We’re all getting used to paying more for things we enjoy but it was still a blow to discover that this year’s Africa Oye festival will see organisers forced to charge admission for the first time in its 19 year history.

As a resident of South Liverpool for over a decade, Africa Oye has long struck me as one of the real gems of Liverpool’s varied music offerings.

For one weekend in June the chance to wander freely through Sefton Park while the likes of Tinariwen or Freddie McGregor perform live in the background, is a treat which sums up the city’s spirited bohemian atmosphere.

Oye has never had the po-faced worthiness that seems to pervade what is today labelled as World Music – Peter Gabriel’s WOMAD it certainly ain’t – and instead it marks a unique few days when Liverpool’s various communities mix in a way that would give any Daily Mail reader nightmares.

In many ways the festival has become a victim of its own success, with last year’s event seemingly pushing the authorities to the limit.

This was hardly surprising; a blazingly hot weekend often leaves Sefton Park looking like the aftermath of Altamont at the best of times. Throw in a combustible combination high temperatures, strong lager and an estimated 50,000 revellers and it’s clear that Oye was struggling to cope.

As a result this year’s festival will see an area within Sefton Park enclosed to assist with the security and policing of the event.

The mind boggles at the thought of a Glastonbury style ‘super fence’ complete with sentry towers and crocodile-filled moat and hopefully things wont come to the point were mass break-ins become a badge of honour as they did at Mr Eavis’ shindig throughout the nineties.

An increased number of toilets, a bigger and better Oye village (mmmm… curried goat) and a larger main stage complete a fair trade, especially when considering the admission price is to be £5 per day with under 12s getting in free.

It’s a tiny amount considering the quality and number of acts involved and credit should be given to Liverpool City Council for continuing to contribute funds towards such a worthwhile and positive event.

For the rest of us it’s the perfect opportunity to expand our knowledge slightly beyond that battered old copy of Graceland….

Africa Oye
Sefton Park, Liverpool
Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th June 2011
12:30pm-9:30pm on both days
Admission: £5 advance day ticket (under 12s free entry)

Main image: thespyglass/Flickr
Second image: saralparker/Flickr
Third image: trisbj/Flickr

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