THOUSANDS of festival-goers descended on Belfast’s Botanic Gardens yesterday to enjoy the Mela festival, organisers said.
The multi-cultural event featured acts including British Bhangra band DCS, Congolese musician Niwel Tsumbu and festival favourites the Jaipur Kawa Brass Band accompanied by the dancer Sapera Kalbelya.
There was food on offer from around the world including Thai, Polish, Spanish and Indian cuisine.
Mela, which means ‘to meet’ in Sanskrit, is organised by Arts Ekta, a Northern Ireland ethnic organisation.
Nisha Tandon, director of Arts Ekta, said: “Now in our sixth year, this year’s Mela has been the biggest and best to date. The weather has been glorious, the gardens are packed to capacity and the atmosphere has been electric. Northern Ireland is embracing its cultural diversity and it is wonderful to see so many people across all cultures and communities come together to celebrate and enjoy those differences which make us all unique.”
Stormont ministers Jonathan Bell and Jennifer McCann joined the celebrations. Mr Bell said: “The Mela has become a regular highlight and welcome addition to our cultural and social calendar. The growth in the popularity of this event shows the world that we have travelled far in establishing a shared society.”
And Ms McCann said: “By maintaining and building on the energy and unity we feel today I know we can achieve our goal of creating a fair and equal society.”