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I'm Heather McGarrigle and this is my blog - a colourful celebration of culture, crafting and creativity in Northern Ireland and beyond.

Mela Monday: Beginning of a beautiful friendship

I'm delighted to begin the week with some great news. One of my favourite arts organisations, ArtsEkta, has chosen The Patchwork Quill to be its official blog partner for the multicultural extravaganza that will be Belfast Mela 2012.

 
On every Monday throughout the month of August I'll be bringing you Mela Mondays - a series of special features in the run-up to the country's biggest intercultural festival, taking place in Botanic Gardens on Sunday 26th August between 12 and 6pm.  I've been given exclusive access to the performers, artists, staff and volunteers that make Mela possible, so expect sneak peeks behind the scenes, exclusive previews of the sights and sounds to look forward to, as well as a competition giveaway and the lowdown on the many ways you can be a part of Mela 2012 yourself.
 
This will be the sixth annual Mela festival - the word 'Mela' being a Sanskrit word meaning 'to meet'. I met the world on my doorstep for the first time last year when the blog was in its infancy and instantly fell in love with ArtsEkta. They created a patchwork quilt of people in the middle of Belfast, sewn together with great music, delicious food and explosions of art and creativity around every corner. They had me at "hello".
 

In March of this year, I took my sister along to another of their creative celebrations of diversity - The Festival of Colours. My resolve to be a part of their work in the future was cemented, so this is a creative partnership I hope will last for some time. In my final Mela Monday post on 27th August, I'll share my own experiences as a volunteer on the day - seeing for myself the hard work that goes into putting this beautiful festival together and probably having a lot of fun while I'm at it.

 
Here is a brief rundown of the schedule for this year's Belfast Mela as it currently stands - but keep an eye on the website for updates.

PERFORMANCE

World Stage

DCS - The headline act and self-proclaimed "best bhangra act in the world".
South Asian Dance Academy - ArtsEkta's own innovative dance project.
 

Showcase Stage

Ibuki Taiko - Japanese drumming group based in NI.
Balkan Alien Sound - The "riotous dance" of Balkan, gypsy and Klezmer songs.
 

Culture Land Stage

Gathering Drum - A participative drum circle experience, sure to get your pulse thumping.
Bollywood Boogie - Dance event for the young ones.
 

Maharaja Stage *new to Mela*

Kuljit Bharma and Shahid Khan - Renowned musicians, performing traditional Indian ghazals.
Kala Sangam - leading UK South Asian arts organisation, making their Belfast Mela debut with the traditional dance of Odissi.
 

ARTS AND CRAFTS

Global Souk

Featuring the popular Craft Village, ethnic fashion bazaar and henna and Chinese calligraphy
 

Culture Land

An interactive arts experience to bring kids around the globe.
 

Showcases

Mela's artists display the results of this year's outreach programmes.
 

Street Mela

Street theatre, carnival and circus performances, including the opening Parade of Cultures.
 

RELAX

 

World Food Tent

Eat your way from India to Spain to Poland and beyond...
 

Health and Sports Zone

Take a breather from all the excitement.
 
 
I really hope you enjoy these posts. Use the comments section below to let me know if you're planning to come along to Mela 2012 and what you're most looking forward to. Hopefully I'll see you there on the day!
 
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