ONE of Edinburgh’s most flamboyant dance and music festivals was forced to close hours before its finale last night after high winds brought chaos to the site.
Organisers were told to evacuate the Edinburgh Mela Festival yesterday evening after bosses judged the strength of the gusts had exceeded their “safety rating”.
A headline performance by 90s dance act The Orb, their only UK set this year outside of Glastonbury Festival, was cancelled by organisers who said they had tried their “absolute hardest” to keep the event open.
The event in Leith was originally shut at 4pm but organisers said they were hoping to re-open a smaller-scale festival so The Orb could still play.
However, they were later told to evacuate the whole site and abandon the event.
Last night organisers stressed they had tried to keep the festival open – but the decision was taken on safety grounds.
A Mela spokeswoman said: “We just want to make sure everyone knows that we really really tried our absolute hardest to keep the festival going, but in the end we just couldn’t.”
She added that full refunds would be given to anyone who bought a ticket after 3pm on Sunday and anyone who pre-booked but had not yet collected them.
This is not the first high-profile event which has fallen victim to bad weather.
The 2006-7 Edinburgh Hogmanay street party was cancelled at the last minute due to adverse weather conditions and concerns for public safety.
Until the weather made the Leith Links site unsafe, the Mela’s celebration of dance, fashion and arts from around the world was enjoying a bumper year.
It had seen its most successful Saturday ever, with 13,000 people going through the doors.
More than 500 performers were taking part in 75 shows across three stages over the weekend, including the Mela Kidzone.
After the success of Saturday, yesterday’s weather problems came as a cruel blow.
Speaking on Saturday, a Mela spokeswoman said: “Historically our Sundays are even busier. The Orb and Kakatsitsi playing live is the only other performance of this collaboration apart from this year’s Glastonbury Festival.
“Kakatsitsi, who are master drummers from Ghana, played a shorter set on our Mix Stage on Saturday night, and had the whole festival dancing.
“We also sold significantly more tickets in advance than before. Our pre-booking allocation of 2,000 day tickets sold out for Sunday, and we sold 1,000 tickets in advance on Saturday.”
Mela is a Sanskrit word meaning “gathering” or “fair.” It originated from south Asia, and the tradition was exported around the world by diaspora communities.
The Edinburgh Mela has been running since 1995, and is now the city’s biggest world music event. Now in its 19th year, the festival programme also includes a fashion show.