I spent a wonderful weekend in Liverpool, at the UK’s largest African musical festival, Africa Oyé. This year wasn’t just about soaking up the good music and good vibes (although there was still plenty of that) as I was helping out at the Creativity and Noise + Merkato stall.
It was great to get out of the big city – I love train journeys, exploring new places and taking a breather from the hecticness of London.
I have enormous respect for entrepreneurs who regularly set up at markets and events. It's demanding work!
This is Laura Marano, the lady behind Merkato (fairly traded homeware and fashion accessories). You may remember her from a popular Afri-love interview where she talked about her other venture, Green-Safari.
Laura and Lusungu Chikamata of Creativity and Noise. All set up and ready to trade!
It was exciting to launch the new Creativity and Noise t-shirts and tote bags, designed by yours truly and hand screenprinted by Lusungu.
Beautiful wares from Merkato. Most made in the Taita-Taveta district of Kenya, where my Dad is from.
Lusungu representing in his new 'Beat It' t-shirt. Look for it on the Creativity and Noise shop.
Knit iPhone cases from Merkato.
It was a visual treat checking out what the other vendors had to offer, such as these guords. Right: a Taita basket from Merkato (and the lady who made it!).
I met some fellow Kenyans, Muigai and Anto, who were selling these beaded bangles that had me feeling all patriotic. Kenya and Tanzania represented – perfect!
A wonderful array of colours at Dry Rain, a stall selling Moroccan wares including these leather slippers.
Our neighbouring stall had a massive collection of baskets and other woven goods including these coasters, bangles …
… and mats/rugs.
A funky zebra-print van belonging to a food stall selling all kinds of African game meat, including my beloved crocodile!
Butterfly fridge magnets made from recycled/upcycled flip-flops. From Merkato.
Of course, there was time for dancing.
Me with the Zambians, all representing with our Creativity and Noise tees.
It almost always rains at some point during the Africa Oyé weekend. This year, it didn't! Blue skies and sunshine throughout. What a bonus?!
All geared up and ready for day 2 of the festival.
As usual, the whole experience was a welcome and wonderful assault on the senses.
One of the things I love about Africa Oyé is that there’s no heavy-handed policing. The police and security presence at this festival is surprisingly minimal – you barely notice them. No gates to walk through where every inch of you is checked, no wall of policemen to intimidate. It just goes to show that if you treat people like human beings, they will act like human beings!
At some point on the Sunday, I found myself feeling a little bit teary. I know this is going to sound corny but, I was overwhelmed by just how beautiful the moment was. All kinds of people – ages, races, abilities; all kinds of random acts of kindness going on; people talking to strangers … real, tangible joy!
See you there next year!