This year’s extraordinary and biggest gathering of arts in Lagos, Lagos Theatre Festival, is indeed a unifying arts event and a tool for social and economic development.
Organised by the British Council, the highly successful festival which ran from February, 23rd to 28th 2016, showcased over 100 performances from producers such as Bani Productions, Comic Republic, Creative Arts Collection UNILAG, Make it happen Productions, Thespian Family Theatre, Troopers Arts, Women in Arts and many more including four International productions from the United Kingdom. The festival was held at several venues on Lagos Island and the mainland at 20 venues including British Council, National Arts Theatre, Freedom Park, Terrakulture, Bogobiri, Muson Centre, University of Lagos, among others.Some of the shows among others were: Fela Son of Kuti, Sad Pink, I Dream of Lagos, Next of Kin, Itan, The Wait, Every Single Day, Dialing Love, Bogobiri Open Mic, Boboye and The Duet.
Speaking at the official opening of the festival, the Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism, Art and Culture, Mr. Folarin Coker, said Lagos State was proud to hold the largest festival in Nigeria and West Africa. “The festival presents an opportunity to promote and showcase talents and creativity of our great city and in line with our administration’s resolve to create all- year-round of arts, culture, entertainment and tourists’ attractive events across the length and the State. I am pleased to say that from four productions from 2013, the festival has grown through those years from about 40 productions to over 100 shows. I am more pleased that similar to our vision with One Lagos Fiesta, which in December expanded to the five administrative districts. The festival in these years, taking place across multiple locations on Lagos and Lagos Mainland, in line with the administration to create opportunities to create for the enjoyment of art and culture, not just for small minority of Lagos population. In the subsequent years, we will like to see more expansion from Agege to Epe, Badagry and Ikorodu. We will find ways to work with British Council to find ways how we can achieve this expansion.”
He commended all the staff of theatre companies and partners that worked hard to put the festival together. “Together we can develop a performing arts sector that can rival anyone in the world and we are prepared to engage you to find ways this can be achieved.”
In her welcome address, Country Director, British Council Nigeria, Connie Price, stated that: “We are delighted to welcome you to the Lagos Theatre Festival, the largest performing arts festival in Nigeria. This is the third Lagos Theatre Festival and it promises to be bigger and better than ever. The programme of performances, produced by Nigerian and British theatre makers, is part of UK/Nigeria 2015-16, a major season of arts work aimed at building new audiences, creating new collaborations and strengthening relationships.”
She further disclosed that Lagos Theatre Festival was programmed in association with a host of partners, UK/Nigeria 2015-16 features more than 30 projects and more than 80 events in fashion, design, theatre, dance, music, literature and film throughout Nigeria and includes showcases of Nigerian arts and creative industries in the UK. Partnerships between Nigerian and British artists, institutions and organisations are at the heart of the season.
“A major focus of UK/Nigeria 2015-16 is on creating access to art, new digital work, art in public spaces and working with young people. I am glad to say that Lagos Theatre Festival ticks all of these boxes and more. I hope you enjoy the performances over the coming days, part of our vision to create new connections between the UK and Nigeria in arts, education and the creative industries.”
Also speaking, Director Arts, British Council Nigeria, Ojoma Ochai, noted that Lagos Theatre Festival had come a long way since they launched in 2013 to stimulate and support innovation and growth in Nigerian theatre. “Through the festival, we also sought to build new audiences and to offer opportunities for professional exchange between Nigeria and British theatre makers.”
Festival Director, Lagos Theatre Festival, Kenneth Uphopho, was excited about the festival and hinted that the programme was designed to suit a wide range of audiences including first time theatre goers.
The Head of sponsorship, First Bank of Nigeria Plc, Mrs. Bridget Odunsanmi, said they could not commend British Council enough for the initiative. “We really like the idea that everywhere is a theatre. We are happy to be partners with them at this event. We are very grateful that organisations such as British Council are giving talents exposure.”