By James Ward, PA
A colourful, cultural parade lit up Belfast city centre for the 15th annual Mela festival on Saturday.
The long-running event, Northern Ireland’s largest celebration of cultural diversity, celebrates seven continents in seven days for this year’s festival.
The festival began on Monday and will conclude on Sunday, with the main procession taking place on Saturday.
It was led by Belfast Lord Mayor Kate Nicholl, beginning at Fountain Street and finishing at High Street.
Belfast Mela founder Nisha Tandon said: “We have had an amazing week celebrating cultural diversity as thousands of people turned out at activities across Belfast to celebrate the vibrant, intercultural and ambitious city Belfast is growing to become.
“I would like to pay tribute to all the artists who were involved in bringing this year’s bold vibrant and colourful Mela to life in such a safe and responsible way.
“We look forward to a spectacular return of Mela at Botanic Gardens in 2022, but given the success of this year’s additional events we plan to make Belfast Mela a week-long festival now going forward.”
The festival was marked with more than 40 events across the city.
Thousands turned out throughout the week to enjoy world music, dance, food, theatre, art and wellbeing live events.
Speaking earlier this month, Ms Nicholl said: “Belfast Mela, produced by ArtsEkta, is the biggest and most colourful celebration of cultural diversity in Northern Ireland and one of the city’s much-loved family festivals.
“It’s also one of the four major annual events funded by our cultural multiannual grants.
“We’re proud of the excellent work that organisers ArtsEkta does to build the capacity, confidence and visibility of our established minority groups and newer communities through cultural participation and celebration.
“Their main festival, Belfast Mela, is central to their work. It’s a festival that reflects Belfast’s welcoming spirit and celebrates our city’s diverse, dynamic and wonderful cultures.
“This year, Mela events will be scattered across the city enabling people to explore the world at Mela in a safe and more socially-distanced way. I hope you enjoy the magic.”