The Belfast Mela - an annual celebration of Indian arts and culture and Northern Ireland’s largest multi-cultural festival - will be launched tomorrow with an exotic touring production entitled Spellbound based on an Indian epic.
Creative outdoor specialists Walk the Plank have helped produce the piece - a shadow drama which takes its inspiration from Ramayana - an anient Indian epic story about love, loyalty and friendship. The production will be performed in Botanic Gardens and will feature puppetry, Bharatanatyam traditional dance, special effects and pyrotechnics; the action will be viewed from behind a screen so that the drama becomes a play of shadows.
Spellbound will involve Northern Irish dancers through ArtsEkta’s South Asian Dance Academy initiative, formed in 2010 with masterclasses provided by Scotland’s Indian dance company Dance Ilhayami.
“We are delighted and honoured to be working with Walk the Plank and Dance Ilhayami on this exciting production,” said Nisha Tandon, founder and director of ArtsEkta who organise the Mela.
“As well as creating a new innovative offering for our audiences to enjoy and enhance their cultural understanding, this project has a strong training element helping to strengthen skills in our local dance sector. It is a fantastic chance to join in and launch the weekend of Mela celebrations.
“This will be the first time that we have extended into two days’ of celebration so Spellbound also marks a significant expansion of our ambitions to grow and develop Belfast Mela still further, allowing the festival to fulfill its potential both as a major cultural focus and as a contributor to tourism and the economy. Mela means ‘to meet’ so we are anxious that we extend our welcome as widely as possible, now and for the future.”’
Belfast Mela is an annual celebration of ethnic and particularly Indian arts and culture masterminded by ArtsEkta, and this year takes place from August 24 – 25. Belfast Mela (the word comes from the Sanskrit for ‘meeting’ or ‘uniting’) was launched in 2007 by the acclaimed and pioneering ArtsEkta organisation in a bid to showcase and celebrate Northern Ireland’s increasing cultural diversity.
This year, as ever, Belfast’s Botanic Gardens will be awash with colour and activity as a wealth of entertainment, artistry, food and fashion from different ethnic communities within the city can be enjoyed in this celebration of diversity and multiculturalism.
Audiences can enjoy entertainment from the World Stage, Showcase Stage, a Culture Land, a Maharaja Tent, the very popular World Food Market, a Taste The World Cookery Theatre, Health & Sports Zones and a Street Mela.
The opening day is free – though tickets should be booked online to avoid disappointment – and the second day is a paid event, with tickets £4 per adult, £12 for a family pass.
Walk the Plank has gained an international reputation as creative outdoor production company, and its work on the Return of Colmcille – the flagship event of Londonderry’s City of Culture year – was widely acclaimed.
Nick Clarke, director of Walk the Plank, is looking forward to the sites, sounds of smells of the Belfast Mela when it comes to Botanic Gardens from August 24 – 25.
“Spellbound is such a great story, and told in such an unusual way, that it makes for a real must-see show. There’s fireworks, shadow play, music and dance. plus it’s free. If people have never been to the Mela before, this is a great way for them to come along and see what it’s all about.”
Tickets for tomorrow evening’s performance of Spellbound are free but limited and must be booked in advance via www.belfastmela.org.uk, calling 028 9023 1381 or visiting the box office in person at Philip House, York Street, Belfast.