Thousands flock to Mela Festival

Thousands flock to Mela Festival

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

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