Early in March, Steve Ayorinde—the Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture—was special guest at the “Art Stampede”, hosted by the Committee for Relevant Art (CORA). He spent his time there detailing what the current administration has planned for Lagos Tourism.
photographs by Adeseji Olalekan (@stylomedia)
I’ll take a few minutes to run through what we are trying to do in the coming months over three broad areas: (1) we intend to redirect and streamline our focus; (2) we want to focus on content execution and collaborations; (3) and the last leg of the tripod will be infrastructural development and policy alignment.
On Sustainable Tourism
I’m sure everybody has noticed that for the first time the government is engaging with the arts and creative economy in Lagos state. We have released our calendar of events – more than 70 programs of state-sponsored and state-endorsed events from January to December 2018. You may see the details on our website (www.___); we will also be using a number of other platforms, publications and more to drive home the point. The whole idea is to use that to establish how important content is to the sort of sustainable tourism that we want to do.
We know that when people come to a place, they want content; they want to come see activities and programmes. What we have done is to list the things that government will either be directly involved with or the things that we support from the beginning of the year till the end of December.
The next major step on how we want to redirect our focus will happen on the 16th & 17th of April, which is the first Lagos State Tourism Summit at the Eko Hotel & Suites. We are working with a consultant with considerable knowledge of how tourism works globally, which is Ernest & Young.
The Tourism Summit & Master-plan
We don’t think we should be running around in circles, therefore there ought to be a document that will guide how creative economy powers the tourism component in the state. So at the event on 16th and 17th we will be speaking largely across six pillars of what we believe Lagos tourism ought to be. And that will eventually lead to what will happen at the end of the day, which is the unveiling of the Tourism Master Plan for Lagos State. It is the first time we will have something like that.
Since 1999 to date there has been a 30-year development plan for Lagos State. And so what you will find is a kind of continuity of building on what one governor has left for the other, in terms of development. This is what we are trying to do with culture and tourism so that when we unveil the master plan which, it will detail everything that we will do as far as the creative economy is concerned for the next 15 – 20 years.
It means Steve Ayorinde does not have to be there for ages, neither does Governor Ambode has to be there forever. If they are no longer there, there is a document that will guide and suggest the things that we need to do so that we can get to the point that we desire. Those are basically the key areas that we are focusing on in terms of directing our focus.
Theatre in the Mix
You may ask: so where does theatre fit in all of this? If you look at the calendar of events that we have released, as I said earlier, you will see that theatre comes up strong in each of the quarters for 2018.
For Q1, you will find us engaged with the Duro Ladipo Foundation: it will be 40 years since the thespian passed on. Part of what we plan to do later in March is to support the production of a play. The World Theatre Day comes up on March 27th and we will be working with NANTAP on the one hand, which will be collaborating with the theatre company of Ghana to produce “The Marriage of Anansewa”.
We will also be working with the Yoruba part of the industry which is MOPAN and ANTP to create another theatre project, essentially to celebrate that World Theatre Day. Of course, we also have the Lagos State Council for Arts and Culture that is also devoted and committed to promoting the arts in the state. I believe that we will be working with Terra Kulture, MUSON Centre and the National Theatre to make that day happen.
In Q2, we will have International Day for Creativity and Innovations (April 21). It will largely be driven by the Arts Council. The Eko Art Expo which started last year essentially as an exhibition in honour of Rasheed Gbadamosi will be repeated this year in the last weekend of May.
And for the first time we will be having what we call the Lagos Golf Funfair. Why Golf? Because there are four golf courses already in Lagos. Golfing might be seen as an elite sport but then we are in discussions with the Lakowe Golf Course, for example, to say that over a weekend in June, why don’t we have a funfair that will include theatre while people are playing golf, where people take rooms for a whole weekend; merge golf and sports with theatre. We want to experiment with that.
Of course in August we will do something major—the Lagos State Festival of Plays, tentatively slated for the 12th-19th. We will have eight good days for the festival across eight venues; three of which will be in Epe, Ikorodu and Badagry, and five other locations spread across LASU, UNILAG, Freedom Park and Ikeja.
