The cultures of the world will come together in colourful, noisy, fun-filled collaboration and celebration in Belfast’s Botanic Gardens on Sunday 30 August when the city hosts its 9th Belfast Mela in association with Turkish Airlines.
More than 30,000 people are expected to attend the annual extravaganza, stepping into a freshly created world of diversity where the sights, sounds, smells and cuisine from around the globe come to life for one amazing day.
Tibetan tradition, Bulgarian dance, Andalucian flamenco, African drumming, Afro-Caribbean funk and reggae, Punjabi folk, Chinese lion dancing, Irish trad … a garden of flowers, magically come to life; an international souk and Little Bollywood for the tiny tots …there’s a whole world of entertainment for the whole family.
Presenting that wealth of nations is ArtsEkta, Northern Ireland’s multi-award winning ethnic arts organisation. Launching the 2015 programme, ArtsEkta Director Nisha Tandon OBE, spoke of the importance of the venture, not only as a highlight of Northern Ireland’s entertainments calendar, but also as a symbol of the city’s growing confidence as a diverse and culturally-aware destination.
“Communities across the city and beyond are the lifeblood of the Mela and we are proud to provide this exciting, exuberant showcase for such a vast range of ethnic groups. Our minority ethnic communities look to Mela as a platform to express their cultural identity, experiment creatively and introduce others to their inner world.
“That core community strength, and the integrity which flows from it, have enabled us to reach out and attract artists from around the world to join with us in our celebrations. The 2015 Belfast Mela programme reflects an extraordinary variety of internationally acclaimed artistes, most of whom will be bringing their talents to Northern Ireland for the first time.
“As the artistes focus their attention on Belfast, so do visitors and we are proud that Belfast Mela is also growing in stature as a ‘must-see’ event for tourists, and is contributing significantly to the local economy.”
Welcoming that positive impact on the city, Lord Mayor of Belfast Councillor Arder Carson, said, “Every August, Belfast Mela is guaranteed to bring a little bit of sunshine to the city as tens of thousands of people gather in Botanic Gardens to have fun and experience music, dance, theatre, sport and food from around the world.
“Mela means “to meet”, and while it is inspired by traditional Indian festivals, Belfast’s Mela is an even more international affair, mirroring the ever-evolving cultural make-up of our city.
“Now in its ninth year, Belfast Mela is the creation of local organisation ArtsEkta, whose many awards are testimony to its trailblazing in both arts and good relations. This is also a particularly huge year for ArtsEkta as on Saturday 24 October, they will be transforming the city centre for “Nine Nights” – an outdoor theatre spectacular retelling centuries-old Hindu folklore as a thrilling, contemporary Belfast celebration.
“Funded by Belfast City Council and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland through the Creative Belfast programme, I would encourage everyone in Belfast to take part and celebrate our vibrant, diverse, creative city.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Carál Ní Chuilín MLA, Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure, an enthusiastic Mela-goer. Looking forward to the 2015 event, she said, “The Belfast Mela is the North’s largest multi-cultural festival and a firm favourite in the cultural calendar. It attracts thousands of people and showcases Belfast as a dynamic, cosmopolitan place to live in, visit and work.
“My department funds the Mela through the Arts Council and Community Festivals Fund. It is wonderful to be able to support this unique festival as well as the valuable work that Artsekta undertakes in bringing intercultural arts to communities who have had little opportunity to explore and experience the arts of other cultures.
“Through ethnic and community arts we can express the richness and diversity of our society and confront the challenges raised by prejudice, all of which are vital to our cultural development.
“The Arts Council’s Intercultural Arts Strategy demonstrates a genuine desire to utilise the arts to engage with others who live around us; to encourage people to form positive contacts, across and within communities that are culturally diverse. This annual event is an excellent example of how this can be achieved.I wish all involved a most successful and enjoyable festival in 2015.”
Thanking financial supporters from the public and private sector, Nisha Tandon said, “We are immensely grateful to all those who are prepared to demonstrate their commitment to diversity by investing in the success of Belfast Mela. Their confidence – particularly in these difficult economic times – is of crucial importance, allowing us to present a programme of outstanding quality and maintain admission costs at a level designed to maintain accessibility across the community.”
Turkish Airlines, voted European Airline for the past 5 consecutive years (2011-2015) by Skytrax and flies to 270+destinations in 110 countries worldwide more than any other airline has teamed up for the second year as principal sponsor of the Belfast Mela Festival.
Murat Balandi General Manager for Ireland from Turkish Airlines said: “We are tremendously excited by this latest creative partnership with Belfast Mela and we are looking forward to supporting a fantastic day when Belfast takes the world to its heart. It’s a lively and appropriate way for us to thank and engage with our customers north and south and to celebrate global culture together. In Turkish Airlines we talk of the positive role of travel in ‘cultivating our curiosity and finding delight in our differences’: Belfast Mela echoes those sentiments and we urge people to take up our invitation: ‘it’s time to widen your world’.”
Belfast Mela will run in Botanic Gardens, Belfast from 12noon – 6pm on Sunday 30th August 2015. Full programme details are available online. On the day tickets are £5 for Adults, £4 for Concessions or £15 for Families. Avoid queues and secure discounts by booking online at www.belfastmela.org.uk, with tickets priced at £4 for Adults, £3 for Concessions and £12 for Families. Booking fee of £1 per web transaction. Admission subject to capacity.
Main pic – Celebrating the cultural wealth of nations at the programme launch in the Indian Roof Garden of The Merchant Hotel are Dona Das Gupta (18) and Jade Rodgers (23) from the South Asian Dance Academy