I went to Africa Oyé for the first time and there was one thing I didn't expect

I went to Africa Oyé for the first time last weekend
-Credit: (Image: Jamie Greer)

For so long, I’ve missed out on a Liverpool tradition.

Africa Oyé has been running for over 30 years now, with the free Afro-Caribbean music festival taking place in the glorious Sefton Park. I’ve visited the park many times, moved to south Liverpool a few years ago and have even written articles about the festival. But for one reason or another, I have never quite managed to make it over.

This weekend however provided the perfect opportunity. The sun was out, I had family over and there were no matches at the Euros during the day which would have kept me on the couch.

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As I walked up to Sefton Park, the sound of music could be heard from several streets away. I was expecting a wide array of unique sounds from established and upcoming artists.

But in truth, the festival took me by surprise. Africa Oyé is so much more than one stage of live music. There were stalls from various Liverpool organisations, from the universities to fundraisers for the Anthony Nolan Foundation and the Mandela8 project. Young children were delighted to have a look inside the fire trucks too and chat to the brave firefighters who keep Merseyside safe every day.

There was also so much food to choose from. There was something for everyone, from pizzas and burgers to Greek street food. I wouldn’t have minded trying some Jamaican jerk chicken, but I wouldn't have been able to withstand the long queues in the sweltering heat.

Some festival goers had opted to do their own thing and were busy cooking meals on their own barbecues. Many people were there primarily for the music, but this wasn’t a necessity.

You can treat the performances simply as a backdrop for relaxing in the park and catching up with friends and family. It was lovely to see people from all ages, from babies to OAPs, enjoying Sefton Park.

Before we headed back home, we stopped off for a drink on the nearby Lark Lane. Being so close to the bustling street of cafes, restaurants and pubs is another huge selling point of the festival.

Africa Oyé truly has all the benefits of a festival without the drawback of having to pay a lot of money, travel across long-distances and having to sleep in an uncomfortable tent. The fact that this is all put on with no entry free is a testament to the dedication of the festival’s organisers.

If you’ve never been before, don’t just think of it as a music festival. Think of it as a celebration of everything that makes Liverpool great.

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