Africa Oyé Festival is the largest celebration of live African music in the UK. Originally a smaller, multi-venue event, Oyé now attracts over fifty thousand people every June to Liverpool's Sefton Park. The festival showcases new and established African and Caribbean artists, besides celebrating different aspects of the same cultures. Oyé has also been known to programme music from South America, with Salsa, Soca and Reggae proving popular additions to the festival.
Africa Oyé is a non-profit organisation and registered charity. The festival is partially funded by the Arts Council England North West and Liverpool City Council, in addition to sponsorship, advertising, in kind support and the revenue generated from pitched traders, merchandise and the Oyé beer tent. This year, the introduction of the Trenchtown area providing music to the people around the bar was a huge success. Entrance is free of charge, however there are over eighty stalls in the surrounding Oyé Village, selling a broad range of world foods, fashion and cultural experiences.
Africa Oyé has one live music stage, hosting UK débuts for artists such as Tinariwen and Ba Cissoko. The festival has also attracted a wealth of international artists to Merseyside, including Bonga and Luciano. A wide range of DJs can also perform throughout the weekend at Trenchtown.
A recent independent Social Economic Impact Study outlined the many effects that Africa Oyé has on the Liverpudlian community. Besides Oyé’s general efforts to further cultural understanding in Merseyside, the festival brought in £1.3 million to the Liverpool economy in 2011.. As one of the earliest festivals in the UK calendar, Oyé occurs in the latter half of June. The festival has no authorised camping area, so accommodation for artists and audience alike is sought among Liverpool’s many local hotels.
Beginning in 1992 as a series of small gigs in Liverpool’s city centre, the event has consistently grown in size and popularity, forcing a move in 2002 to its present home in Liverpool’s picturesque Sefton Park. 2009 saw Oyé attract an audience of over 20,000 people, increasing to over 50,000 in 2010 and 2011. The festival was briefly a ticketed (£5) event in 2011 This was to cover the cost of enclosing the event, a precaution enforced by Liverpool City Council following the large numbers of attendance in 2010. However, after extensive discussions between Oyé’s organisers and the council, the decision was reversed and Oyé continued to be a free and unfenced festival.
2012 was the 20th anniversary of Africa Oyé.
Health and Participation
2010 began The Decade of Health and Well Being in the Liverpool region. With this in mind Oyé introduced The Health, Learning, and Participation Zone at the Africa Oyé festival, featuring activities such as:
- African and Caribbean dance workshops by Movema.
- Drumming and Percussion Workshops with local community group Beatlife and Glastonbury’s Chai Chapel.
- Guitar Workshops.
- Vocal coaching.
- Capoeira Brazilian Martial Arts performances and demonstrations.
- A mobile climbing wall.
- Holistic therapies.
- African massages.
- Info stalls about health and well being.
These additions remained in place for 2011 festival. These events take place in a designated area of the festival, with its own PA system, marquee(s), performance area, platforms and risers for public viewing and participation.
The Oyé Village
The Oyé Village is a phrase used to collectively describe the growing number of stalls at the festival. They Feature food, arts and crafts from around the world, children’s entertainment such as bouncy castles and face painting, and The Oyé Inn; a state of the art 500 capacity beer tent selling a selection of drinks.
- Freddie McGregor
- Peter Tosh
- Michael Rose (Mykal Rose)
- Femi Kuti
- Baaba Maal
- Rebecca Malope
- Habib Koite
- The Morgan Family Heritage
- The Soul Brothers
- Thomas Mapfumo
- The Gangbé Brass Band
- Tiken Jah Fakoly
- La Excelencia
- Misty in Roots
- Les Frères Guissé
- Kanda Bongo Man
- Marcia Griffiths
- Fatoumata Diawara
- Tinariwen 
- Pat Thomas and Kwashibu Area Band
- Max Romeo
Press and awards
Africa Oyé has appeared in The Time’s top 50 UK Festivals, Songlines’ 2010 Top UK Summer Festivals and the Telegraph’s 100 Best Festivals in Britain 2011. Oyé has also been shortlisted for Best Medium Sized Festival in 2011 at the UK Festival awards, been nominated for ‘The Grass Roots Festival Award’, ‘Family Festival Award’ and the all important ‘Best Toilets’ at the UK Festival Awards 2010. Paul Duhaney, Director of Oyé, won the Merseyside Black Achiever award in 2010.
Oyé touring and trading
Africa Oyé launched an additional strand of work in April 2009, funded by the Arts Council, called Oyé Touring and Trading. Along with 5 other national organisations (Serious, Punch Records, Joyful Noise, and CMAT) and as part of the Black Routes network, Oyé produced two National tours, and a Learning and Participation Project called The Legacy Roots and Music in Liverpool. The first two tours were with Jamaican Reggae artist Freddie McGregor in June and Odemba OK Jazz All Stars from DR Congo in September 9. 2010 featured To’Mezclao; while 2011 saw several artists take part, including tours with Misty in Roots and Yellowman. Oyé also hosted one-off shows with Wailing Souls and The Mighty Diamonds during the same year.
- Africa Oye official website. Archived 2012-08-23 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 1 February 2012
- WikiFestivals. Retrieved 3 February 2012
- Liverpool Daily Post. Jones, Catherine. 3 February 2011. Retrieved 1 February 2012
- Liverpool Echo Jones, Catherine. 9 May 2011. Retrieved 1 Feb 2012
- Africa Oyé Touring and Trading website. Retrieved 3 February 2012