Never wear heels to a festival

Seems like a pretty obvious rule right? Festivals usually mean music, stalls, a bit of arts, a bit of craft and lots and lots of standing. For some reason still unknown to me I, avid proponent and defender of flat footwear, decided to forgo that rule for the first SLAY Festival. Thinking that it’s Nigeria so when they say festival, they don’t really mean festival.

Turns out the crew at She Leads Africa really did.

The first edition of the SLAY Festival at Railway Compound,(also confusingly referred to as Railway Corporation) in Yaba was described by organizers as a ‘celebration of innovation, technology, culture and women,’ because ‘2017 is not the year for poverty, stress and worrying about stretch marks.’ Amen to that.

The festival offered a host of activities ranging from talks and masterclasses to free manicures and mehndi, and judging by the queues and the crowd,the ladies of Lagos were here for it. Railway Compound/Corporation was an interesting albeit it quite dusty (in the literal sense) choice of venue, definitely one that requires comfortable footwear but one that worked at incorporating the different elements of the festival.

There were lots of activities and lots more vendors selling everything from candyfloss to clothing, #BuyNaijatoGrowtheNaira indeed. There was a Cointreau lounge that served delicious cocktails and a Maggi corner where an innovative chef put a series of creative spins on jollof rice.

The crux of the festival centered on the different panels and subjects ranged from tech and media, to brand building and contracts. The panels featured a wide range of speakers who shared their experiences and gave advice to budding motherland moguls.

In a panel titled ‘Getting paid in the media,’ CNN’s Stephanie Busari shared how she started out as a freelancer and rose to heading CNN’s digital first bureau on the continent, a company first. The path to success is “not linear” she advised the crowd as she spoke of the importance of persistence and “getting your foot in the door.”

Kemi Adebita, director of ‘The Wedding Party,’ the most successful Nollywood movie ever, was also on the panel. She encouraged the crowd to look beyond the perceived glitz and the glamour of the industry and to ask real questions about whether or not it is for them. After sharing her experiences of gruelling shoots, she spoke of the importance of passion and left the crowd with food for thought. “Because you love an industry doesn’t mean you should be a part of it,” she said. “Do you have an eye for it?”

For those already on the path, seeking to build and monetize their brand, in stepped Toke Makinwa and Arese Ugwu dishing out words of wisdom on the importance of authenticity, humility, and collaboration. The two authors spoke about their early beginnings and overcoming self doubt thanks to a strong vision and support system,

Though female oriented and focused the festival did feature an all male panel that delved into how African men can adapt to the changing nature of traditional gender roles, which touched on issues of culture, sexism and getting ahead in a ‘man’s world.’

Alongside the panels, there were masterclasses on coding, presenting with confidence and unleashing inner creativity as well as an advice clinic where festival-goers could pick the brains of legal, marketing and tech experts.

All in all the SLAY festival did exactly what it advertised; celebrated culture, innovation and women. It had a bit of everything for everyone, (I forgot to mention there was a virtual reality lab and really, really good waffles), and judging by the all the happy selfies on Twitter the 1,000 strong crowd who showed up agreed.

I’m already looking forward to the second edition, but this time I’ll be armed with flats.



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