In 2017, a national disaster in Sierra Leone brought together Siana Bangura, Abu Yillah, and other Sierra Leonean creatives based in London, working hard to platform the creativity of young British Sierra Leoneans. Through a series of events called ‘Stand Up for Salone’, money was raised to benefit the victims of a devastating mudslide that claimed the lives of over 1000 people in Freetown. The programme included the first Sierra Leone Arts & Culture festival curated (SLACfest), curated by Bangura and Yillah, with a team of volunteers including Makeda L. Cole (who went on to co-curate the festival from 2018-2020). The success of the first festival, its fundraising efforts, and the community spirit built off the back of it inspired the team. It prompted the establishment of a small non-profit organisation, now registered as a CIC, The Young Sierra Leonean, with a mission to showcase unsung cultural creatives of Sierra Leonean heritage in London and across the UK. The Young Sierra Leonean has continued the annual curation of the festival, bringing it under its umbrella of flagship events, including Krio Klas and Kip Kompin cinema.
The Growth of SLACfest
In its first three years, what started out as an event for 50-60 people in a small venue called Common House, in Bethnal Green, massively outgrew the expectations of all those who were involved in its inception, to become one of the most renowned Sierra Leonean-lead events in the United Kingdom, curated primarily by young people.
In 2018, the event sold out over 48 hours before showtime with a plethora of additional ticket enquiries in the 24 hours leading up to the show. Being a family-friendly event that is purposely scheduled over the weekend, we are blessed with families travelling from all over the United Kingdom to immerse themselves in all the festival has to offer.
In 2019, SLACfest was featured in local, national and international media outlets and social media platforms including Colourful Radio, CheckOutAfrica, The Metro Newspaper and BBC Radio London. The event has been hailed by Southwark News for its “positive stories and help[ing] second generation Sierra Leonean teenagers take a positive path.”
Since 2018, the curation of the annual event has been held by The Young Sierra Leonean (Young Salone). The platform has amassed a huge following both online and offline with interest not just limited to the UK, but also internationally.
For more images from past festivals, head to our Media Gallery here.