10 Lessons learned from a well-organized Bayimba
With the exception of the Laba! Arts festival, there are not so many festivals on the Ugandan calendar. So Bayimba gave us a feel of what a festival should be like. In the words of its Director Faisal Kiwewa, “Celebrating the feeling of belonging and experiencing the freedom of culturality.”
And while at it, celebrate culture in all its diversity, so it seemed.
By Elizabeth Namakula
It was the fifth edition of the festival dubbed Celebrating five years of artistic inspiration. For a festival that boasted over 40 sponsors, the Bayimba festival was well worth the hype.
From the onset, you could see it was well organized, from the security to the stage performances, a few lessons seem to have been learnt from the previous festivals that we can learn as well.
Lesson 1: Invite arts journalists to workshop
Invite your own arts journalists, through a workshop to profile, preview and review the performances of the festival. The Bayimba festival run from 21st-23rd September and was preceded by an arts journalist workshop that lasted from 17th September to 21st September.
It was facilitated by American Journalist Ole Tangen Jr, previously editor of the online arts magazine Dispatch, and yours truly attended. The Bayimba Magazine was a direct result of the workshop and was informative in telling you what to expect, when, and what place on a particular day.
Lesson 2: Get as many sponsors as you can
After all, it’s a cultural gala that is all inclusive. Each sponsor can cater for an aspect of the festival. For publicity, the festival was sponsored by over 15 radio stations, 3 newspapers, 4 magazines and 2 television stations—WBS and Bukedde TV. For security; all the guards at the venue were provided by Pinnacle Security.
When it came to the programs, performances like the Breakdance Project Uganda was sponsored by the Royal Danish Embassy, meaning the same could be said of International songstress Lylit, who was sponsored by the Austrian Embassy. Sponsors like the British Council, Goethe Zentrum, and Norwegian Embassy etc took care of other logistics.
Lesson 3: Select appealing artists
Select artists that are most likely to appeal to your audience. Whereas other Bayimba festivals had mostly upcoming artists, a few barely known international artists and others we had never heard of from parts of Africa, this time the selection was on target.
On the local scene Afrigo Band, Bebe Cool, Fun Factory, Baxmba Waves, Joel Sebunjo and Sundiata were some of the prized entertainers. From other parts of Africa Na!ra, Afrik Wetu Band and Eduato didn’t disappoint. Internationally, Lylit and Haille Araya represented as well as other upcoming artist like Jackie Akello.
There was bound to be something for everyone, from the youth—that were the majority— to the everyday man as well as the sophisticated elite.
Lesson 4: Invite arts and crafts people
Artistry is not confined to only performances; it extends to other forms like painting, beading, printing, fashion and design, film among other forms. And just as well, don’t call it an arts festival when you mostly have arts and crafts, leave performing art to late nights and ignore Film and Theatre. Space in the tent for the three days cost about 50,000/=.
It gave the festival goers a chance to buy jewelry and art pieces as they strolled through and while others waited for the performances to begin.
Lesson 5: Get a strategic venue
The National Theatre acted as the perfect place for the festival. For one, it is easy to access whether by taxi or car. It’s a fort for art that we frequented even as children, and it has a sense of tradition to it. Its wide parking lot acted as a plus as well.
The parking lot was conveniently turned into the main stage fit for international gigs and that is where the major shows took place while the Theatre auditorium housed poetry, drama and breakdance performances. The beauty of this arrangement was that performances happened con-currently, leaving the audience to choose what it wanted and leave out what it didn’t.
Lesson 6: Get a hard working Emcee
Emcee Bizo was in her element as she moved from one happening place to another aided by a microphone. From the Theatre patio to the parking lot and arts tents to spinning out the sponsors names as she welcomed you to the festival. She kept herself busy and in the process upheld the tempo of the festival from the afternoon till late.
Lesson 7: Charge an affordable fee
A 1000/= is not too much to ask of anyone who strolls through the festival ground. It will help with the clearing of bills the sponsors may miss to cover, giving the revelers pride as well as dignity as they contributed to the feeling of togetherness and belonging financially.
Lesson 8: Stick to the program
The festival schedule as advertised in the Bayimba magazine was carried out to the dot. The venues never changed neither the performances nor their specific time, giving orderliness and credibility to the organizers. It gave you the liberty to plan what you could attend and what you couldn’t.
Lesson 9: Invest in good sound
What gave the live performances an aura of professionalism was the good sound at the festival contributing to better enjoyment. Every artist was given time to do sound check, in fact from 2 pm to 4 pm the time was allocated to soundcheck.
Lesson10: Attract volunteers
Get as many volunteers as you can on board as they will be your ears and eyes on the ground. A hardworking team of volunteers will tell you the delays and what is not getting on well, such that you can work on it for the smooth running of the festival.
A little allowance for food and transport will earn you a better organized and running festival than staff could ever get you.
Of course the festival didn’t lack its downside. The arts and crafts people in the tent were not too happy with their sales. Elvis Lusiba had this to say:
“I suggest that next time tents and tables are provided for us. Fine we pay 50,000/= for three days, but we put in a lot to hire tents and then there is no guarantee that we will get our money back. The first day, practically we didn’t earn much; Saturday was fair but today is like the first day.”
On the whole, however festival goers had nothing but praise for the festival. “Saturday was my favourite day; I enjoyed the performances especially from Jackie Akello. There was literally everything for everyone,” said Elipaliet Martha.
The Bayimba assistant media coordinator Grace Tuhaire said that all the organizer’s objectives had been achieved: “This has been good. Of course every festival has a different feel to it and certainly this has been different from the past ones.”
We would definitely do with a lot more festivals like the Bayimba, so if the bug to promote culture and a feeling of belonging, the above tips could come in handy. Congratulations to the Bayimba Cultural Foundation for an incredible three days and please keep it up.
Elizabeth Namakula is a freelance writer living in Kampala, Uganda. Her short story “A World of Our Own” was recently published in the Femrite-collection “World of Our Own”.