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Marketing ‘Lagos culture season’ calendar to boost tourism as Art Festivals end

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A scene from Paul Ugbede’s August Meeting, produced by Chioma Onyenwe, directed by Kenneth Uphopho; it brought Lagos Fringe Festival 2018 to a close


• ‘Let’s Create An International Brand Out Of It’
Reactions from the culture sector to a story published in The Guardian on October 24 that lamented the clumsy nature of culture programming in Lagos has generated a case for standardising culture programming to attract tourism specifically for Lagos and perhaps any other city that may wish to cue into a harmonised season of cultural offerings to boost local tourism.

The report titled “Lagos’ ‘ember’ clash of culture programming” had concluded: “While the ‘ember’ months of October and November are packed to the brim with culture events, from December all through till next year September would be famished months where nothing culturally exciting happens. Culture programmers must begin earnest harmonization of these events so they are spread out evenly all through the year for the robust engagement of the larger culturally conscious Nigerians. Culture programmers must come together and talk, as their clumsy event arrangement is a nightmare for art journalists to keep up for thorough reportage.”

On several platforms as WhatsApp and Facebook, arts and culture producers as well as journalists made significant inputs on the dilemma and what could be done to better strengthen Lagos culture calendar for everyone concerned.

While radio presenter and senior manager at Radio Nigeria, Funke Treasure Durodola hailed the proposition as being “Gbam! Spot on,” Ozi Okoli of TVC said, “You’re right. The problem with Nigerian festival conveners: I call it “the competitive Naija style. Ake Arts and Book Festival, Association of Nigerian Authors’ (ANA) Convention, Lagos Photo Festival, The Nigerian Prize for Literature award sponsored by Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas (NLNG), MUSON Festival too inclusive, etc, all happening at the same time. In their minds, media reporting in Nigeria comes with ease and mobility.”

Co-chair of Lagos Arts and Book Festival (LABAF), Mr. Jahman Anikulapo, hailed the proposition for harmonization as “Very succinctly put. For LABAF sha… Na Dem Deh Rush Us ooo… 14 (out) of 20 years being on (the) same date consistently. And, of course, he is damn wrong about KINNISO and LABAF clashing… One is being hosted by the other… He can check the programme outline at www.lagosbookartfestival.org. It is there Gbagada!”

Okoli added a hilarious note to the banter, when he said, “And (reporters can) probably (do) with Harry Potter’s flying brooms to cover everywhere…” to which Anikulapo quipped, “The Arts Reporter as a “winsched” SuperMan!”

For an art and culture programmer, Mr. Samuel Osaze Oriakhi, it is simply “Frightening that all is happening at the same time. As if that’s about the only time their reluctant sponsors can part with cash.”

Also on Facebook, the conversation became heated. Culture and travel journalist, Mr. Pelu Awofeso noted, “It’s a deluge, and so overwhelming. I agree with the suggestion that all organisers come to a table and agree on spreading out these events year round. We all lose when four arty programmes hold same day/weekend.”

To which ‘femi Fairchild Morgan, a writer, book promoter, and culture programmer, partly concurred, adding, “I agree, but I suspect it won’t change. In order not to extend the conversation, I have personally been in a meeting where one of the curators raised this issue; that discussion did not start much less end. I think there are opportunities and opening windows set for October and November that are not open for other months. You know the funny thing is that art organisations are in competition, not in collaboration; so, it is a waste of time to engage this issue.”

However, Morgan has some advice on how art reporters should go about being effective in the job, noting, “I would advice editors of art organisations to reinvent their strategies for reportage for the festival months. If it is possible, train new journalists to be as prolific as they are; involve freelancers, engage folks from other desks who are culturally inclined but have low times for reportage in their own industry. I believe they can fix it on their on side. Leave festival organisers; they won’t change.

“This is part of why Artmosphere would rather support existing festivals than create another one. It is a small community of art lovers who are torn between festivals and art events happening almost at the same time.”But by far the most far-reaching submission came from another culture programmer, Mr. Ayodele Arigbabu, who said, “I happen to see it differently” and went on to propose ‘Lagos Culture Season,’ an innovative idea that, if pursued properly, could make Lagos or any other city interested in tourism the biggest cultural hub than Lagos already is.

