THE north's largest cultural diversity festival, Belfast Mela, is back bigger and better that ever after a two-year Covid absence.

The 16th Mela invites the world back with an amazing line-up of global music, dance, art, theatre, wellbeing and food.  

Highlights of the 2022 Belfast Mela Festival include:

Saturday, August 20: A spectacular Mela Carnival through Belfast city centre. leaving at noon from Writers' Square to City Hall at 1pm. 1,500 participants representing more than 20 different cultural groups will be taking part with pulsating world music and dance and amazing sculptures finishing at City Hall for breath-taking aerial acrobatics displays by Fidget Feet at 2pm and 4pm. There’s also live performances on stage hosted by U105’s Carolyn Stewart and UTV’s Paul Reilly along with food and arts workshops. 

21-27 August: Mela Plus – Daily music, dance, wellbeing and theatre performances including:

Roshni at Lyric Theatre on Monday, August 22 – enjoy Sonia’s distinctive style of dance, rooted in the traditions of Kathak from Northern India.

Neil Martin’s Connections Concert at St Anne’s Cathedral on Tuesday, August 23 featuring 14 local musicians from across the globe now living in Northern Ireland.

Songs of the Earth on Wednesday, August 24 at QFT Belfast – a special showing of this dynamic climate change animation film to celebrate Mela’s green credentials. ArtsEkta will plant a tree for every paid entry to Mela Day.

Silk Road Super Club at Banana Block on Thursday, August 25 featuring a three-course Eritrean meal inspired by the cooking stories of local asylum seekers and refugees. 

Global Céilí on Friday, August 26 at 101 Donegall Street, fusing dancing from Scotland, Ireland, China, Indian and Mexico. 

Sunday, August 28, Mela Day at Botanic Gardens – the city’s annual celebration of global cultures, with thousands of visitors expected to visit Botanic Gardens from noon to 6pm for the big Mela Finale, hosted by U105’s Carolyn Stewart and UTV’s Marc Mallet.

Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Tina Black, said: “I am thrilled that the amazing diversity of colours, sounds and tastes of Belfast Mela will be returning to our beautiful Botanic Gardens on Sunday, August 28.

"It will be the perfect afternoon to round off the summer. We’re very proud supporters of the Belfast Mela’s organisers ArtsEkta because they do so much to unite our communities in celebration.

"We wish Nisha, her team and all the ArtsEkta partners the best of luck for their eight-day programme – and hope that everyone attending has a really wonderful time.”

Communities Minister, Deirdre Hargey, said: “My Department has been proud to support Mela over many years as it has grown into one of Belfast’s flagship festivals, providing a major platform for a wide variety of cultural groups to share their cultural identity with the thousands of people who attend each year.

"One of my priorities as Minister for Communities is Wellbeing and Inclusion. Showcasing and celebrating the diversity of our city is incredibly important as we work towards building a shared future together.

"Mela embodies my vision of the welcoming and inclusive community I want all of us to be a part of. I am delighted to see it returning for 2022 and I would encourage everyone to join in this year and experience it for themselves.”

Nisha Tandon, OBE, Founder of Belfast Mela and Director of ArtsEkta, added: “We are delighted to be back with our first full festival since the pandemic and our most ambitious programme to date including the long-awaited return to Botanic Gardens for our festival finale.

"From outdoor spectacles, late night music, pop-up food events and walking tours, to exhibitions, wellbeing days, film screenings and theatre, there is really something for everyone in what is now the biggest celebration of cultural diversity on the island of Ireland.

"We are so proud to have been working with hundreds of artists, thousands of participants and are looking forward to welcoming up to 60,000 attendees to events over eight days.”

A full Mela 2022 programme is available online.