Comment: A year off seems best way forward for Mela

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THE Mela has grown over the years to become one of the highlights of the Edinburgh Festival season.

From its humble beginnings as little more than a few stalls at Meadowbank Stadium it has turned into a major draw in the Capital’s busy events calendar. The fact it now quite rightly boasts of being Scotland’s biggest and best festival of world music and dance is down to two decades of hard work and often brilliant programming. Up to 25,000 people now converge on Leith Links to see a line-up featuring many internationally-renowned performers.

The Mela is always a joyful occasion, packed with family fun. There will be sadness and disappointment at the suggestion the Mela might not go ahead in what would be its 21st year.

But with its public funding deserting it and serious concerns being raised about the financial management of the event, the bigger questions now being asked are about the future of the event in years to come, rather than just this summer.

It is easy to understand why the organisers would want to press ahead with some kind of event regardless. However, if that is possible after losing more than £350,000 of funding, that is likely to be a retrograde step, which could even spell the end of the festival as we know it.

It has taken many years to build up the reputation of the Mela as a first-class event on the national stage. That kind of good name does not disappear overnight but it can be lost very quickly if people – visitors and performers alike – turn up expecting something similar to what has happened in recent years only to find something of a far smaller scale and quantity.

Taking a year off to sort out its problems with its funders and answer the concerns of the police and charity regulators seems like the best way forward. There is every chance it can then return triumphantly in 2017.