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Uganda festival organizers fail to agree on sponsorship

Every year, a Ugandan with an idea will create an event they will term a festival. Much as all these events will claim to be celebrating an element like food, meat, pork, ice cream or even fish, they barely stay true to their manifesto, in fact, the biggest attractions are usually artistes.

Being a growing trend, In Place of War – an organization of arts lovers, came up with an initiative of having festival organizers brain storm on making their events bigger, better and more professional and to also get feedback from the crowd.

Ugandan festivals

Themed ‘Making the Festival’, the event had some of the Uganda’s reputable festival directors and artistes, including Faisal Kiwewa of Bayimba Festival, DJ Hibotep, Derek D. Debru of Nyege Nyege, Rasheeda Nalumoso of KLAArt Fest and Anthony Jermaine of Stone Fest, making their points to the audience.

Among the topics they discussed is getting potential sponsors, an idea Bayimba’s Kiwewa was skeptical about arguing that he can’t be at the mercy of sponsors.

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“Some years back when Bayimba had just started, one of the guys we had employed managed to get us a sponsor and having signed all the necessary documents, the sponsor pulled out a day to the event,” Kiwewa said, adding that; “sponsors are not reliable at all and from then, I decided to do the festival without those big sponsors that other organizers run after.”

Festivals are celebrations whose interest usually gears at a certain aspect, for instance, some festivals have a bias towards the music they program. Most film festivals prefer arthouse cinema as compared to pop Hollywood blockbusters – getting sponsors that have not digested the meaning of festivals and what they try to celebrate always sends the two parties clashing.

Ugandan festivals

“There are situations where a sponsor comes on board and tries to force an artiste, film or activity on to your program,” said Phillip Masembe, a former media director at Bayimba in an earlier interview.

Debru of Nyege Nyege, who recently got a big telecom brand as the official sponsor of this year’s festival, disagreed with Kiwewa, saying that as event organizers they need these sponsors for financial muscles. “Some bills have to be paid and if you look at the budget, we can’t handle without them,” he said.

Many festival organisers though have presented fears of sponsors never being that supportive of the arts industry the way they easily warm up to sports. For instance, one questions why a beer company will find it convenient to give a football club millions in sponsorship even without expecting a profit in beer sales but put conditions of sales when it is a festival they are giving money.

In Place of War will be running a series of networking events for the creative community in Uganda called Case Talks. Topics to be discussed will include fashion, technology, culture, among others in collaboration British Council, Doadoa and Design Hub.

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