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Taking place from a Friday to a Sunday over a weekend at the very end of August or beginning of September, Edinburgh Mela Festival is a celebration of the diversity of the city's communities. It is held on Leith Links and is one of the festivals which are held as part of the Edinburgh Summer festivals season from late July to early September each year.
The Edinburgh Mela attracts performers from many different parts of the world, who come together with local communities to celebrate their heritage and culture in a festival of live music, outdoor theatre, visual arts, sport, fashion, dance, food and children's activities. A great event, the Edinburgh Mela is a festival not to be missed: it is also very possibly the most family-friendly of Edinburgh's festivals.
In 2012, the biggest festival yet, The Edinburgh Mela saw increased audience and performer numbers, a special free pyrotechnic show on Friday evening, and a whole extra stage. The varied program offered a broad mix of entertainment, including, for the first time, the Mela World Dance Feste, a platform dedicated exclusively to dance. Ensuring something for all ages, there was also a busy market place where clothing, jewellery, perfumes and a range of other goods were on sale. Henna tattooists mixed with the crowds offering the chance to indulge in some beautiful temporary body art.
At the food market, mouth-watering curries, naans, spicy snacks and chicken tikka, all straight from the pan or oven, made for difficult choices. Add into the mix sweet treats including kulfi and jalebi and you have the makings of a tasty family picnic on the Links, just perfect for a summer's day.
During the Mela, Leith Links is home to a number of performance areas. Largest by far is the 1000-capacity Main Stage, which in many ways provides a focus for the whole festival. In 2012 the Main Stage played host to Jassi Sidhu, Char Avell, Ramee and Tasha Tah, Gubi Sandhu, Foji, Mirza, Eylem, Lord Munmeet, Metz 'n' Trix with Joga Singh and DJ Surinder Rattan, Sarod virtuoso Soumik Datta and the dhol/bagpipe/drumming exuberance of the young Scots Royal Dhol Force. In addition, a glittering show of contemporary and diverse fashions drew large crowds to the Main Stage on Sunday as it showcased a huge variety of international and local designers.
The key focus of the Mela in 2012 was dance, enabling audiences to experience contemporary, classical and traditional dance from all over the world. Funding from the Scottish Government EXPO Fund not only allowed for a dedicated dance stage at Mela 2012, but it also enabled the Mela to commission brand new pieces by some brilliant Scottish dance artists.
2012 marked the Mela's 18th year and its second in its permanent new home on Leith Links. 'Mela' is a Sanskrit word meaning 'gathering' or 'meeting' and is used on the Indian subcontinent for gatherings and events of all sizes and purposes.
The Edinburgh Mela was founded in 1995 by members of the city's minority ethnic communities and was the first Mela to be held in Scotland. It was initially held in the city's Meadowbank Stadium and rapidly grew to attract 20,000 people each year. In 2000 the festival moved to Edinburgh's Pilrig Park and continued to grow, culminating in its move to Leith Links in 2010.
As a location, Leith Links seems pretty ideal for the Mela. It is well served by public transport and is just a mile and a half from Edinburgh's Waverley Station. Parking in the surrounding area is very restricted, though some disabled parking is available on the site. The site is fully accessible, though it should be noted that this is a largely outdoor event held on a mainly grass surface.