Belfast Mela
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 27th August 2017 - General view of the parade at the Belfast Mela in Botanic Gardens, Belfast. With a blaze of colour and music the usually sedate Victorian gardens were transformed into an eclectic global village showcasing arts, culture and cuisine drawn from a wealth of nations, creating Northern Ireland's largest ever celebration of cultural diversity. The Mela was launched in 2007 by the ArtsEkta organisation in a bid to showcase and celebrate Northern Ireland’s increasing cultural diversity. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Roaring rhythms from around the world drummed up a hearty welcome this weekend as crowds flocked to Botanic Gardens to be part of Northern Ireland’s favourite annual celebration of diversity.

For one amazing afternoon the usually tranquil city centre setting was transformed into a massive international festival village, brimming with colour, vitality and exuberant good humour. In a kaleidoscope of colour and atmosphere thousands of people partied under the watchful gaze of a giant Buddha statue, revelling in the sights, sounds, scents and sensations of a wealth of nations.

Main stage headline acts included the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers bringing the huge reverberating beats of Japan to the park, while the famously energetic Dhol Foundation kept the grounds and crowds rocking with its mastery of traditional Punjabi drums.

A multi-generational, multi-ethnic audience enjoyed everything from henna hand painting and ethnic retail to aromatic food and drink with acclaimed personality chef, The Urban Rajah, bringing the exotic flavours of India to a packed Mela Taste Theatre.

New to the Mela this year were The Polska Village with its polish music, dance, food and traditional folk art and The Gathering Place installation, a sculpture based on dreams, identity and journeys, created in association with Voluntary Arts Ireland. Adding to the fun, The Rickshaw Wallah was on hand throughout the day to provide festival-goers with the ultimate on-the-move selfie experience on board a mode of transport imported from India especially for the occasion.

Even the tiniest international Culture Vultures were catered for with a Little Bollywood event providing families with babies, toddlers and young children, with an exciting sensory experience while the enchanting Fantasy Forest cast its magical spell over young and old alike.

Reflecting on the resounding success of the day Nisha Tandon, founder and Executive Director of the award-winning, ArtsEkta, the organisation behind Belfast Mela, thanked all those whose hard work and enthusiasm combined to create the shared celebration.

She said “The Belfast Mela is a wonderful day of fun and friendship, with a non-stop programme showcasing stunning international artists, and providing a fabulous platform for our wonderful community groups, allowing them to celebrate and share their cultures with new neighbours here in Northern Ireland.  The combination is a potent one, enjoyed and appreciated by thousands of Mela-goers every year and the result is a fantastic, fun-filled celebration.

“Crucially, Mela is also a celebration of our continuing journey to become a truly shared and cosmopolitan society where communities come together harmoniously and with mutual respect.  If this is the face of our new Belfast, we can all be proud, happy and inspired.”

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