Thousands flock to Mela Festival

Published Sunday, 24 August 2014
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Northern Ireland's largest annual celebration of cultural diversity took place at Botanic Gardens in Belfast on Sunday for a unique day filled with music, dance, food, fashion, cuisine and crafts.

The Belfast Mela, bathed in bright sunshine, was jam packed with a show stopping line-up where street theatre and carnival from across the globe, were presented in a high energy style.

Now in its eighth year, the festival opened with a spectacular 'Into The Wilderness' themed procession through Botanic Gardens, with a life sized elephant and carriage.

Belfast's Mela (meaning 'to meet') is the city's biggest event celebrating minority ethnic communities.

The Mela is regarded more important than ever given the recent rise in racist attacks, particularly in the city.

Mela founder Nisha Tandon described how the festival has grown since humble beginnings in the Indian Community Centre - with more than 25,000 visitors exploring the sights and sounds on offer.

"The first Mela was 2007 under Arts Ekta, before that there was a smaller event in the Indian community centre," he said.

"The first event attracted just 2,000 people and then the following year it was 5,000. In 2009 we had our biggest audience even though it lashed out of the heavens. By 6pm Botanic Gardens was still full."

In Botanic Gardens the World Food Market offered visitors a taste of global cuisines, while the secluded Maharaja Tent housed intimate performances of classical Indian music and dance.

New to the Belfast Mela programme this year was a specially created Fantasy Forest filled with nature-inspired workshops delivered by visual artists, craftspeople, dancers, musicians and story-tellers.

It all provided a wonderful experience for the many families who attended the event.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
toron cana in belfast wrote (160 days ago):
I was there and I would not say it was a wonderful experience it seems to be the same stuff every year with 1 or 2 new things added to it. but this year there was far less than usual and I found it boring. it was mainly all tents selling you something or information points on charities and so forth. very little in the way of entertainment and I for one would like to see more entertainment being added and spread out more around the park and not just all of it on the big stage. and it would be good if their was more stuff for the children like bouncy castles and puppet shows and other stuff to keep the kids entertained as the stuff that you have for the kids is lacking a lot. and not all kids want to be making things. and not to be charging for bouncy castles and kids stuff if you do bring more to mela as the price at the gate should cover all. and it would be good if you sorted out the lines at the gate for getting in you are using two sided cabins so it would be more wise to put them in the middle and have a straight queue coming down either side of the cabin this would speed things up a lot. me I have been going since the start and I found it to be the worst mela yet and I might not go again because of this because I know that it changes very little from year to year. so in my view anyone going next year should just save there money and go elsewhere. because what you pay to get in is certainly not worth the money.
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