One of the big ones that we expect to happen later this year in November is the Lagos Book and Art Festival (LABAF). During LABAF, we will have a creative fair that will show that Lagos State means business when it comes to art promotion.
Glover Hall gets a facelift
Very quickly, an important part of what we are doing is infrastructure development and policy realignment. What are the projects that we are championing in Lagos State? There are the six theatres already being built as we speak. I’m not aware that there is any tinge of doubt as to what these theatres will do. The city-state of 20 million people and still counting deserves to have more than Freedom Park as an arts centre.
The sort of theatre projects that you will find will be modeled after Terra Kulture Arena, a theatre space that can sit between 400 and 600 people. We have a calendar of activities for the whole year. With support from government and the private sector, they will be run by those who understand how theatres are built and run.
I am happy to say that four of the theatres will be ready this year: in Epe, Badagry, Opebi and one in Igando. The other two are delayed because it took us a while to find ideal spaces for them in Ikorodu and Yaba. We believe that those two will be completed before the first term of the Lagos State Governor comes to an end in May 2019.
But those four theatres are not the only areas of intervention for us. The Glover Memorial Hall is also a Lagos State-owned property that we have taken full ownership of. For this year we are starting complete renovation of the Glover Memorial Hall.
The Lagos Heritage Centre
Of course, I can’t list all the areas of infrastructural development as per theatre and as per promotion is concerned from Lagos State without mentioning Freedom Park. As you may be aware, this is a Lagos State facility; we are actually in the process of renewing the management contract for the facility, so that we can have the next five years that will be a lot better than the five previous years that we have had since the Park was constructed.
As far as we know, in the last three – four years no event center in Lagos has promoted the arts more than the Freedom Park. This is the idea of how an art space should be; it is also important to drive home the point that Freedom Park is succeeding in this manner because the government has been considerate in not intervening; frankly speaking, Lagos State has supported it and we will continue to do that because Freedom Park is important in the scheme of things of what we are trying to do.
We are currently regenerating the entire Onikan/Broad Street/Marina axis. If you look closely, you will see that what we are trying to do is to develop a kind of art zone around Onikan/Marina and Broad Street. The area where the J.K Randle building used to be will return as part of the Lagos Centre for History and Heritage.
Thankfully, the federal government has ceded the whole Presidential Lodge to Lagos State which therefore means we no longer have convoys of cars coming to that place; instead we will have people go there because it will now become the Lagos Heritage Centre. The same way the governor has also ceded the Governor’s Lodge just beside it to the art; and we will find an Eyo statue coming there to be the tallest monument in this part of the world by the time the developmental work is complete.
The Lagos Museum is also coming to that area. Thankfully, we received a $600,000 grant from Ford Foundation, which means that the idea of the Lagos Museum will happen. There is a plan to also have a sky walkway run from there to Freedom Park, if people choose they can take a walk on it. Very quickly, let me add that the National Theatre is not totally off the raider for us: His Excellency the governor has re-iterated our interest in the National Theatre and the National Stadium; the latter fits in perfectly with our plan to turn Surulere into a sport and entertainment mini-town within a city. It helps nobody to have Federal structures like we have them in Lagos, dysfunctional and constituting eyesores.
There are a few issues that have to be dealt with at the federal level, but we will like to reiterate that it is in the interest of the art and in the interest of those monuments and edifices that they should be ceded to Lagos State so that we can turn them around and help them serve the arts and the sports communities in Lagos State.
The template that the Akinwunmi Ambode administration is running for the promotion of the arts is to seed-money events. More than a billion naira was raised for “Lagos at 50” to drive what was essentially a culture-driven celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of Lagos state. It is the same template that we used for the “One Lagos Fiesta”.
This largely is what we are trying to do for arts in Lagos State: we want to plan ahead for the next 15 to 20 years, to have a document that will guide us but also to be on our toes from now onwards.