Celebrating 20 years
Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, Africa Oye is one of the gems in Liverpool's crown. This free festival, normally spread over two days in June, always manages to deliver entertainment of the highest standard. Bands from Ghana, Nigeria, Niger, DRC, The Gambia and Senegal were on the bill for this year, as well as Sunday's intended headliner, Brinsley Forde and The Rasites (who are really British, but we don't hold that against them).
Oye's success has been noticed outside of Liverpool too. It has been named by The Guardian as one of the UK's 10 best free festivals. And we respectfully agree. Not only is there music on the main stage, but there are plenty of stalls selling food and other merchandise as well as the Oye Inn, where all bar proceeds are ploughed back into the running costs of the festival. There is face painting, drumming workshops, mask making and generally all round good times to be had.
Reports last year put the attendance over the weekend at around 50,000 people. It was a shame indeed, then, that this year's event took on a very different format. Heavy rain during the week had given the organisers all sorts of problems at Sefton Park, not least the fact that water levels had made it impossible to get the stage erected and vehicles on site had apparently done serious damage to the field. Presumably they tried as hard as they could to keep the show running, but at about 4pm on Friday they had to admit defeat and the announcement was made that the festival was cancelled. We were promised an alternative, though, and at about 10pm it was announced that a somewhat reduced line up would play at The Picket on Saturday with DJ sets at Camp & Furnace.
Word spread around. The Picket was rammed. Camp & Furnace less so, but still busy. The Picket was not an ideal venue. Either it is too small, or there were too many people. But they opened the big shuttered door and the party spilled out onto the street. The music was top class as always and there was plenty food and beer to keep everyone topped up. Yaaba Funk and Dele Sosimi were probably our favourites, but really the show was the star and everyone involved who managed to pull this off at such short notice.
Hopefully Oye will be back in the park next year, where it should be. But for this year, we can say we were there. And we were.
Enjoy the shots.