Kilifi New Year is a vibrant 3-day festival which traditionally takes place from 30th December until 2nd January and has been doing so every year since its inception in 2013. Hosted and produced by Beneath the Baobabs on 25 acres of Kenyan countryside just outside Kilifi. Formerly a fallow section of Kilifi Plantation, Beneath the Baobabs is a model festival site run along ecologically sustainable lines.
Organizing a festival is a labor-intensive feat. During the Kilifi New Year 2018/19, over 250 people from the local communities were hired as both skilled and unskilled laborers. Aside from payment for their work, some employees receive training in various fields adding to their skillsets, making them valuable in the eyes of other firms outside the festival period. The unemployment rate in Kilifi County stands at 75%. This is a staggeringly high figure- one that we as an organization are committed to doing whatever we can to lower. The first step is to hire local people. The second step is to use local materials and suppliers.
One programme that we are immensely delighted to have helped initiate is the Lighting Engineer Training Course. For a 2 week period, Kilifi New Year and Noisily Festival from the UK sponsored 12 local community members to receive Lighting Engineering Certification at Festival Standard Quality. Once their training was complete, the students were employed by the festival to put their newly acquired skills to use by installing and programming the lights and pyrotechnics for the festival. This didn’t solely allow them access to new employment opportunities. It also offered them an insight into the world of big festival production.
Moreover, Kilifi New Year provides space for stalls and vendors to sell their goods and services. From food stalls to clothing, souvenirs, body paint, and tattoo artists. Most of the vendors are either from Kilifi or the nearby towns of Mombasa, Watamu, and Malindi.
Local businesses also thrive from the influx of over 2000 people for the three-day period. This is substantially true for local Tuk Tuks and boda-bodas whom we fondly call our “Ride Tribe.” Our festival site is on the outskirts of Kilifi Town, and having a reliable transport network on the Kenyan Coast is dependent on these transport entrepreneurs.
“New Years is the busiest time of the year for us. Kilifi New Year is good because it brings a lot of business our way and helps us earn a good living.”
-Salat, Boda-Boda Rider
Local supermarkets, restaurants, and other local businesses equally see a major boom in earned profits during this season. Every year holiday homes and hotels in the area are at capacity and this can be partly attributed to the festival fanatics who make the pilgrimage to Kilifi to welcome the New Year with us.
Last year, 71 volunteers made their way to Beneath The Baobabs to offer valuable assistance where needed. The volunteer culture at Kilifi New Year brings together people from all walks of life, under similar conditions so that none feels superior or inferior to another. Volunteering fosters a community of diverse people exchanging knowledge, culture, and most importantly – working collaboratively.
Every year the Kilifi local community’s direct involvement in the festival grows tremendously and with it so does the festival. As we strive towards having more inclusivity in our audience we want to build on our symbiotic relationship with our beloved home’s residents. Beneath The Baobabs is presently turning into a full-time festival and event location, allowing us to employ more people year round as well further integrate ourselves into the local community.
“On top of them creating employment in the local community, they have also created opportunities for different residents to interact. You could be a mzungu, an Indian, a Kenyan or anyone but at Kilifi New Year you’re just you.”
-Davis, Festival Gate Ticket Coordinator
While we can wax lyrical about our achievement, we can’t deny that there are many areas in which we have not met expectations. Preparation for this year’s festival has begun early. We’ve sent out surveys, and spoken to crew members, volunteers, attendees, and artists. Through these conversations, we’ve identified where we can do better.
If you have any ideas on how Kilifi New Year can get more involved with the local community, feel free to shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re all ears!