A city unprepared for the Afro Roots festival
I write this review about the Africa Festival with a heavy heart. I see so well the bigger picture that this festival brings to the city - an amazing cultural integration - but from a visitors perspective I was truly disappointed and felt that I had been conned out of my short change.
Every year the Africa Festival arrives in Würzburg to celebrate the music and zest for life of the culturally rich country that is Africa. It has been doing so for the past 20 years and so there really must be something successful about it. Perhaps it is the amazing free-style drumming and dancing, or the singing and chanting, but it certainly isn't the commercialism and the ridiculously small location in which it is held.
We arrived at the entrance to the festival and expected to pay a small fee for entrance (it is usually one or two euros, if not free) but saw this year that they had decided to charge 5€ entrance per person, or 15€ for a family ticket. This isn't a bad price, but really takes the edge off the visit when you have been before for a cheaper price. You need to queue for a while to get into the main car-park, which again comes at a fee of 2€. But this is for the whole day and I found that pretty reasonable.
The festival takes place in a large concrete area underneath the main 'Friedensbrücke' which links two parts of the city together over the River Main. I thought it was a rather bad location, since the area, although large, is long and thin and so you feel somewhat like you are on a conveyor belt when walking through the crowds. And crowds there were! This really prevented me from seeing any of the bazaar stalls properly, since every time I made a move to the side I was pushed along by the next person behind me. if you're not keen on smoking, it is also a bad idea to be here. Because it is an open space, people are free to smoke and when you are packed in tightly, the only place into which the smoke drifts is the person's face standing behind!
There are lots of over-priced beverages and ice-creams for sale, although I suppose you are not forced to buy these because you are able to have a stamp placed on your hand so that you can exit and return to the festival as many times in the day as you like. I liked this idea, but unfortunately I wasn't keen on returning.
If you do make it to some of the stalls, there are some beautiful, original, hand-crafted African items for sale, which would look lovely in any home. There are a few charity stalls where you can donate to help those less fortunate in Africa - such as building new schools or fresh-water wells in villages. If nothing else, the festival is a great way of bringing together many different cultures. I heard plenty of different languages and saw a variety of faces from so many different countries.
I can see how much fun the festival could be, but they need to start charging less and finding a better location. Or maybe it would be better if it lasted longer than four days - previous years it stretched over one week, which gives everybody more time to have a visit and see the colours, hear the sounds and develop a taste for life that this festival so heartily conveys. [more]
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