SERIES TWO – EDITION NINE
In edition nine of our ‘Faces behind the Business’ series two, we caught up with Paul Duhaney, Artist Director of Africa Oyé; the UK’s largest Festival of African Music & Culture.
When did you first get into this industry?
My first experiences in event organising was back in 1992 where I was part of a collective who produced a weekly club night in North London, which was born out of the crackdown on the outdoor rave scene in the UK.
There were about 10 of us who were all DJs and creatives who did everything in-house, from designing and distributing the flyers to booking the weekly guest DJs and performers, to organising the memberships. We started with about 25 people and ended up with about 400 (which was capacity), and was quite successful. Looking back, it was very good grounding for the work I do now.
And in what was perhaps foreshadowing, I also visited Liverpool on my trips up north following Spurs, going to Kirklands and Cream, and fell in love with the city during that time. So much so that we would still end up staying in Liverpool even if Spurs were playing away in Manchester!
How long have you worked at Africa Oyé and what is your job role?
I have worked for Africa Oyé since I moved to the city in autumn 1999, initially beginning as a trainee via an organisation called MST. At that time I was also participating in an Event Management course at Liverpool Community College, eventually securing full time employment with Oyé in 2000.
Over the next decade I was mentored by the now-retired, founder of the festival, Kenny Murray, who helped me learn all aspects of event management, festival delivery and – most importantly – the music of Africa. I continued to work alongside Kenny until I became Artist Director of the organisation in 2013.
What is Africa Oyé’s ethos?
It’s quite simple really – to bring the best live music from Africa and the diaspora to Liverpool for people to enjoy. The festival aims to promote positive images of Africa by programming new and existing musicians each year. We’re fully inclusive and – at present – free to attend, meaning everyone has access to an International music festival for at least one weekend a year.
What’s the best bit of advice you could give to anyone looking at working in your line of work?
I think training is really important, but what I found really beneficial on the event management course I participated in, was working on actual events alongside learning the theory. Aspects like health and safety and all the legislation that comes with putting events on – I found that I learnt more from the experience of planning and delivering events themselves; so get that practical experience while you’re learning where you can.
What do you love most about Liverpool?
As I referred to earlier, I fell in love with the city long before I even moved here. As fate would have it, I met my wife in London in 1998, and she happened to be from Liverpool; my children were both born here too.
Liverpool is a unique city. I love the humour, the creativity, the passion and the warmth. It’s by no means perfect, but the fact that we have people constantly moving from London, the UK and the rest of the world to live, work and study here, is a testament to how much the city has progressed in the 22 years since I moved here.
If you could describe your business in 3 words what would they be?
Progressive – Passionate – Inclusive.
Are you a business in the Liverpool City Region and want to feature in our Faces Behind the Business series? Contact us now by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or get us on WhatsApp on 07568 532 537.