Taking place over a weekend at the very end of August or beginning of September, Edinburgh Mela Festival is a celebration of the diversity of the city's communities. It is held on Leith Links and is one of the festivals which are held as part of the Edinburgh Summer festivals season from late July to early September each year.
The Edinburgh Mela attracts performers from many different parts of the world, who come together with local communities to celebrate their heritage and culture in a festival of live music, outdoor theatre, visual arts, sport, fashion, dance, food and children's activities. A great event, the Edinburgh Mela is a festival not to be missed: it is also very possibly the most family-friendly of Edinburgh's festivals.
In 2014 The Edinburgh Mela celebrated its 20th birthday with an extra special programme of events. A specially commissioned 20th anniversary show, The King of Ghosts, premiered at the festival and provided a spectacular evening of music and cinema. The show featured the brilliant young sarod player Soumik Datta alongside the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and was a tribute to legendary Indian director Satyajit Ray. Building on its success in previous years, the World Dance Feste moved to a bigger tent in 2014. Highlights of its packed programme included Avant Garde Dance's hip hop odyssey The Black Album and Sonia Sabri's delicate Kathak solo Ekalya. Add in a host of stars of the world music scene performing alongside home-grown and up-and-coming talent, and Mela 2014 provided something for all ages. There was also a busy market place where clothing, jewellery, perfumes and a range of other goods were on sale.
At the food market, mouth-watering curries, naans, spicy snacks and chicken tikka, all straight from the pan or oven, made for difficult choices. Add into the mix sweet treats including kulfi and jalebi and you have the makings of a tasty family picnic on the Links, just perfect for a summer's day.
During the Mela, Leith Links is home to a number of performance areas. Largest by far is the 1000-capacity Main Stage, which in many ways provides a focus for the whole festival. In 2014 the Main Stage played host to reggae legend Cornel Campbell, urban queens Rameet and Tasha Tah, GAUDI and Danny Ladwa, Ghanian drummers Kakatsitsi and Apache Indian to name just a few. In addition, a dazzling fashion show drew large crowds to the Main Stage on Sunday, as it showcased a variety of international and local designers.
Kidzone 2014 had as its theme the AniMela! Visual artists, craftspeople, dancers, musicians and storytellers delivered a diverse programme of nature-inspired creative arts workshops and performances, celebrating trees and animals of the world. A storytelling boat, featuring a crew of animals, took visitors on a journey of discovery across several seas from the Scottish woodlands to the mountains of Nepal. Kidzone is supported by Forestry Commission Scotland and the Edinburgh Airport Community Fund.
2014 marked the Mela's fourth year in its permanent new home on Leith Links. 'Mela' is a Sanskrit word meaning 'gathering' or 'meeting' and is used on the Indian subcontinent for gatherings and events of all sizes and purposes.
The Edinburgh Mela was founded in 1995 by members of the city's minority ethnic communities and was the first Mela to be held in Scotland. It was initially held in the city's Meadowbank Stadium and rapidly grew to attract 20,000 people each year. In 2000 the festival moved to Edinburgh's Pilrig Park and continued to grow, culminating in its move to Leith Links in 2010. The festival did not take place in 2016, but returned in 2017.
As a location, Leith Links seems pretty ideal for the Mela. It is well served by public transport and is just a mile and a half from Edinburgh's Waverley Station. Parking in the surrounding area is very restricted, though some disabled parking is available on the site. The site is fully accessible, though it should be noted that this is a largely outdoor event held on a mainly grass surface.