New look and a £100k boost for revamped Mela festival in Leith
AFTER three uncertain years, the multi-cultural Mela Festival in Leith has unveiled an updated look yesterday with a £100,000 budget boost, a new director and fresh acts with Scottish and global connections.
At the launch, director Chris Purnell, the former boss of the London Mela, said he will reach out across minority communities to make a festival that will entice business backers as his London event did. He added that he hoped to include Edinburgh’s Polish community in the event.
New acts in a strong line-up from New York to Nepal include a star of the award-winning play Roadkill, Adura Onashile, who played a sex trafficking ‘auntie’ in that searing production, as part of a new dance line-up.
The weekend festival will kick off on 31 August with a retelling of the legend of Rama and Sita on a new outdoor stage with dancers and 12 ft-high “fire drawings”.
The Mela has been staged in three different venues under three different directors in the past four years, but the Edinburgh Festivals champion, Steve Cardownie, said it now feels “at home” in Leith Links in its second year there. “For me it restores my faith in humanity,” he said.
Mr Purnell said he wanted to make Edinburgh’s Mela “the best in Europe… The Mela is back where it belongs at the heart of the city’s cultural offering. The potential of the event is huge and as a team we hope to move forward with confidence.”
For the past three years Mr Purnell has run the 02 London Mela, a one-day event that draws about 80,000 people to Gunnersbury Park in West London. He helped enlist the communications company 02 as a title sponsor, with business backers delivering £140,000 in sponsorship annually.
He hopes to attract commercial sponsors to a strengthened Edinburgh Mela. The London Mela also operated in a partnership with the BBC Asian Network.
The budget for this year’s event in Edinburgh is about £400,000, including £100,000 funding from the Scottish Government’s Expo Fund and £80,000 from Creative Scotland. Last year it drew about 27,000 people. It charges £3 admission, but has only about £30,000 in commercial sponsorship.
Melas originate from the Indian sub-continent, with the word’s Sanskrit origins meaning “to meet” as well as “to tune”. As fairs or festivals they often grew out of religious gatherings.
But Mr Purnell said he wanted other communities to engage and participate. A third of the festival’s board members are new since his arrival last year, including Charm Pradhan, a Nepali-Scottish performer.
“That’s definitely my goal. That process has already begun. There were some Polish dancers last year, there may be this year. It’s a matter of talking to people. There’s a real need for the festival to embrace all the communities of Edinburgh. Our funders are looking for us to include and embrace all the diverse communities of Edinburgh.”
The World Dance Feste, new to the Edinburgh Mela this year, includes House, with Scottish-based performer Adura Onashile, in a ‘parkour’ and dance show. Rama & Sita puts UK and Scottish Indian troup Dance Ihayami, above, in an outdoor opening night performance with pyrotechnics and animation. Taxi! is a piece of comic hip hop choreography inside and over a black cab.
Brooklyn-based drumming group Red Baraat appear on the main stage alongside British Bengali sarod virtuoso Soumik Datta, left.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east