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Mela 2013: Celebrating seven in style.

This time on Saturday, the seventh annual Belfast Mela will officially be underway, bringing a little extra multicultural sparkle to Belfast’s Botanic Gardens this summer.  This year, ArtsEkta‘s ethnic arts festival is spread over two days (24th and 25th August) for the first time. Usually an August Sunday full of music, food and culture, we’re now also being treated to a Saturday evening of performance and pyrotechnics to herald Mela’s arrival.

To mark this, I’m pleased to announce ArtsEkta are exclusively offering readers of The Patchwork Quill the chance to win one of five pairs of tickets, giving entry to both days of the festival. Entry details are at the end of the post.


Taking place in Lower Botanic Playing Fields, gates open at 7.30pm, with a procession taking place at 8.30pm. The main show begins around 9pm.

Entitled Spellbound, the opening night is centred around the performance of an epic love story, Rama and Sita. Performed behind a screen, this show uses shadow puppetry, Bharatanatyam traditional dance and fireworks to bring this traditional Hindu tale to life.

Spellbound is the brainchild of Walk the Plank, the same UK outdoor events specialists that recently pulled off the hugely successful Return of Colmcille as part of Derry’s City of Culture festivities. They are being ably partnered by ArtsEkta’s South Asian Dance Academy (SADA) in putting on this unique opening night.


Gates open at 12pm, with the colourful Parade of Cultures launching the day shortly after. Below is a list of all the main areas and attractions, including performance schedules.

There are no firm stage times for the performances, but there is usually a running order available on the day in booklet form, along with a map. Simply ask a volunteer on the day.

World Stage

  1. Kissmet (HEADLINERS) – 6-piece fusing funky-bhangra-reggae-rock, with Asian influences and Western rock beats.

  2. Ajo Arkhestra – Afrobeats with influences from Cuba to Spain, Poland to France, Nigeria to Brazil and back to Ireland. 

  3. Balkan Alien Sound – Gypsy, Klezmer and Balkan songs and dance.

  4. Magwere – A mash up of world music including electrical storm rhythms, bass clicks, autowah cajoling, drum battles and vocal catharsis!

  5. Kala Chethena Kathakali Company – Kathakali is based on Hinduism and is a highly charged powerful drama that combines devotion, drama, dance, music, costumes and make up.

  6. SADA – ArtsEkta’s own South Asian Dance Academy, the first collective of its kind in Ireland.

  7. Tir na n-og Irish Dancers – award-winning school of Irish festival dance.

  8. Kawa Circus Dance – live music, dance, puppetry, theatre and breath-taking circus skills.

  9. Dance Ihayami – Indian classical dance, music and film come together to depict the story of the transformation of classical Indian dance from its roots to the modern times.

  10. Virtue Dholis – sensational dhol drumming collective.

Showcase Stage

  1. Magwere

  2. Ibuki Taiko – founded by Derry woman, Fiona Umetsu. Taiko is a powerful style of drumming originating in Japan.

  3. SADA

  4. Tir na n-og Irish Dancers

  5. ArtsEkta Chinese Lion and Dragon Dancers

  6. Bright Lights – an award winning dance group, providing weekly classes in Highland, Irish, Tap and Ballet.

  7. Cacao – sophisticated and cool fusion of old and modern Brazilian jazz.

Culture Land  An interactive arts experience with families in mind – the opportunity to experience a journey across the globe, learning about different cultural traditions through music, dance, crafts, storytelling. There are also performances at the Culture Land Stage:

  1. Global Beats – this DJ workshop collective keeps the tunes pumping throughout the day.

  2. ArtsEkta Chinese Lion and Dragon Dancers

  3. Bollywood Boogie – SADA teaches the kids Bhangra and Bollywood moves.

Maharaja Tent

  1. Seeing Differently – collaboration between Scotland’s classical Indian dance company Dance Ihayami, Scottish BAFTA-nominated filmmaker Krish Shrikumar and classical composer Ash Madni. Combines Indian classical dance, music and film.

  2. Kala Chethena Kathakali Company

  3. Drumscapes – Jon Sterckx uses a range of acoustic percussion instruments, vocal percussion and digital audio processing, ranging from highly energised rhythmical journeys to atmospheric percussion soundscapes.

  4. SADA

Street Mela As you wander around Botanic Gardens, you will happen upon delightful little pockets of circus and performance taking place all over the park. This year, Street Mela will include the opening Parade of Cultures, Kawa Circus and Sikh Sword Dancing.


Taste the Mela The Global Food Market is not to be missed; you can literally eat your way around the world in one day, with over 30 different food stalls located in and around the Great Lawn. The Taste The World Cookery Theatre will host demonstrations and tastings all day.


Mela’s World of Wellbeing As well as the Health and Sports Zone, offering alternative therapies such as Thai Massage, Indian Head Massage, Reflexology, Aromatherapy and Reiki, the Sound Healing Spa (developed by Beat n Track DJs) explores sound as therapy.


Global Souk

Probably one of my favourite parts of Mela, this encompasses the Asian fashion bazaar and the Crafts Village, all housed on the Great Lawn in front of the World Stage.

There will be also be dance workshops, henna artists and showcases of work from ArtsEkta’s arts-based community outreach programmes.

Hopefully that’s your appetite well and truly whetted for the weekend of colourful culture in store!

If so, you’ll want to get your hands on one of the five free pairs of tickets ArtsEkta have kindly offered for The Patchwork Quill readers to win.

To enter the prize draw, simply fill in the table below with your details. Closing date is Thursday 22nd August 2013 at 23.59pm.

Winners will be announced and contacted on Friday with details on how to claim their prizes.

Good luck!

Spellbound: Saturday 24/08/13. Gates open at 7.30pm with the main show commencing at 9pm. This show is free, but advance booking is required.

Belfast Mela: Sunday 25/08/13. Gates open at 12, with the Parade of Cultures beginning shortly after. Performances and attractions go on until 6pm.

Advance tickets – Adult: £4; Concession: £3; Family (2 adults, 2 children under 16): £12. Pay on the day – Adults: £5; Concession: £4; Family: £15.

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