5th Lagos Fringe Festival opens with song, dance and more

It was as magical as it had been anticipated. All the stars were present. And there was a lot to celebrate. Many motivating speeches, too.  Launched in 2018 as an open-access multidisciplinary arts festival and a not-for-profit ongoing development initiative committed to improving the livelihoods of artists as well as finding new voices in the Lagos creative scene, Lagos Fringe Festival has survived a global pandemic and all the challenges that bedevil organisations like it in the country.

Scheduled to hold from November 22 to 27, 2022 from 9:00 am to 11:00 pm each day at Freedom Park, Broad Street, Lagos, it is an event everyone who can should attend.

Freedom Park boss, Mr. Theo Lawson and Lagos Fringe Festival co-founder, Brenda Uphopho at the opening of the 5th edition in Lagos

“You’re welcome to Lagos Fringe! Can you believe that we’re five years old? Don’t we deserve a round of applause? We’re five years, five years of creative opportunities, of showcasing exhibitions, capacity building, of engagements, of networking, five years of making super stars. Five years of making creative star-ups,” Festival Director Kenneth Uphopho said excitedly.

“From Lagos Theatre Festival that we used to manage, we’ve developed something for young talents to be able to exhibit at least once a year. Can you imagine? Out of 365 days, and some people have only once a year to exhibit their work and showcase their talent to the world? So this day is an amazing day for us. We’re super grateful that.”

Uphopho took time to thank Lagos Fringe partners, saying, “We thank you that you have taken time to be out here with us. You deserve a round of applause. Every kind of artistic work come into the Fringe,” and then singled out some personalities who have helped in the journey such as “Theo Lawson of Freedom Park, Ibrahim Aliu of the American Consulate, our friend from Brighton Fringe, who is also on the Advisory Board, Julian Caddy, Otunba Tunji Sotimirin, former Secretary of NANTAP, Charles Ukpong and the media also publicising Lagos Fringe”.

Board member of Lagos Fringe and star actress, Ego Boyo, also expressed gratitude to the audience when she said, “It’s been five years of creative opportunities, of developing artists, fostering collaborations and networking, exhibitions. This is exactly what it is at Lagos Fringe. It’s for wonderful opportunities. Lagos Fringe is affiliated with other Fringes. We have on our board Caddy, head of Brighton Fringe. I want to thank all our supporters, all our exhibitors, all our volunteers, and everyone that has been part of Lagos Fringe. I thank you all and welcome you to this interdisciplinary festival which happens annually.”

An emotional Caddy was full of praise for the organisers of the festival. He admitted that he’d learnt more from Kenneth and his team than he’d imparted on them. 

“Praise them,” he shouted. “Praise them. My journey with Lagos Fringe began not five years ago but seven years. I was brought to advise and help them build Fringe in Lagos. To be honest, I learnt a great deal more from them than they learnt  from me. They are heroes to the arts in this country, this city, this region, and I think we are blessed for what they do. Now Mr. Kenneth, what will I do now without you? He’s become such a personal friend in the three years that I’ve been here. I’m feeling incredibly privileged to be invited back to share ideas. It’s a platform that did not exist before; there has not been support of this nature for the arts before in this country, and this is what is needed. So we need money; we need friends. We need the networks. I want to build as much network as I can as CEO of Brighton Fringe. Thank you for what you do, for the amazing work you do.”

Secretary of the National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP), Makinde Adeniran, also commended the festival for what it has achieved in five years, especially its consistent platform for young creatives. 

“Platforms like this one bring new entrants into the industry, because Lagos Fringe is one of the few places young people can express their art; it’s one of the big ones for us. We have so many, but gradually Lagos Fringe is standing out. Five years of consistency. For us at the National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners, we value what Fringe is doing. In spite of our different challenges, we have to show up here to honour what Fringe is doing this evening, and particularly to stay in partnership with Fringe Festival. We thank you for what you’re doing. We appreciate you. Call on us whenever you need our support. Platforms like yours (Lagos Fringe) are the ones giving credibility to us at NANTAP.”

For lawyer and writer,Aduke Gomez, Lagos Fringe saw a gap that it has been filling creditably, “Five years of doing Lagos Fringe means that it’s becoming mainstream, it means that it’s getting to a wider audience. I can only wish them all the best. I should congratulate them for seeing the need, for seeing a gap and bridging it.”

For Freedom Park boss Theo Lawson, “It’s always a delight to have Kenneth and Brenda come to Freedom Park. Once they come, they take over everywhere. They even want to brand me!”

Brenda’s story of how the festival started was as inspiring as it was emotional, dwelling on the investment that went into the project that has clocked five years: “It’s five years, and it’s very emotional. Investing in Lagos Fringe five years ago was the most insane thing we’ve ever done. Investing everything we had in the festival and we were down to the shirts we had on our backs. Not even money for Christmas, not even for the children. Like everything that will be great and everything that will be wonderful and everything that will be fantastic and massive and beautiful, we’re five years old. We had a very tough first time. We owe it all to the team. We didn’t have anything left to pay the team. They (mostly) went without being paid. They have been awesome. I can’t thank them enough. The volunteers just believed in the dream and ran with it for five years.”

She then made the announcement of leave of absence: “I’d like to announce my leave of absence from Lagos Fringe Festival. I’ve taken it already, but I’m just announcing it. I can’t put a time into it, but it will take a while (before I return). What this means is that I’m not going to be actively working, actively producing for Fringe. I’ve joined the British Council Nigeria for now. I’m the Head of the Arts for Nigeria and Lead for Creative Economy for Sub-Saharan Africa. I’ve always wanted to be on the biggest scale, on the biggest platform; I believe that God has called me to do this. So, when I saw an opportunity to advance the gospel of theatre, to advance the gospel of the creative economy, I took it only because we have such a capable board.

“Don’t forget that this platform is for development; it’s for young people to have the opportunity to be able to do their work. So it’s not the glossiest theatre pieces, not the most famous, not the most well attended. However, it’s being put together in a manner that you will enjoy. Even though I’m taking a leave of absence, the standard, the quality and all things you know about the festival will still be there for you to enjoy.”

Dugombas Dance Company entertained the audience with its vigorous dance steps, just as Olateru Olagbegi was announced as joining the Lagos Fringe Festival board with Tope Sani also being named Programme Director.


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