Meet the creators behind new festival in East Ghana

Meet Me There Weekender is a new intimate festival in to be held March 2018 at the Meet Me There Lodge; a not for profit Eco Lodge that sits on a breathtaking lagoon between two Ghanian fishing villages in the country’s eastern Volta region. With the work of the lodge directly supporting charitable organisation Dream Big Ghana, all proceeds from the festival celebrating music, arts and culture, will go towards the goal of constructing a new compost toilet in a local school.

Whilst DJs from the UK and Ghana play during the day by the lagoon, football and volleyball games will be held on the beach. More educational and physical activity will come from drum, dance, fabric making and beach cleaning workshops as well as boat trips down the Volta River. All before more musical treats from local Ghanian bands and more DJ sets, starting at early evening sunset and finishing in the early hours. Local musical talent will be supported from worldwide acts  including Cervo, Miguel E, Bood’nBone, Nala and even more to be anounced. With a capacity of 500 people and 300 of these tickets being allocated to locals at a reduced rate of £1, it is set to be a special and community rich affair.

In the lead up to their fundraising event this Saturday with Bood’nBone and Aroop Roy at the Depot, we caught up with creators Charlie and Dougal about the origins of the festival it’s struggles and their future plans.

How did the idea of the festival come about?

Dougal: I’ve been living and working out in Ghana for the last 9 years Running the Eco Lodge Meet Me There and NGO Dream Big Ghana.

During my time in Ghana we’ve put on a lot of parties for our local community with the main celebration being held every easter! This is a time when everyone who is from our community travels back from wherever they have travelled to i.e Accra, Kumassi or even London or NewYork. We work alongside the community to organise the festival and part of the aim is to raise funds for community projects. This is exactly what my self, Charlie and our Ghanaian team plan to do on a slightly larger scale and opening it up to our friends from around the world!

Charlie: Yeah, I went out to visit Dougal a couple of years ago and It was pretty much as soon as we met that we started talking about it! I couldn’t believe how beautiful the place was and I knew so many friends who’d love it, I think it was over our first beer that I asked if he had ever thought of organising a festival to which he replied ‘I think about it everyday’.

So during my time there we spoke about it loads. We were kind of joking about it then and then the more we spoke about it, the more we wanted it to happen! So I guess its been about 2 years in the making. We trialled a small version of it last year, which went really well, so we decided to go for it on a larger scale this year and here we are!  The interest we’ve had in the festival so far, has pushed us to be a little more ambitious than we first imagined when we launched earlier in the year.

It just sort of makes sense, Ghana is such a great country, with great music and people who love to party and if we can raise some money for the charities’ sanitation project and awareness of Dream Big Ghana through celebrating that, then why wouldn’t we!!

What can be expected from the local music scene at the festival?

We really want to display a variety of local music at the festival. We’re sort of mixing up the genres on each night so we can get a variety of acts.

On our opening night we will have traditional Ewe drumming/Borborbor, from the village, welcoming guests by the bonfire on the beach. Traditional Ewe drumming/ Borborbor is played across many villages across the Ewe regions of Ghana and Togo, the Ewe drums actually become quite competitive between each village and each has their own specific style! There are about 30 drummers in each group.

Then on our Friday, we will have a classic Highlife band, which will be great. With Highlife originating in Ghana, it will be a great experience and it is such a lovely genre of music!

On the Saturday we’ll have  a ‘Hiplife’ artist – Hiplife is a Ghanaian musical style that merges Highlife and hip-hop.Hiplife covers and merges a huge array of genres, it has a huge popularity in Ghana by all ages.

On the Sunday we’ve got a Jazz/percussion group, who we’ve already announced – Dela Botri and his Hewale Sounds. Dela is from nearby Keta. The band is made up of 9 members, and a mix between flutes and percussion.

The other bands are still TBA but we’re excited about announcing them in due course.

We’ve also got a mix of local DJ’s and international DJ’s, so there will be a wide range of music to explore both for locals and for people travelling from the UK/Europe. All the DJ’s who are coming over have been hugely influenced by West African/African music and this is reflected in what they will be playing.

We want every person who comes to the festival, whether local or from a far, to experience something new for the first time!

What challenges have you come across so far in the organisation of the festival?

Funding has been a tough one, obviously with it being a charity event, with the aim of building a compost toilet block for the local school, it means we have to try our best to keep costs down. This has meant we’ve had to pull in as many favours as possible. We have been so blessed to have so much support from so many people. We’ve had some private funders, who have enabled us to build the foundations and we’ve also got loads of others who are all helping us out, which is amazing. For example all of our amazing design work has been donated, we’ve also got about 30 people signed up to a half marathon in December. We also have two fundraiser events in November, one in London with Aroop Roy, which will take place in Clapton at The Depot, tickets are currently £7 and another in Frome, Somerset. Without all of this, the festival would not be possible. We can’t thank everyone enough who has helped us out so far and its really amazing to see everyones support!

Do you see further benefits beyond raising funds for the sanitation project materialising from this?

Loads! As cliche as it sounds, it would be great to inspire some of our villagers to pursue further opportunities within music. Music is so loved within our community, yet there is very little opportunity for them to be able to progress and pursue their talents. One day we would love to build a little music studio out there, so that the locals can get access to equipment that would not be available to them. We’re hopefully going to be running some music workshops, ran by one of our guests, for the local community and hopefully this encourages some more involvement.

The festival will also provide employment in the region. We have a team of Ghanaians we are currently working with and the festival has provided a fantastic opportunity for many!

Do you have plans for future MMT Weekenders?

Yeah, we really hope so! We’d love for it to become an annual fundraiser. We will see how this year goes before getting too carried away, but it is definitely our idea for this to be a long term project!

You can get involved and support the project by:

Joining MMT at the Festival : http://bit.ly/2s3IG3G

Joining MMT in Clapton on the 11th. – http://bit.ly/2xIbBgJ

Sponsoring MMT runners – http://bit.ly/mmtrun

Joining MMT in Frome, Somerset on the 18th – http://bit.ly/dbgfrome (Pay on the Gate)

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