THE popular Belfast Mela will this year be marked with a special free virtual festival.

The event, which attracted 30,000 visitors last year, was due to take place in Botanic Gardens on August 30 but has been cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Organisers will instead mark its 14th year with a special free virtual festival from August 24 to 30, bringing all the best aspects of the festival online for everyone to enjoy from the comfort and safety of their homes.

Nisha Tandon, Executive Director of ArtsEkta and founder of the Belfast Mela, said: “It is with a very heavy heart that we have taken the decision to cancel our wonderful annual festival at Botanic Gardens. 

“The Belfast Mela has been welcoming audiences during the August bank holiday for over a decade and we are so sorry we won’t be able to bring the traditional Mela to Belfast this year due to the ongoing Coronavirus restrictions.

“We did not come to this decision lightly, but we believe it is in the best interests of our audience, performers, exhibitors and staff. We look forward to launching our special virtual edition of the festival later this summer which will continue to bring the magic of Mela online for our audiences.

“Our mission is to unite our communities through creative excellence and we remain focused on ensuring the healing of our city through arts and creativity. In the meantime we encourage everyone to stay safe and follow the Government advice during these challenging and unprecedented times”

Krishan Tandon, Project Manager of ArtsEkta, who leads the operational planning of Mela added: “Safety is always our number one priority for Belfast Mela and unfortunately it is now clear that we would be unable to deliver the festival as planned this year, due to this unprecedented global health emergency. We firmly believe this decision will protect the health and wellbeing of all those associated with the festival.

“We would like say a heartfelt thanks to our amazing performers, production team, exhibitors and volunteers who were ready to bring our biggest festival to life this August for Northern Ireland, as well as our wonderful funders, media partners and sponsors whose support has been so vital over the years to make Belfast Mela the success it is today.

“We are all looking forward to marking the festival online this year with an amazing line up of music, dance and art for all the family.”

The full programme for the Virtual Mela will launched in the coming weeks.