“I’m not sure programmers need to spread out the events that much. Yes, having a calendar for the season might help, but there would always be overlapping events. Lagos is big enough to take all of them; we just need to keep growing the audience.

“The concentration is a good thing. It means there is a culture season in Lagos, Nigeria, and this season can be marketed as a block for local and international tourists. It means that if I live in Sokoto, or Lisbon, I can plan to have my holiday in October (or November) and travel to Lagos knowing fully well that there would be a LOT to see and attend all through the month, and I would meet lots of amazing people on that trip with options of what to see on any given day at any given time.

“It means sponsors can target their marketing spend. It means hotels can plan for a great surge within those weeks. People with decent cars who live outside Lagos can travel in to do Uber or Taxify for two months and make enough money to pay for their rent in Ibadan or Abeokuta. Government can target their messaging for that period when people are a bit more relaxed and open to ideas; government can target its sponsorship budget and road repairs, and increased electricity delivery to take care of demand during the surge, to look good in the minds of visitors, knowing fully well that they will also register a surge in taxes received all round during the period.

“Journalists need not complain either; they should be thinking about actually publishing and promoting the ‘Lagos Culture Season’ calendar well in advance, and of recruiting freelance journalists and bloggers on a contract basis to help pick up the slack in covering the plethora of events. They should be thinking of creating special publications targeted at the season (for example, Pelu Awofeso’s work with FelaToday is exemplary in the way it targets Felabration. He can now think of it as not just being for Felabration, but being an opportunity for Fela’s voice to reverberate all through the entire Lagos Culture Season.

“Newspapers’ online media channels should be staffed within this season to spin out endless reviews, interviews, analysis, and promotions. They should be looking at upping the advertising revenue they earn within this season to account for the heightened activities.“What everybody needs to do is to sit down and agree that there is a ‘Lagos Culture Season,’ create an international brand out of it, and make it work even better than any other city. It’s not true that there are no other art events during other months of the year.”

Arigbabu argued that other festivals also take place in the course of the year, but he harped on exploring and maximisng the potential ‘Lagos Culture Season’ offers, noting, “iRep International Documentary Festival does not happen in October. I actually feel overwhelmed all year round. But if there is a greater concentration of events around October – November, I see that as an opportunity, and not a call to complain over what apparently is a success that the culture community has grown organically and collectively over after several years of very hard work. There, I even gave it a name already, ‘Lagos Culture Season.’ Get to work people, and promote the hell out of it.”

After Arigbabu’s seemingly excellent submission, Awofeso saw reason to reverse himself, stating, “I see sense in your submission – plenty sense sef. I am reviewing my thoughts on the matter, to see the glass half full (and not half empty). As a domestic tourism advocate, I should plug into these arrangements big time!

And thanks for the reference to FelaToday: we are already strategizing how to make it not just about Felabration and position it as a vehicle that services many other relevant socio-political issues. Plus Lagos Culture Season: let’s run with that, everyone!”And as ‘Lagos Culture Season’ calendar drew its curtain last Sunday, November 18, with the Kenneth Uphopho-led Lagos Fringe Festival, cultural consumers will have their eyes set on Calabar Christmas Carnival, Cross River State, and other smaller carnivals like Idoma Carnival, Benue State and similar ones elsewhere yet to be properly promoted for prominence. Until yet again iRep International Film Documentary takes centre-stage in February for yet another season to start its round.

Perhaps, the question on the minds of many culture promoters and enthusiasts is, will Lagos State Government see the huge tourism potential in this private sector-driven model and give it needed fillip and funding? Perhaps, the state government needs to explore how it could also harmonise its Lagos Street Carnival with the others to properly draw the culture calendar year to a close since it replaced One Lagos Fiesta, held on December 1.

Sadly, in all the cultural offerings held so far since October 18, starting with MUSON Festival, not even Lagos State governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode or his Commission for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, attended any of the seven festivals, save Ayorinde’s belated appearance at ANA convention.


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