The 2018 National Theatre week kicks off today at Afraha stadium, Nakuru.
The event that will give creatives from all fields an opportunity to showcase their works has been made possible by the Nakuru County Creative Economy Secretariat.
According to James Mwachia, this offers a great opportunity for young people and other creatives to meet new clients, grow their market base and interact with fellow creatives.
“We are encouraging everyone in the creative industry to take this opportunity to help grow their trade and meet new prospects,” says James who’s in charge of the Creative Industry Secretariat in Nakuru.
The organisers spent the whole of Tuesday setting up the venue.
“We’ll be holding the 3 day event at the Afraha Stadium open ground which the County Government has availed to us,” says James Maina another of the organisers.
The Secretariat will also be using the National Theatre week to collect data on all the creatives in Nakuru and the fields they are engaged in.
To make the whole exercise a success, the Secretariat has partnered with the county government through the ministry of youth, gender and sports.
The creative economy community in Nakuru is an unhappy lot. During a meeting on Friday, the artists from several sectors lamented that they had for a long time been neglected by the Nakuru County government.
This was during the meeting at Nakuru Players Theatre under the Creative Economy sector. The artists said they could contribute much more to the local economy if they had the support of the authority.
“One of the greatest challenges facing artists is remuneration. During national and county events, there is usually a fund for entertainment but it never gets to the artists. Our work is never taken seriously and it’s not unusual for an artist to get just a bottle of soda after a performance. When appreciated, the pay is usually too little to make a difference in the lives of artists,” complained one artist.
The artists also said they needed a form of identification due to the nature of their work.
“Some of us musicians, dancers and DJs perform at night. We have been harassed numerous times by the police in the course of our duty. If we had a form of ID, it would give us an identity and make our work so much easier,” suggested another.
In attendance were several MCAs who sit in the committee for culture and sports at the County Assembly. Led by Flamingo MCA Eddy Kiragu, the MCAs promised to stand with the artists and support them all through.
MCA Wilbur from Kivumbini ward who was in attendance promised to table a bill at the assembly in line with the creative economy.
“I’ve seen the youth being given the right platforms in other countries. If we work together, we can come up with a bill that will lead to the recognition of artists in the county and getting the right support,” said the MCA.
Other grievances by creative economy community
Some of the other grievances expressed by the artists include;
1. Those engaged in producing plays from school set books were experiencing a lot of challenges. For every play, they must travel to Nairobi for assessment. According to Khasisi of Pambazuko group, this was locking out a lot of upcountry based acting groups who cannot perform at schools without a go-ahead from Nairobi. He wanted a law passed to allow county departments of education to do the assessment.
According to MC Washington who is a musician who also has an entertainment troupe, artists faced lots of challenges when preparing for events.
“It’s hectic to prepare for an event, but it’s even more so marketing the event. The county government should consider giving waivers to young artists in Marketing their events. We should be excluded from paying the high fees for posters,” said Washington.
In addition, he wanted the security of the clients assured especially at night. Without that, he said, their business was as well as dead since nobody would attend.
Another issue that came to the forefront was support for artists from the county government. This was especially when they were going to perform outside the county. In most cases, they are forced to cater for their own expense even when going to represent the county.
“We went to Mombasa and won several gold medals plus a trophy,” says Coach Lochala a Kenpo karate trainer.
“Since I had used my money to sponsor the event without the input from the county, I asked every winner to keep their medals at home. I still have the overall trophy at home. The county cannot lay any claim to that since they did not support us in any way,” says Lochala.
The same sentiments were echoed by MC Washington whose troupe represented the county at Vihiga County.
“The kind of sponsorship we got from the county was negligible. It was not even enough to cater for our transport let alone meals and accommodation,” Washington complained.
He adds that the trophy they won is now being held by the county director for culture who doesn’t want it handed over to the governor.
Lack of communication flow between the CECs and Director was also mentioned as an issue.
“You will go to the CEC for culture and she will assure you that everything is ok. Your financial support as an artist has been settled. Unfortunately, a visit to the director gives you a totally differing feedback. We wonder why there is this kind of miscommunication,” lamented another artist.
Models and Fashion designers also had their Lamentations. The CEO for Washumpi house which is a fashion design house in Nakuru said only Nakuru County has never held a fashion week. This despite numerous proposals to the relevant authorities to have the same.
“Nakuru has some very talented models. Unfortunately, they rarely have opportunities to showcase their talents,” said the CEO.
He added that when the county holds the beauty contests, the pay for the models is in peanuts.
“I am involved in dressing these models before shows. I can tell you it’s an expensive affair but what the county government gives them is not enough to cater for a dress rehearsal,” added the Washumpi house CEO.