The chairman of the Edinburgh Mela has warned that the popular multicultural event is under threat due to a severe lack of funds.
The Mela, which is held annually at Leith Links, has come in for widespread criticism from stall-holders and members of the public who say this year’s event was badly managed and under-resourced.
Visitors blasted the reduced number of attractions and a complete lack of toilet facilities while one stallholder labelled it “beyond a joke” and says he is now considering taking legal action after making a loss.
High winds also forced the temporary closure of the Mela on Saturday afternoon, which also hit stall-holders’ pockets hard.
But Mela chair Professor Sir Geoff Palmer has hit back at the detractors, stating that the annual gala faced increased challenges due to a significant reduction in funding in recent years.
He says the festival relies almost solely on National Lottery cash and that funds have been drastically cut from more than £150,000 in 2015 to around £10,000, after the City of Edinburgh Council and Creative Scotland severed ties with the event.
“We had limited funding last year from the council and from Creative Scotland and now this year there was none at all,” Professor Palmer told the Evening News.
“I feel the organisation is underfunded and we can’t legislate for the will of God with the weather, therefore a lot of the services that were paid for, such as electricity and skips, did not arrive.
“There were no toilets on the Saturday. We paid for the facilities and were let down. We were helpless and there was criticism because of that.”
He added: “The Mela is under significant threat. It is very exhausting to try and run it with limited funding. It’s unfair on the public too and ultimately we don’t want to host anything that is unsafe.
“Somehow, though, we need to keep this vital relationship between the ethnic and local communities – that is critical.”
Stall-holder Tariq Mohammed says traders were initially told the event was cancelled – less than 24 hours before it was due to take place.
He explained: “We got a call on the Friday about 4pm. There was no reason, nothing just ‘it’s been cancelled and to hang fire till we get back to you’.”
Tariq, who has had a stall at the Edinburgh Mela for the best part of two decades, said: “We had travelled from Huddersfield and had paid over £2,000 for a small plot... electricity paid on top.
“There were no toilets or waste facilities. The organisers must provide these by law. It’s illegal for us to trade without these facilities.
“Hats off to the people of Edinburgh who decided to come regardless. They were brave to come out, but they were disappointed.”
A spokesperson for Edinburgh Council confirmed a public entertainment licence and market operator licence had been obtained by Edinburgh Mela prior to the event.
They added: “A full debrief will take place and the council look into any issues that arose or complaints received.”