Thousands turn out for Sunderland Africa festival

Dancers from the Mighty Zulu Nation entertained a packed Sunderland Minster at the start of an African Festival, timed to co-incide with theatrical production of The Lion King across the other side of High Street at the Empire Theatre.
Dancers from the Mighty Zulu Nation entertained a packed Sunderland Minster at the start of an African Festival, timed to co-incide with theatrical production of The Lion King across the other side of High Street at the Empire Theatre.
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A FESTIVAL drummed up success with thousands of people turning out to experience African culture.

The first event of its kind was hosted at Sunderland Minister at the weekend, with the celebration timed to coincide with the arrival of the hit musical The Lion King, which runs until November 1 at the Empire Theatre.

Around 4,000 visitors took part in the African Festival, which was created by Sunderland Experience It Here, the city’s Business Improvement District (BID).

Drumming workshops, a fashion show, games, animal visits, arts and crafts and fair trade businesses ran during the festival.

Stallholders and shop owners have said they saw an increase in trade in the city throughout the weekend, with the BID leaders saying they received nothing but positive feedback.

Performances by the Mighty Zulu Nation Warriors launched the event, with all the activities laid on for young people completely full throughout the weekend.

Sunderland AFC’s strong links with Africa were also evident, with African-inspired tricks and flicks sessions for young people and the club chefs demonstrating African dishes.

The Mount Kilimanjaro First Aid Community Programme also used the event to reward two young people, who received awards from former Sunderland players, Kevin Ball and Jimmy Montgomery. Lisa Burns, 21, from Pennywell, was awarded Voluntary Humanitarian Worker of the Year 2014 following a significant contribution to her local community and developing communities overseas.

She has working with the programme on a hygiene programme, which has been delivered in schools throughout the North East, and took over a team of five to Tanzania to deliver education workshops.

She said: “I have done things I thought I wasn’t capable of. Having people who believe in me makes me want to push myself further to keep developing.

“I’m completely honoured to have received this award.”

Ehrin Walsh, 16, from St Thomas More RC Academy, was also awarded the Positive Behaviour and Most Progressive Developed Volunteer of the Year” award after spending a year helping the elderly in the community, along with offering a helping hand to people in Tanzania, Africa.

Ken Dunbar, chief executive of the BID, said: “This event has been a massive success and we’ve had nothing but incredible, positive feedback.

“What was particularly exciting was to see the event being so well supported not only by the people in Sunderland but by people from the North East who travelled to the city especially to take part and give a great boost to the local economy.”