Northern Ireland’s biggest celebration of cultural diversity, the Belfast Mela, together with Spar was launched in Babel Belfast, today by the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Deirdre Hargey.
More than 25,000 people visit the Belfast Mela each August and this year’s festival promises to be the biggest ever on Sunday 26th August in Botanic Gardens from 12 noon to 6pm hosted by U105’s Carolyn Stewart and UTV’s Paul Reilly and Julian Simmons. Organised by ArtsEkta, the Belfast Mela is a wonderful family day celebrating Northern Ireland’s increasing cultural diversity with music, dance, food and much more from around the world.
Speaking at today’s launch, the Lord Mayor congratulated ArtsEkta on the hugely positive impact the Belfast Mela has made on Belfast saying: “The award-winning Belfast Mela launched by pioneering cultural organisation ArtsEkta is our country’s biggest celebration of cultural diversity. Over the August bank holiday weekend, Botanic Gardens is transformed into a magical global garden welcoming tens of thousands of visitors from Belfast and beyond into one vibrant shared cultural space.
“The Mela is a leading example of Belfast at its best – a welcoming, positive and vibrant city with diverse and proud citizens. It is a celebration of our continuing journey to become a truly shared and cosmopolitan society where communities live harmoniously and with mutual respect.”
Nisha Tandon, OBE, Founder and Executive Director, Arts Ekta says: “We are so proud that Mela has grown to become one of the city’s signature cultural events promoting Belfast as an open, inclusive and welcoming place to live and do business. Many communities have made Belfast their home and it has never been more important that we embrace the individuality and cultural heritage of each citizen and find strength in our diversity.
“The success of Mela is rooted in a desire by all communities across Belfast and beyond to be part of something that represents their own cultural identity. In a time where equality and rights are under the spotlight we must continue to move forward together where every community, and particularly those in the minority, are respected and feel their place in the 21st century Northern Ireland. The Mela underpins this and represents Belfast as the vibrant, enriched, intercultural and ambitious city it is growing to become.
“In 2018, we present a bold, vibrant and colourful cultural celebration working with hundreds of artists, locally and internationally, to create a wonderful world of music, dance, food and arts for all the family to enjoy together. We are particularly excited about our new finale commission, Reunite, which will involve over 100 local performers in a contemporary outdoor theatre spectacle inspired by Bollywood.”
Bronagh Luke, Head of Corporate Marketing at Henderson Group, owners of the SPAR brand in Northern Ireland said: “SPAR is proud to be the first title sponsor of the Belfast Mela. It is a perfect partnership as both brands are committed to celebrating the best of our communities in Northern Ireland. We look forward to being part of this extraordinary celebration of cultural diversity through music, dance, food and fun for all the family which has captured the hearts of the Northern Ireland people.”
Highlights of this year’s Festival include:
- Reunite – Celebrate the finale of this year’s Mela with over 100 dancers, drummers and community participants taking centre stage in a contemporary outdoor spectacle. Set to original music and combining drumming, dance, storytelling, audience participation and dramatic special effects, this will be an ending to this year’s Mela like never before.
- KunoKini & DANI– Folk artist DANI performs with Indonesian instrumentalists KunoKini.
- Rajasthani Heritage Brass Band – diverse repertoire spanning Rajasthani folk songs, Bollywood hits, spiritual qawwali, Bhangra beats, sci-fi and intergalactic funk and even some pop songs.
- Jassi Sidhu, the UK’s leading Bhangra sensation.
- Dublin African Gospel Choir – 15+ volunteer choir from Western Africa.
- D&F Bros – Grand Indian Circus– this Rajasthan circus combines a cast of dancers, illusionists, aerialists, acrobats and rope walkers with eye watering displays.
- Magwere – An energetic 11-piece band primarily influenced by Zimbabwean rebel music.
- Moving on Music – eclectic jazz session featuring Robert Stuka Trio and Jack Kelly Trio.
- Shamrock Bhangra, Ireland’s leading Bhangra group.
- Chemshirwas set up by members of the Bulgarian Association of Northern Ireland to bring together people from across Northern Ireland who enjoy Bulgarian folk dance.
