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02 August 2017

Mela Brings The World To Belfast

A new decade of multicultural magic was ushered in today as the programme for the eleventh Belfast Mela was launched amidst a whirl of internationally-flavoured creativity in The Mac, Belfast.

The preview performance set the scene for the global entertainment and atmosphere which will bring with it a cultural wealth of nations to Belfast’s Botanic Gardens on Sunday August 27.

Delivering Northern Ireland’s largest annual celebration of diversity is the award-winning ethnic arts organisation, ArtsEkta. Looking forward to drawing attendances of 30,000+ the founder and Executive Director Nisha Tandon says the event has never been more important to the city and region it serves.

Nisha says, “The Belfast Mela – the name originates from the Sakskrit word meaning ‘to meet’ – is a celebration of our continuing journey to become a truly shared and cosmopolitan society where communities come together harmoniously and with mutual respect. With recent events at home, and across the world, the significance of this has never been more important. As a society we should continue to forge new friendships, increase understanding of others and find strength in our community spirit.

“Those are serious and important concepts, but diversity is of course a cause for celebration. Belfast Mela combines craic, camaraderie and culture from around the world with a wonderful spirit of exuberance and, over the last decade, Belfast has truly taken the event to its heart. This year we’re looking forward to a people’s party in the park which will show the world just how far the city has come.”

Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Nuala McAllister, reinforced Council support for the annual event, saying, “Belfast is an open, inclusive, and welcoming place to live and do business. Many communities have made the city their home and we embrace the individuality of each citizen. The Mela builds on this warm welcome by encouraging understanding, developing intercultural relationships and promoting inclusion within the city.”

With audiences of c.30,000+ people concentrated on a single, buzzing afternoon in Botanic Gardens, Belfast Mela also reflects the changing nature of tourism. Terence Brannigan, Chair of Tourism NI, says, “Events such as the Belfast Mela are firmly rooted within our tourism fabric, adding value to the positive perceptions and profile of our destination and have been recognised as having an important role in contributing to the economy.”

On the afternoon of Sunday 27 August Botanic Gardens will be the setting for the Belfast Mela festival of global identities, with an exotic, colourful – and joyously noisy - carnival parade launching the showcase of culture and cuisine from all four corners of the world.

The main Mela stage will feature a packed programme of music, dance, arts and performance entertaining easy-going crowds gathered on a lawn which will be encircled by marquees offering everything from henna hand painting and ethnic retail to aromatic and exotic food and drink and featuring acclaimed personality chef, the Urban Rajah, in The Mela taste Theatre.

Headline acts will include the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers bringing the huge reverberating beats of Japan to the park, while the famously energetic Dhol Foundation will keep the grounds and the crowds rocking with its mastery of the traditional Punjabi dhal drums.

The World Music & Dance Showcase will host a day-long programme of entertainment, including performances by the (Russian) Roskina Choir, the Chemsir Bulgarian folk dancers, the Philippine Unifited Support Organisation, Dhol Belfast, Magwere with its unique blend of African colour and European cool and the South Asian Dance Academy.

Creative inspiration for all ages will include Little Bollywood, an exciting sensory experience designed for families with babies, toddlers and young children, while young and old will want to explore the amazing Fantasy Forest with its arts and performance workshops, international street theatre and magical Mexican-inspired arts installation of fantastical creatures.

New to Mela this year will be the welcoming Polska Village which will immerse audiences with a fantastic line-up of Polish music, dance, food and traditional folk art and The Gathering Place, organised in association with Voluntary Arts Ireland, involving audiences in the creation of a sculptural installation based on dreams, journeys and identity.

The Rickshaw Wallah will be on hand to provide the ultimate selfie experience with a ride on a festival tuktuk imported from India (#belfast mela, #rickshawwallah), but when the going gets exhausting it’s time to connect with the calming influences of music in The Mela Beat Tent or head for the Relax & Rejuvenate zone, for Q-Gong, Meditation, Drum Circle … even some restorative Laughter Yoga!

For bookings and full details of the world class line up at Belfast Mela 2017 visit belfastmela.org.uk

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