Mela magic weaves its spell

MORE than 20,000 people will descend on Leith Links this weekend for the colourful Mela Festival.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 2nd September 2011, 4:06 pm

Tribal dance and BMX breakdancing will be among the highlights of the multi- cultural festival, which is now in its 16th year.

The Mela will get under way at noon tomorrow with a theme of Asian urban arts, and with new director Steve Stenning at the helm.

Among the attractions will be the Osiligi Maasai Warriors, who will perform tribal song, dance and their celebrated jumping – with audience participation – on Sunday, from 3.30pm to 4.30pm.

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The two-day programme will also include a popular fashion show – devised by Dutch ex-supermodel Anna Freemantle – which will run from 12.30pm to 1.45pm on Sunday and combine contemporary Asian designs with work by local fashion graduates.

There will also be a children’s programme featuring outdoor themed arts and crafts activities from noon until 6pm tomorrow and on Sunday.

Mr Stenning said: “I am really excited about the weekend – we really do have something for everyone. This year’s programme has an ambitious mix of spectacular commissions, world premiere performances and diverse programming.”

He added: “This year’s festival marks the 150th anniversary of the [birth of] Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore with a performance from Dakshinayan UK along with traditional Scottish music – which will honour the connection between the work of Tagore and Scottish bard Robert Burns.” Visitors can also enjoy a large dedicated outdoor area showcasing Rotations, a unique fusion of BMX breakdancing with contemporary dance.

Adding even more just a few hundred yards away at Western Harbour will be the first annual Leith Rotary Dragon Boats Challenge.

Organised by the Rotary Club of Leith, it will see nine boats racing on the water behind Ocean Terminal. Principal organiser Cron Mackay, a past-president of the Rotary Club of Leith, said: “It’s not every day that the largest flatwater racing canoes in the world, with giant Chinese dragons on their bows, can be seen racing in Leith.”

Racing will take place from 11am to 3pm over a course that runs parallel to Ocean Terminal.

Visitors will also be encouraged to save a life by joining the NHS Organ Donor Register. The Scottish Government wants to boost the number of people from black and ethnic minority backgrounds on the register to make more organs available for transplant.

Day passes for the Mela, which runs from noon to 9pm tomorrow and Sunday, cost £2 in advance or £2.50 on the door. Under-12s go free. For tickets, call 0131-473 2000.

Supermum flying high – Pages 22-23