- Dhol Belfast,Ireland’s first professional Indian dhol drumming collective.
- South Asian Dance Academy, Ireland’s first South Asian Dance Academy developed by ArtsEkta performing Bollywood, Kathak and Bharatanatyam.
- Los Dramaticos, fronted by Paddy & Victor, who hail from Northern Ireland and Chile respectively perform classical and blues piano, French chanson, Argentinian Tango and even Afropop.
- Virtue Dholis, Mela favourites return with their explosive beats on the Indian dhol drum.
Brand new to this year’s Mela is Chinatown, set along the beautiful backdrop of the park’s Rose Garden, where an installation of traditional lanterns awaits while you can explore the delights of China from traditional arts and crafts, street performances and food sampling by members of the local Chinese community. The Polska Village returns to Mela immersing audiences in a fantastic line up of Polish music, dance, food and traditional folk art.
Taste The World
From India to China, from Thailand to Poland, from Spain to Mexico, Mela’s World Food Market has a little something for everyone resulting in a cultural culinary experience you will never forget. Experience the finest Northern Irish produce and treat your taste buds with hot exotic curries, Polish sausages, Chinese noodles, Spanish paella, Japanese Sushi and everything in between.
Visit Mela’s cookery theatre where local chefs and producers come together with performing artists to share recipes while describing their local food inspirations and influences in developing world inspired menus helped along by UTV’s Julian Simmons. Visitors will be able to get hands on with cooking in a specially designed cookery theatre alongside memorable live music, dance and conversation.
This year’s Mela will feature an eye watering chilli eating competition guaranteed to challenge even the most fiery food lovers with Feast of Fire. Heats will take place throughout the day and the final will play out on the festival’s main stage with some fabulous prizes on offer.
Tea lovers can check out the The Belfast Mela Tea Emporium, where S.D. Bell & Co Ltd, Ireland’s oldest independent tea importer and coffee roaster will create a unique Global tea party.
Culture Land will be a magical children’s arts experience where the little ones and their parents are
invited on a journey through the world to make discoveries and learn new things. Encapsulated is an area of enchantment and craft, sounds and dance, stories and art, giving them a true cultural experience they will never forget. As they enter Culture Land the little ones will receive a special map and suitcase to explore cultures and traditions with performance and workshops from India Eastern Europe, China, Japan and the Philippines.
There also Little Bollywood where children can take part in dance activity with a live DJ, décor and props on Botanic’s Daisy Hill. Audiences will experience the vibrant sounds and colours of India in a specially decorated marquee. Both adults and children alike can explore relaxation, movement & singing with the happy sounds of Bollywood that is guaranteed to have everyone wiggling their fingers and bouncing in their Babygro.
And don’t forget to check out Dream a Little Dream, a new immersive themed storytelling experience for young children taking place in the Tropical Ravine. Created by Place to Wonder, the show follows the journey of a little girl who is stuck in a bad dream where the audience must help her to escape.
And finally there’s the Mela World of Wellbeing, created by TONIC Wellness, where you can experience an area of calm amidst all the bustle with a range of workshops and sessions including:
Sound Bath Sessions, Yoga, Drum circle, Hula Hooping, Meditation, Tai Chi and a Mandala art making workshop.
For full details of this year’s Festival go to www.belfastmela.org.uk. Tickets are £7 for adults; £6 concession and a family ticket costs £15, covering entry for 2 adults and 2 children under 16. Access to the main family attractions at the event are free of charge. Children 5 and under go free.
The Belfast Mela is supported by the following organisations:
Funders: The Executive Office; Department for Communities; Belfast City Council; Tourism NI; Arts Council for NI; Community Relations Council; Esmee Fairbairn Foundation and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.
Title Sponsor: Spar.
Media Partners: UTV, U105 and NI4Kids,
Hospitality Partners: Bullitt and S.D Bell’s.
Event Partners: An Droicead; Ulster Scots Agency; Ulster Museum; Housing Executive; Equality Commission for Northern Ireland; Public Heath Agency; Belfast Festivals Forum; Integrated Education Fund; Voluntary Arts Ireland and Sensata Technologies.