Lake of Stars Festival (LoS) is not a new festival. It has been there and, today, it is among the most sought after festivals in the world.
Since it started 15 years ago at Chintheche Inn in Nkhata-Bay, the festival has helped in selling the country to the world and providing a platform to Malawian acts to share the stage with other international artists.
The festival has offered the platform for networking between Malawian and foreign acts.
This year, the festival, which has also helped in promoting the country’s tourism, will be celebrating 15 years of existence.
The main festival will take place from September 28 to 30 at a venue to be announced.
The festival did not take place in 2017 and returns this year with a line-up of activities which started with the free LoS Set It Off event at Chancellor College in Zomba in January.
This event gave a chance to women to show their verve, which saw them taking a leading role in almost all the areas, including showcasing their skills on stage.
Lake of Stars Festival’s spokesperson, Zilanie Gondwe, said 2018 is the most exciting year for the festival.
“We celebrate 15 years and we aim to make it a game changer,” Gondwe said.
The year 2018 has seen organisers putting up activities— dubbed LoS London and Scotland— in London and Scotland.
The LoS London takes place tomorrow and then LoS Scotland on Sunday.
“For the first time, we are holding LoS Festival UK. Two cities in two days – London and Glasgow. The game changer started with Set It Off. In the UK events – apart from great music– we have included films (Lilongwe Shorts will be screening) and visual art where we have Zaluso Arts from Malawi,” Gondwe said.
The spokesperson said, through the UK events, they were hoping to expose Malawian artists to the world to increase their experience and opportunities.
“We aim to promote our country by continuing to tell our Warm Heart of Africa story that will bring people here and strengthen our tourism footprint,” she said.
And when some quarters have criticised the festival for, among other things, exploiting local acts by underpaying them, Gondwe said Malawian artists and suppliers are paid fairly.
“We book many Malawian artists and manage all their logistics. We cannot afford all artists. The framework of a festival has very high costs and we aim to balance the costs to produce a fantastic event and a quality experience for festival goers,” Gondwe said.
She added that the festival is a mutual benefit arrangement and that their aim is to build a brand that makes Malawi attractive to tourism and give festival-goers a good time.
“Lake of Stars Festival has built a positive tourism profile for Malawi. It drives tourism dollars into Malawi. It spurs the festival industry where a lot of artists are booked for and hotels and lodges, among other beneficiaries, reap the fruits,” she said.
Gondwe also said that LoS employs many Malawians and that it also excels in capacity building in aspects such as event management, adding that they have also been in the limelight supporting other festivals.
She cited the free Tumaini Festival.
“We have produced creative platforms for student engagement such as the Festival of Ideas and Children’s Future Festival. As such, we are here not only for entertainment but to help develop Malawi,” she said.
Gondwe said that the festival’s events in UK promote Malawi.
“Malawi has historical ties and cordial relations with Scotland. We are collaborating with the Scottish Malawi Partnership in hosting the Glasgow event and, for many years, LoS has had partnerships with Scottish organisations which have sponsored Malawian acts,” she said.
Faith is one of the artists performing in the UK, and said he was geared to raise Malawi’s flag.
“I have been busy with rehearsals since I came and I have been doing radio interviews, studio sessions and I was on BBC Radio and TV having an interview with Chakuchanya Harawa,” the ‘Mdidi’ star said.
The artist will be performing as a one-man band.
“I think I have never been as excited as this. Maybe it’s because we are showcasing Malawian works. My set is different and full of strong Malawian rhythms,” Mussa said.
Apart from Mussa, the other acts billed to perform at LoS London are Frightened Rabbit from Scotland, Bongeziwe Mabandla from South Africa, Wezi from Zambia, M.anifest from Ghana and Zathu Band from Malawi.
The LoS Scotland will feature Scott Hutchison (Frightened Rabbit), M.anifest, Mussa, Mabandla, Zathu, Wezi and Michael Pedersen.
At the UK events, Zaluso Arts, an art collective founded by two visual artists Akulu Lipenga and Mac Ndalama, will also star.
“I am very happy for the opportunity to meet other artists and bring international attention to Malawian art,” Akulu said.
Zaluso Arts engages in such activities as hosting of murals, art shows as well as other art projects in the quest to promote art in Malawi.
Akulu and Mac have travelled to Los London and Scotland, courtesy of the British Council.
“We met the team from British Council at the Festival of Ideas in 2017 where we did a superhero workshop for children to create characters that deal with Malawian problems. So, now, there is a programme called Rovers of the world and they have contracted us to deliver workshops there as well,” Akulu said.
He said they are teaming up with some street artists called Woodstreetwalls in London to paint some walls at Hoe Street, Walthamstow and then they will travel to Glasgow, Scotland, to paint some more walls.
Lake of Stars founder, Will Jameson, said they were set for the UK events.
“The UK events are the beginning of more exciting things coming up at the main festival. There is so much to show the world on Malawi and we are happy to have artists such as Faith Mussa,” Jameson said.