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As deadline for Africa Oyé traders’ applications extended, market managers say ‘surprise us’

4 weeks ago

As deadline for Africa Oyé traders’ applications extended, market managers say ‘surprise us’
Credit: Mark McNulty

With headliners Julian Marley and Les Amazones d’Afrique just announced, it’s easy to see why the city’s Africa Oyé festival is hailed not just as the UK’s largest free celebration of African music – but the best.

And it’s more than just the sounds that have earned it such glowing praise. Each year around 100 traders flock to Africa Oyé to sell food and goods, and offer workshops, to add to and enhance the African and Caribbean cultural experience festival goers love.

So as the deadline for traders to apply for a place this year has been extended a month to April 26, Oyé village market managers Nikki O’Boyle and Bec Duggan say ‘surprise us’!

Credit: Mark McNulty

Bec says:

“We have got the most amazing database of people who have been trading with us every year, but somehow Nikki can always find space for new ones.

“We have an amazing mix of traders already but it would be great to hear from someone you wouldn’t normally expect to see at a festival.”

“Africa Oyé is as much about the new foods and cultural experiences as much as it is the music,” adds Nikki. “We get traders from across the UK and the world and people expect to come and eat delicious food and try things they’ve not probably tried before.

“As well as the food we have a lot of craft stalls which introduce people to different cultural music, with instruments and workshops so they can have a go and participate. We have a drumming workshop, for instance. It’s just a difference experience.”

“There are percussion instruments, drums, and bells, things that you don’t find anywhere else.

“Someone last year was selling shells and seed pods that they’d dried and they make maracas from them – something you wouldn’t find in a traditional, classic festival percussion area,” explains Bec.

There is clothing that’s made by and imported from the African diaspora, more crafts like woven baskets and jewellery, and food from all African and Caribbean regions – as well as Greek, Italian, British, and more.

Around 90% of traders are from the UK, but many of those are not originally from the UK and they bring their crafts or what they sell from their home countries. A high proportion, adds Nikki, come from the south because Africa Oyé offers a draw that only it has.

Credit: Mark McNulty

Nikki said:

“There’s a few reasons why Africa Oyé remains so popular,” “Over the years people have come to have this in their calendar because the weekend is so much fun and there’s a real atmosphere created by different people, different cultures, all just being on one place.

“And they have a really lovely time.

“The music and the line up is fantastic and our traders provide that added element of activities and other things to see and do.”

Liverpool plays a big part in why it is so popular too. Bec goes on: “We have a very diverse culture especially where it’s situated, near Toxteth; and there’s a big history of the festival moving around and fans going for the past 31 years.

“It really is a massive cultural event in the country and, actually, having travelled round to promote the festival, it’s a massive cultural event in the world, it’s held in very high regard throughout all music festivals.

“Again, the music is amazing, and the traders, the market, really makes the weekend because people, when they aren’t watching and listening to the music, can still go and do activities, and browse as if they’re at a world market. They can sit on the field and it doesn’t cost them anything to be there so they can spend their money putting that back into the community.”

The Sefton Park event remains free but Bec adds: “It’s not free to put on which is why while they don’t have to pay a ticket price, people so need to support the traders, to buy a pint at the bar, to donate at pay points dotted around, to ensure it stays free.”

Credit: Mark McNulty

Bec and Nikki would love to see new businesses applying to take part and so it can give them a boost, and so they can become part of the huge mix within the Africa Oyé community.

“They’ll be around experienced traders and the Africa Oyé atmosphere. Those traders know each other, and if they don’t know each other they go over and get to know each other and swap stories.

“It’s a really friendly space,” says Bec.

Nikki adds:

“We want people to come along, make a bit of money and have a good time. It does sound like a cliché but we are a friendly bunch in Liverpool.

“Every single trader is like family. The performers are like family. And that extends to the audience too.”

To apply to trade at Africa Oyé go to their website.

Find all the latest Liverpool news here.

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