Friday, 6 September 2013

The Barefeet Festival; A rip - roaring success.

Last week, I had the absolute pleasure of being able to cover the Barefeet Festival. I didn't really know a lot about the organisation or the festival. If I’m honest I was just excited about the chance to get plenty of material for the blog, maybe do a bit of networking and have some fun during the week.

You see, I’ve been having a pretty rough month. Has me singing Ronan Keating’s, ‘Life is a Rollercoaster’, and not in a cheerful manner. You know, the kind of month when you do the bare minimum because you just don’t have the inclination, motivation, energy or creativity to do much more.

This festival was a chance to get out of that rut. If nothing else it would keep me busy, just what I needed to get my mind off things.

Let’s just say I got a lot more than I bargained for. This is going to sound a little clich├ęd, but the Barefeet Festival was a truly cathartic experience for me.

One of the things you realise when you return ‘home’ is that your friends have moved on and you need to make new ones.

I got to the launch alone and didn't really know what to expect. I needn't have worried. You know all that talk of the internet and social media destroying ‘proper’ human interaction; absolute poppycock. The only people I knew at that launch turned out to be individuals I’d met through Twitter, but it didn't stop us having a good time.

It was an interesting evening with some exciting tidbits of things to come. I wasn't, however, too keen on the hosts insistence that we ROAR at every possible opportunity.

One of the acrobats at the launch

A funeral for mediocrity

This little boy had us holding our breaths he was tossed about every which way

Randy McLaren a spoken word artist from Jamaica

My friends and I being Pompi groupies

I kept an open mind and attended an acrobatic workshop at the Lusaka Arts Theater. The plan was to go there, take a look at what was happening and maybe take some notes. It was my first time at the theater in many years.  Everyone told me that it was now nothing more than a drinking place. The TV at the bar was showing those ever dramatic Hispanic soaps, hardly the first thing that comes to mind when you think of, ‘the Arts’.

I started to recognise faces, and hair, lots of dread-locked hair. I thought to myself, ‘I hope this is not a festival for us by us’. Can you tell I was a little apprehensive?

Well, true to form I got roped in. Who cares that I wasn't dressed for jumping up and down, sprawling across the, very dusty, hardwood floor. Don’t wear white jeans to an acrobatic workshop!

It was nice to interact with people from across the world, of varying ages and quite questionable acrobatic experience.

Amateur acrobatics 

The enthusiasm was infectious, it crept up on me. I resolved to attend more events and volunteered to take part in a debate about the state of Art in Zambia.

The debate took place last Thursday and I’d say the events of that day marked a turning point in my appreciation of the Festival.

I arrived at the NASDEC sports complex and it was an absolute hive of activity. Incidentally its self evident that the government is far more interested in sports than the arts. There were what must have been hundreds of young people milling around, chalk all over their bodies and clothes made of sacks trailing behind them. OK a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the picture. It was absolutely buzzing; drumming and singing could be heard around the venue but true to form my experience of the day was a more sedate, cerebral affair.

I witnessed and took part in discussions about innovation, creativity, democracy, even gender inequality. It was a positively, stimulating day. Just to be in the company of so many within the creative industry who are passionate, not just about their work but about their role in the development of our country, really inspired me.

The final day marked my ‘Road to Damascus’ moment. Yes, I really did just use that analogy. You might say I’m being a little dramatic; it was after all just a musical concert. Let me explain myself. It was a Saturday night; yet again I walked in alone, apprehensive but didn't spend the evening that way. Instead I spent it singing and dancing along to the various acts on stage in the company of people I’d like to think of as my friends.

More talk of lions

As the acts came on, I started to notice a theme. The Mwale Sisters invited a group of young girls on to the stage to dance and when they inevitably wiggled their way through the music told them that life was not all about winding your waist. Maybe they should have a word with Miley. Mutinta invited us to sing along to Nibani, a song that condemns the tendency of other people to magnify our limitations. Randy McClaren saluted all hardworking Zambians.

One thing resonated with me, as act after act performed, whether through their lyrics or like Hope Masike by their stage presence. It was about empowerment.

This is one talented lady, Hope Masike 
One of the Mwale Sister. I'm not ashamed to say one of the highlights of the evening was a surprise appearance by Anna Mwale.

Pompi and Hope Masike

The lovely Mutinta

I finally got it. Art and creativity lead to innovation and empowerment. I didn't just get it, I felt it. I have been energised by attending this festival and witnessing so many young people, fearlessly pursuing their dreams.

And all that talk of lions and silly roaring? It’s about agitation as opposed to complacency; making an impact in the best, most creative way that you can. So, I’m ROARING through this year, looking forward to what next years Barefeet Festival has in store for us.


  1. Glad you enjoyed yourself, we did have a ROARing good time he he he. And I absolutely agree, online does not destroy offline interaction, I think it actually enhances it!

    1. and the puns keep coming....thanks for visiting!

  2. Now the pressure is on me to publish my article soon! Nice piece, definitely taken some notes from here lol.

    1. Thanks Benny and thanks for visiting too!