Roller Skating at Lake of Stars Festival in Malawi
We are back from Lake of Stars Festival in Malawi! In short, it was AMAZING! I could end the blog post right there but I'm going to go on a bit and tell you about one of the most brilliant music and arts festivals on the planet and how we were lucky enough to be invited along to teach roller skating in an empty swimming pool right beside one of the biggest lakes in the world.
When we first came up with the idea of Skate Malawi we were thinking about Lake of Stars festival. We were in the pub after working at a roller disco in Glasgow. We were talking about how great it would be to run a roller skating rink at a music festival. Lake of Stars in Malawi immediately came up as a great place to do it. So we sent the team at LOS a concept drawing and an email. They came back to us and said: "Yes, that would be great but it would be even better if you built a permanent skating rink". Two years ago that's how our Skate Malawi began. Whilst we are some way off building the permanent facility in Malawi, being at Lake of Stars with a bunch of skates and a sound system was a huge step forward for us.
Just a few days after getting back from Skate Love Festival in Barcelona we were loading up 6 suitcases of skates, pads, and helmets and made our way from Glasgow and Barcelona to Malawi. We spent one night in the capital city, Lilongwe. Then we jumped in a car and made our way to the gorgeous Senga Bay where the festival was to take place. It really is a spectacularly beautiful location for a music festival. We arrived on a Wednesday afternoon and headed immediately for the 'Deep End', an empty swimming pool that had been lovingly painted by the Zaluso Arts Collective. You should really go over to Facebook and Instagram and follow these guys. They are making awesome artwork! Despite the pool being a little bumpy it was a great place to skate. After a much-needed roll around and a dip in Lake Malawi, we decided to get some sleep. The next day over 1000 young people from local schools and colleges were coming to the festival for the 'Day of Ideas'
'Day of Ideas' was an outreach event aimed at letting local young people experience some of the festival atmospheres. There was live music, talks and of course roller skating. To be honest we were pretty nervous about how skating would be received but we needn't have been. From the moment we turned on the tunes and invited people to give it a shot we had a huge line of people wanting to get padded up and have a skate. Inevitably there were falls and tumbles but there were far more smiles and lots of laughter. At one point there were literally hundreds of people sitting and standing around the edge of the pool cheering on their friends as they got to grips with roller skating.
The next day the festival opened to the public and we set ourselves up to welcome festival goers eager to give roller skating a try. After just a few minutes and a few falls, people were rolling on their own.
The music was provided by the mighty East African Records from Kampala Uganda, a special mix courtesy of DJ Moocha. All of our worries about whether Skate Malawi was a good idea or not had been blown out of the water by the amazing level of engagement and excitement from the Malawian people!
When not roller skating we spent the majority of our time at the wonderful Mlambe Stage. This was a small covered area built from earthbags by the Mlambe Project. They are a charity working with sustainable building techniques. If you want to know more about them head over to their website, http://themlambeproject.org/ The people who run this project are some of the first people we met in Malawi. They have always made us feel very welcome and they are responsible for teaching us most of the Chichewa we can speak. The Mlambe stage was being hosted by the Art and Global Health Centre Africa. They work on creating social change through participatory arts. A program of speakers and discussion was happening throughout the weekend with a sprinkling of joyous karaoke in between speakers. This was a great spot to get out of the hot sun and hear about exciting projects currently happening in Malawi. It was without doubt our favourite place at the festival.
Full of lively discussion and friendly people. One of the most impactful talks was from Malawian hip-hop artist and woman's equality advocate Lady Pace and the festival's safeguarding officer and poet Phindu Banda.
They spoke both articulately and passionately about woman's rights in Malawi. On Sunday we were lucky enough to be able to talk about Skate Malawi. Again we were quite nervous but we needn't have been, the audience was kind and had lots of great questions about us and the project. Hearing young Malawian people get excited and enthusiastic about a roller skating rink and skating as a vehicle for social change was amazing! Thank you so much to all the people who facilitated the Mlambe stage!
Apart from the roller skating and talking there was, of course, the music! There were two main stages built on the beach and after hours the 'Deep End' played host to DJ's for those of us who like to dance all night. We were keen to check out as many Malawian artists as possible. On Friday night we headed along to the Main Stage for the headliner, Suffix. A Malawian hip-hop artist with sick beats and great flow. The crowd was going crazy as he seamlessly moved between bars in Chichewa and in English. He is definitely one to watch and more than justified his headline billing. That night we also caught a bit of the soulful singer-songwriter George Kalakusha on the second stage.
The highlight on Saturday was without a doubt Lady Pace on the second stage. Backed by a full band she blew the audience away with her unique brand of upbeat hip-hop. Seriously, go check her out now!!! On Sunday we were told that the ones to watch were Lazarus and Faith Mussa.
Lazarus plays a ukulele with a resonator type sound box and kick drum which he sat on. By the way, this guy had the best threads! Lazarus is also a campaigner for the rights of people with Albinism. He is another person you should go look up right now! Prior to Sunday night's headliners Major Lazer, was Faith Mussa. Playing an electric guitar and using live drum looping he created amazing songs with crazy polyrhythms. By the time Major Lazer took to the stage a massive sandstorm had rolled in and the only way to keep it at bay was to wrap our heads in clothes and don our sunglasses at night. It turned out to be an epic way to finish the best festival we've ever been to. You should all be putting it in your diaries for next year!
We want to say a HUGE thank you to the team from Lake of Stars for having us along to promote Skate Malawi. We met so many wonderful people and were made to feel so welcome at your festival. We'll definately be back!
So what's next for Skate Malawi?
We are now a fully incorporated Community Interest Company. We will be operating as a not for profit social enterprise with the goals of facilitating skate culture and ultimately building a dedicated skate facility in Malawi. We are now focused on fundraising to go back to Malawi for a longer period of time. During the next trip, we will be working with Malawian collaborators to seed rolling skating culture. We will help set up regular skate events and hopefully identify a site for the skate park. So there's a lot to do but we are feeling highly motivated after our amazing trip to Malawi.
If you have any questions about Skate Malawi or would like to get involved drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Skate Malawi x