West Africa comes to Hackney Downs

After trial runs with floats at other festivals, the first ever SeneGambian Masquerade event exploded on to the festival scene on Sunday, with traditional West African dancing, music, and food.

Revellers at the family-friendly festival in Hackney Downs enjoyed performances about popular myths, including the story about the lion figure of Zimba. The shows had a number of influences, including the Creole, Yoruba, and Aku cultures.

The event was organised by Yaram Arts, a music development agency for African artists. Event coordinator and project manager Njok Malik Jeng said: “The day was really great. About 2,000 people attended, which was very good because it was our first full festival.

“Lots of Londoners came who didn’t know about our culture, but they seemed to enjoy it and quite a lot of people had a go at the dancing.”

Yaram Arts performers made their debut last year with a float at the Hackney One Carnival, and also held a showcase at Mabley Green in Homerton. But Sunday’s event, from 3pm until 9pm, was the first time the show had been run as a festival in its own right.

Mr Jeng said he hopes the festival will be back next year.