Festival gives Sunderland a taste of Africa

Zulu Warriors performing at Sunderland Minster as part of the African Festival.
Zulu Warriors performing at Sunderland Minster as part of the African Festival.
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SUNDERLAND Minster exploded in an array of vibrant colours as visitors to its first-ever African festival sampled a wealth of exotic food and entertainment.

The festival, held on Friday and Saturday, coincided with the hotly-anticipated production of The Lion King opening at the Sunderland Empire.

Organised by Sunderland’s Business Improvement District (BID), festivities included traditional African drumming and dance performances from the professional theatre act The Mighty Zulu Nation, accompanied by Fairtrade stalls offering a selection of ethnic goods, African-inspired cocktails and rich cuisine from the continent.

“I am over the moon,” Bid chief executive Ken Dunbar told the Echo. “This is our first major event for the Bid and it has exceeded all my expectations. The level of interest we have had and the feedback has been fantastic.

“We had 650 people through the door on Friday, which is tremendous. We have only had our team together for about two months, so to achieve something like this is really special.

“It is easy to bask in the glory as chief executive but the team have done a brilliant job.”

SAFC legend Kevin Ball was impressed by the Zulu dancers.

“I did not know what to expect, but I thought it was a fantastic sight,” he said. “I was very impressed with them from an athletic point of view.”

The minster’s Canon Provost, Sheila Bamber, added: “I am absolutely thrilled. It is a really impressive event and it is bringing people into this beautiful space and showing them how it can be used in a different way.”

To celebrate Sunderland AFC’s strong ties with Africa, coaches from the club attended the festival on Saturday to host African Flicks and Tricks sessions with mascots Samson and Delilah.

Visitors to the festival could also win match tickets to see Sunderland AFC by bringing unwanted adult boots in good condition to the Minister on Saturday to help support Kenyan football team Sunderland SAFC Keroche.