The 2011 Lake of Stars festival, Malawi — a celebration of art, tourism and real progress

Sara Drawwater
30 August 2011
Reading about the up and coming Lake of Stars Festival in Malawi has been inspiring and frustrating. Lake of Stars promotes event-tourism and Malawi’s creative industries. Festival organisers have…

Reading about the up and coming Lake of Stars Festival in Malawi has been inspiring and frustrating. Lake of Stars promotes event-tourism and Malawi’s creative industries. Festival organisers have worked with the Malawi government who have recognised the crucial part that tourism can play in the economic development of Malawi. “….We have analysed the economy and looked at where there is the largest potential [for development] and we believe that tourism will play a vital role. The development of the tourism industry as a major foreign exchange earner is one of the Malawi government’s key objectives” (from a Forbes and SADC report). The festival which runs from the 30th of September to the 2nd of October 2011, has already exposed over 200 million people to Malawi through its media coverage, notably on global news networks (BBC, CNN) and online.

With a mission to promote and generate revenue from Malawian arts and tourism through international interaction and exposure, one can see it is certainly achieving that mission. That is inspiring. The frustrating part is seeing the success of such projects and and asking why Zambia is not doing something similar? “Support for creative industries offers significant potential for economic growth (Report from the Commonwealth Foundation) and there is empirical evidence that the creative industries are among the most dynamic emerging sectors in world trade” (UN Creative Economy Report).

Real progress

  • In 2010 the festival generated $1,000,000 of local spend. Around a third of that was in foreign currency.
  • In 2010 100 plus local people were employed and a 1000 plus hotel beds were slept in. This provided a major boost to local families and businesses.
  • The new Development Village area in the 2010 festival put NGO’s, the private sector and charities into one space to spread awareness of their activities and engage with the public.
  • 3,000 plus people came to the 2010 festival. The majority were Malawian residents with a healthy mix of regional and international travellers attracted to this unique event.
  • The festival provides a positive story for Malawi and Africa. Its key role in countering prevailing negative media messages about the continent is recognised through Lake of Stars being asked by Comic Relief to join their new See Africa Differently advisory group.

BackgroundThe festivals beginnings are interesting too. Will Jameson first visited Malawi in 1998 as a volunteer. During that time he also travelled to Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique. On returning to England, Will’s souvenir was an empty carton of ‘Chibuku Shake Shake’ beer (despised by many who blame this cheap beer for the downfall of many young men but the inspiration for what is now an amazing success). With three friends Will set up a night club in the UK. Named Chibuku (after the beer) it went on to win Best UK Club in the Mixmag Awards in 2004. That same year, armed with the experience and contacts from running the night club, Will set up the Lake of Stars Festival to encourage international tourism to Malawi. Headlined by Chibuku favourite, Groove Armada’s Andy Cato that first festival attracted dozens of people from the UK and hundreds attended from all over Malawi and Southern Africa. It won the Malawi Tourism Award in its first year and is now one of the highlights of the international festival calendar.

Festival informationSet on the shimmering, palm-fringed shores of Lake Malawi, international and African artists gather for a musical, social and cultural exchange unlike anything you will have seen before. For many it has become a focal point of travelling around this beautiful country, forming part of an itinerary spanning what Malawi has to offer. Tickets are on sale now for the festival. The line-up cements Lake of Stars’ reputation as a truly global, naturally Malawian event with dozens of Malawian acts joined by talent from across Africa (including South Africa, Namibia, Kenya) and beyond from the UK, USA and France. Foals, Freshly Ground, Black Missionaries, Baio (Vampire Weekend) give you a small taste of the 70 plus line up for 2011. Where else can you see acts from across the world playing everything from indie to kwaito to reggae and dubstep in a location that Wanderlust travel magazine hails as one of the Top Ten emerging travel destinations in the world? To stay connected with Lake of Stars festival developments:

Getting from Zambia to the 2011 festivalTickets are available here. Kalulu Backpackers have arranged a bus to go to the festival from Lusaka. There’s just 20 places so get booked on NOW. There are other coach companies who travel to Malawai from Zambia but we currently have no information on them. Flights to Malawi from Zambia are available from South African Airways. If you do go, make sure you send us some pictures!

If you like this post then ‘like’ facebook page for regular updates and/or follow us on Twitter. Or even join our mailing list.