A GIANT peacock and elephant will help launch the 24th Middlesbrough Mela festival this weekend

The multi-cultural celebration will be kicked off for the first time by a parade at the start of the festivities.

Last year's celebration saw up to 50,000 people converge on the town's Centre Square for the two-day celebration of culture and diversity.

The North-East’s largest multicultural event, the annual Mela – which is held in association with Middlesbrough College - attracts a wide range of visitors to experience a diverse mix of live music, foods from around the world, activities, craft and fashion stalls.

Brit Award nominee Apache Indian is headline act on Sunday that features seven hours of live multi-cultural music, while Saturday’s opening day is all about participation.

Children from community groups across Teesside have spent weeks working with professional artists to perfect dance moves and eye-catching costumes for the launch parade through the town centre.

Supported by housing group Thirteen, the parade’s focal points will be a colourful peacock and elephant, impressive textile structures symbolising India and Asia.

The Mela Parade, from noon to 12.30pmon Saturday, will follow a route from Middlesbrough Town Hall along Albert Road, around the outside of the Cleveland Centre before doubling back on itself at Corporation Road.

It will then travel back around Cleveland Centre to Centre Square.

Following the parade, Spice FM’s Sandeep will host a vibrant programme of dance and sport displays, with visitors encouraged to take part in a range of activities including trampolining, table tennis, dragon boat racing, self-defence and boxing.

Entry is free of charge.