YORK experiences its first ever Mela festival today, featuring Morris Dancers, Tai Chi and a Ukrainian choir.

Crowds gathered to celebrate a brand-new experience for York during the festival in York Museum Gardens. Mela festivals began in South India - the word means 'gathering' in Hindi - but have become common in major cities across the UK.

The event, which is free to attend with no booking required, opened at 10am and remains open until 5pm today (September 24).

Festival organiser, Shamim Eimaan, said: "York is a beautiful city and it has many different communities with cultures that are not always visible. This has been a chance for them to share that culture.

York Press: Festival organiser Shamim Eimaan in front of the stage at the eventFestival organiser Shamim Eimaan in front of the stage at the event (Image: Newsquest)

"I want this to be an annual event in the city."

Entertainment is on show to wow the crowds throughout the day, starting with Kaminari UK Taiko drummers, featuring Japanese-style percussion. This was then followed by the Ebor Morris Dancers and a performance from Mic and Susie Darling from the York Traveller Trust.

This afternoon, the Taiko drummers and the Ebor Morris dancers return to the stage, before the York Ukrainian Choir take over for an emotional performance.

Various classes will be hosted by different groups in the afternoon, ranging from male Thai Chi and an all-female Bollywood dance class to a capoeira Brazilian martial arts class for children and a meditation session under the trees in the Museum Gardens.

York Press: Nduka Omeife will be painting throughout the dayNduka Omeife will be painting throughout the day (Image: Newsquest)

A group of Indian Tabla drummers will then perform before the Bhutan dancers take to the stage for a series of masked dances.

York-based descendants of the Windrush generation will read poetry based on their life experiences before the capoeira community perform to close the festival.

Health organisation including York Medical Group, Nimbuscare, York CVS, the Humber and North Yorkshire Integrated Care Board (ICB), City of York Council's health trainers, are on site to provide information and advice to visitors.

Shamim said these organisations have been given space to share their work at the festival as many vulnerable communities in the UK are known to have poorer health outcomes - and they need to be reached out to.

York Press: The Kuala Lumpur Cafe offering food at the festivalThe Kuala Lumpur Cafe offering food at the festival (Image: Newsquest)

For anyone that's hungry, food stalls from the likes of Peacock Indian Street Food, The Kuala Lumpur Cafe and Aanya's Kitchen will be on offer throughout the day.

Andy's Man Club also have a stall at the festival to offer any mental health support the visitors.

The York Museums Trust team said they have been "delighted" to host the festival as they said it can be a "fantastic celebration" of the many different cultures represented in the city.

City of York Council's executive member for health and wellbeing, councillor Jo Coles, said the festival was a "fantastic opportunity to celebrate the cultural diversity of our city, while highlighting some serious issues around disadvantage in access to health services".