9 December 2022
Changing course is the festival creator’s lucky prerogative, and after two sensational editions of the Lamu Writing Retreat, we’re ready to announce the next iteration of Littlegig Lamu.
Words: Georgia Black
Photos: Seth Shezi and Jonx Pillemer
Lamu, from when I first arrived there, instantly filled my yearning for something raw and hedonistic. At the same time it was so kind on the senses – the tropical air, the distant calls to prayer, the absence of cars or motorbikes, the beautiful villas built by a cast of interesting people who had found themselves drawn to the East African archipelago.
This was a place for the mind and the eye to travel. And what problem couldn’t be solved by lying back on a white-sailed dhow gliding through the mangrove channels?
For the next few years I familiarised myself with the island, its beauty and its contradictions. I instantly appreciated its remoteness and relative inaccessibility – no direct flights, not many hotel beds, and a short season thanks to weather and tides and winds.
We produced 2 editions of the Lamu Writing Retreat, because Lamu, discovered as it was in the 12th Century, and storytelling felt synonymous, and because writing is, to quote Seth Godin, “the universal solvent for creatives.”
It was always my intention that the Lamu Writing Retreat would be a stepping stone to Littlegig Lamu in its “full expression”.
To answer the critical question of what Littlegig Lamu would look like in such “full expression”, I needed to develop a deep understanding of who I wanted to attract, what they needed from me, and how I could give it to them. In other words, who was my audience and what would I be offering?
I came to the conclusion that Littegig Lamu is for creatives and problem solvers who make things better by finding new ways forward. They may be writers, designers, actors or musicians, but also activists, teachers or leaders. They are the voices and makers of what’s now and what’s next.
What this audience would need me to do, is to create a temporary diverse community in Africa, which combines different talents and points of view. Because new things happen through unexpected connections.
How to do this? At its most elemental, event design is about bringing together talent and audience. A spectacular setting of course helps. Traditionally, the audience is entertained or taught by the musician or speaker. And there’s a great divide between audience and artist and a resultant expectation from the former along the lines of “we are here now, entertain us” as Kurt Cobain once sang. Festivals like Burning Man and its offshoots radically pushed back against this, by putting entertainment (and food and shelter) entirely in the hands of the people.
So what would our position be? The answer was unlocked by something that happened at the ’22 Lamu Writing Retreat. I had asked a guest if he’d like to speak about his work. He did, and was utterly captivating, prompting our “headline talent” (a well-known comedian and writer) to request that I arrange a screening of his (brilliant) movie, which we did. Life-changing professional connections were made that night. And I was struck by the incredible power that came from blurring the line between the audience and “the talent”.
This deeply resonated with me. Littlegig has always worked hard to attract interesting people. By nature, these people – most of them creators in some way or form – would have interesting stories, or ways of telling them.
Inspired by this, we are excited to present our new festival concept:
A diverse group of 60 people across different disciplines will meet in Lamu, for a three-day micro festival of mind-expanding talks, performances and adventures in extraordinary settings. There will be a small line-up of African creatives who are international leaders in their fields of writing and music. Additional talks and performances will be by festival guests. Tickets are extremely limited, must be applied for, and are free for guests who are performing or talking.