Belfast Mela is preparing to cast its magic spell over the city this weekend, transforming the usually tranquil Botanic Gardens in the heart of Belfast into a bustling global showcase bursting with exotic sights, smells and sounds from around the world.
Now in its seventh year, Northern Ireland’s largest festival of ethnic arts, culture and heritage, is building on success, extending this year to include a Saturday night spectacular as well as the now traditional and much-loved main attraction, the original Belfast Mela, on Sunday.
Belfast Mela’s (the word Mela comes from the Sanskrit ‘to meet’ or ‘unite’) eclectic combination of music and dance, food, fashion, cuisine and crafts from around the world is expected to attract more than 30,000 festival-goers over the August Bank Holiday (Saturday 24th & Sunday 25th August), making this a key tourism as well as cultural highlight of the city’s Summer events calendar.
Unveiling the 2013 programme, Nisha Tandon, Director of ArtsEkta which organises the annual event, said, ‘We are delighted to be presenting an amazing programme which blends performances by some of the most exciting and talked-about international artists together with fantastic contributions from highly creative and culturally diverse communities across Northern Ireland.
‘In keeping with our founding ethos, much of our varied programme originates at community level and it is one of our core strengths that Belfast Mela creates opportunities for those in minority ethnic groups living here to express their identities and showcase and share their cultures with pride.
‘Belfast Mela is about empowerment as well as entertainment and it provides an important channel through which individuals, groups and organisations can acquire skills, develop confidence and build pride as well as positive relations. Along the way they also make some wonderful friendships and, together with their audiences, enjoy a truly global festival.’
Formally launching Belfast Mela 2013 at a colourful City Hall reception the Lord Mayor of Belfast Máirtín Ó Muilleoir welcomed an event which, he said, helps to create ‘a sense of place and pride for all our communities.’
Looking forward to the festival, which continues to enjoy the financial support of Belfast City Council, he said, ‘Over the years Belfast Mela has grown to become an essential tourism event showcasing Belfast as a dynamic cosmopolitan place to live in, work in or visit.’
Junior Minister Jonathan Bell added, ‘We congratulate ArtsEkta on producing what will be a joyous celebration of music and dance, to be enjoyed from across the city and beyond. We are delighted that support from the OFMDFM Minority Ethnic Development Fund can help bring this party to the park.’
Junior Minister Jennifer McCann added, ‘With the arrival of so many new cultures in recent years Belfast is abundant with new flavours, new points of view and new hopes and aspirations. We know this year will be another milestone in the story of Mela, so let’s celebrate our lives together and be inspired, excited and enthralled at what promises to be a true gathering of cultures from around the world.’
ArtsEkta Chairman, Mukesh Sharma, welcomed the funding from public and private sector sponsors which is making Belfast Mela possible, saying, “At a time of economic constraints we are grateful for the whole-hearted support of so many funders, sponsors and partners and we are determined that the 2013 Belfast Mela will reward their confidence with a weekend that celebrates our shared world and cultures.’
The Mela weekend will open with a spectacular free evening show on Saturday 24th August when world-renowned outdoor theatre company Walk The Plank, celebrated for their visual artistry and talent for gigantic-scale outdoor spectacle, team up with ArtsEkta’s own South Asian Dance Academy for an evening re-telling of the epic legend of Rama and Sita, using dance, fireworks and a twelve-foot high flaming puppet!
The following day, from 12 noon to 6pm on Sunday 25th August, Belfast’s mega Mela will fill Botanic Gardens with a dazzling, high octane line up of music, dance, food, fashion, street theatre, circus and carnival from around the globe.
The iconic Parade of Cultures will launch the glorious day, weaving its way around World Stage, Showcase Stage, CultureLand, Maharaja Tent, World Food Market, The Taste The World Cookery Theatre, Health & Sports Zones and Street Mela.
Rolling out the welcome to the city’s favourite party, Mukesh Sharma said, ‘Eat … sing … dance … play … shop …celebrate …learn … laugh … we’re inviting everyone to come along and do it all, global style. It’s a wonderful world and, over the August Bank Holiday, it’s all waiting for you at Botanic Gardens!’
Saturday 24th August, 7.30pm – Belfast Mela Festival, Lower Botanic Playing Fields, Belfast. A spectacular FREE evening pyrotechnic show will take place to launch this year’s Belfast Mela. The ‘Spellbound’ show will retell an old Indian folklore tale with a fiery mix of music, dance and pyrotechnics. Tickets are free but limited and must be booked in advance via www.belfastmela.org.uk, calling 028 9023 1381 or visiting the box office in person at Philip House, 127-137 York Street, Belfast.
Sunday 25th August, 12noon to 6pm – Belfast Mela Festival, Botanic Gardens, Belfast. The annual family event offers a feast of world music, dance, fashion, food and fun. This year’s event promises to excite and entertain like never before with a variety of treats in every corner of Botanic Gardens. The Mela is a perfect way to round off your summer in the city. Admission if booked in advance: Family £12 (2 adults & 2 children U16), Adults £4, Concession £3 (U16’s & Senior Citizens). Admission on the day: Family £15, Adults £5, Concession £4. For further information and details of how to book in advance visit www.belfastmela.org.uk.