Police Chief and staff”.

One of the men in the video is Berry Vrbanovic, a local mayor, who shared pictures of the event on his personal Twitter account

Several mainstream Indian news outlets have since removed their original articles or published updates confirming that the video was filmed in Canada rather than London and does not feature members of Mr Sunak’s staff. 

Downing Street did, for the first time, host a reception for members of the Tamil community to celebrate this year’s Pongal, but the event is not the one depicted in the video. 

An event in Parliament was attended by MPs from various political parties, but it does not appear that the Prime Minister was present. 

Image courtesy of Nick Kane

Update 1 February 2023

This article has been updated to correct an error in the wording of the conclusion box.

Full Fact fights bad information

Bad information ruins lives. It promotes hate, damages people’s health, and hurts democracy. You deserve better.