Journalism in the service of society

Folkestone: The fertile field of festivals and festivities

Photo: Praying for the Deputy Mayor

SATURDAY July 16 will go down in history as a day the city of Folkestone, Kent, brought the deputy mayor, Abena Akuffo-Kelly to church and later to the carnival ground. If the story must be told from the very beginning, then it should be said that she was elected councilor, Deputy Mayor and now Chair of the district council in May 2023. In her words: “What an absolute privilege to be given the opportunity to serve my community.” We guess part of her service to the community is not only to show up but actually integrate herself into the various activities.

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The Deputy Mayor with other guests at the parade ground

Credit for her church appearance must go to the Redeemed Christian Church of God in collaboration with different churches and organisations. The other credit rightly goes to the organisers of Charivari Day Carnival at the Leas. At the Carnival-like event, amazing drumming rhythms were provided by batalaportsmouth, rawsamba, sambapelomar and blocofogo. The Folkestone carnival community was not left out. They provided a large multitude of participants who took part in the parade around the city.

So, what happened in church during Africa Day at RCCG on Saturday July 16th? In no particular order, let me bring you into the picture of what my eyes saw and my ears heard. I was witness to a female pastor who was able to reel off 53 out of the 54 countries on the African continent without looking into any notes.

Pastor Nike Jimoh showed all of us gathered that her current affairs capability can only be matched by scholars of international affairs. To add an extra to the list she also reminded us that Western Saharawi was waiting in the wings to join the league of 54.

If the power of recall by Pastor Nike Jimoh was spectacular, then wait until the turn of Dr. K. T. Bossman, who came up with “you cannot do the impossible until you have seen the invisible.” To Bible scholars Perez, one of the sons of Judah through an illicit affair with his daughter-in-law, Tamar would sound very familiar. Those who may not be too conversant with scriptural texts may discover that “Perez’s twin brother was Zerah. In the biblical genealogies, Perez is listed as an ancestor of King David and of Jesus Christ.”

Bossman used this story to focus attention on how those who have lost ground in the race of life may be eventually rewarded with miraculous victory. To him, the time of the African continent to lead the world is coming sooner than later. It is not surprising that men of God are good with words and are blessed with the gift of the garb. How do you as a lay person relate to “my Call” that transforms in the ears of Michael Bryant to Michael heed my call? During his message, Pastor Bryant told us that his father once worked for many years in Kano, Nigeria. The story of his father was the link Pastor Mike Bryant has with Nigeria. During his sermon, he prophesied that new oil would be found in Nigeria.

There are times, non-churchgoers cannot think of the depth of current affairs people of God possess as part of their knowledge Amory which enables them to make their supplications very timely and relevant. Dr. Mary Muchena, who grew up in Zimbabwe where she took a first degree in agricultural economics, subsequently gained a PhD in the same subject at Reading University, displayed a firm grasp of developmental issues.

One of her slides about governance read: “the quality and characteristics of governance shape the level of peace and stability and the prospects of economic development in the country.” Another of the slides gave a breakdown of essential statistics. There is a total of 1.3 billion people in 54 countries on the continent with a combined GDP of 2.7 trillion which amounts to 2.8% of global GDP. The people of Africa, like some other regions, are “affected by political instability, wars, corruption, pandemics, and constant climate changes. Furthermore, there is underinvestment in the educational sector, health, and infrastructure.”

In worldly parlance, it would be said she delivered a sterling performance. Her statistics are such that would move any heart to go on bent knees for Africa.

In addition, as a way of showcasing the multi-dimensionality of Blacks in the Diaspora, a representative of the Association of Redbridge African Carribean Communities (TARACC), Ola Asgil, was on hand to talk about the four pillars of his organization. He listed Black History as the first pillar; the second pillar is health and well-being (this second pillar is personal to him because his wife died of Cancer about seven years ago); financial literacy for Black people so that they can be more involved in their various communities. The last pillar and most important is about youth and legacy. TARACC according to their website draws its “wider members within Redbridge and surrounding East London Boroughs – Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest, Barking and Dagenham, Newham, Havering and Essex.”

I thought it was only at political gatherings that dignitaries are recognised and warmly presented to the audience. To my pleasant surprise the Pastor of Ceremony, Lawyer David Ashogbon, announced that Mrs. Modupe Odutola is the oldest African in Folkestone at age 90! Smiling like an award winner, I heard Mama Odutola, say 91! As if to show she was truly the eldest Africa, she signaled to Mrs. Regina Ashogbon that it was time to call it a day. In appreciation of her coming, Mrs. Ashogbon ensured that she did not miss the various delicacies prepared for the guests. Part of the delicacies included Jerk chicken; salmon slices seasoned with a great complement to fish. These were brought by Ms. Rose Williams, one of the Caribbean elders in the community. Can there ever be an African event without Jollof Rice? Soky Cooks-events & catering were on hand to dish out as much as each person’s stomach could take.

Apart from the various men and women of God who spoke like motivational speakers, there was a young but fresh voice, Ms. Titilope Alonge, from Osun State who dished out melodious Gospel tunes… NB: Just in case you want to savor the kind of music she dished out please go to her youtube channel (see below)   

The benediction was rendered by Pastor Idowu Jimoh with his very powerful voice and delicate choice of words.

AS we left the church with our spirits lifted and our stomachs filled, it was time to walk through Folkestone in search of those in the parade with costumes and various matching bands in tow.

“Since 1997, Charivari Day has rocked Folkestone! Massive head sculptures adorn the shoulders of local young people and adults. Primary school children across the district dress in the colours of the year’s theme. Our pedestrian parade moves from The Stade, up through town to The Leas Bandstand every year in July. Its curator is Brigitte Orasinski from Strange Cargo.”

In a very brief dialogue with Ms. Orasinski, whose husband is a Civil Engineer and one of her children works in the team, she said Strange Cargo her company has handled the carnival in the last 27 years. We are informed that “Strange Cargo was established in Folkestone in 1995 and Initially focused on celebratory outdoor arts projects and carnivals. Under Artistic Director, Brigitte Orasinski, Strange Cargo has subsequently developed a significant reputation for its portfolio of imaginative public and visual arts projects, special celebratory events, and programmes with large groups of people. Consistently the company has committed to “produce, develop, support and deliver high-quality participatory arts”.

It was not possible to ascertain the number of freelance artists who were on call on the day. An estimation may put both men and women at about 40. Meanwhile, I wonder how Julia Heffernan-Burns, who just got married last October felt when she woke up to sweet words as written by Lucinda, a resident of Folkestone: “It was great to see you on Saturday in Folkestone, you were fantastic as you always are. The drums really give the children a good rhythm to walk and jig along the road to and local people love the carnival.” The praises did not only come from Lucinda, Bob wrote on the website, “I saw you yesterday at the Folkestone Charivari and was blown away. Amazing drumming, fantastic rhythms, tremendous verve, and an all-round great vibe – I defy anyone to stand still.”

By some strange coincidence, I met one of the 45 Batala groups in 16 countries first in Vienna during the Adire Carnival. Now again in Folkestone, lady luck smiled on me when I encountered Batala Portsmouth which was founded in 2001 by Paulo Garcia, a visiting Brazilian student. Batala Portsmouth has entertained many events over 20 years all over the south of England and currently has a membership of 90 dedicated and talented drummers.” According to the group’s website, Batala means “Hit It”. Though the groups really hit the drum membrane they also had to hit the road, a journey that takes about three hours to Folkestone.

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Batala Portmouth


IN just a few hours, the spiritual and the secular gave options to the people of Folkestone. Men and women of God fed the minds of a select few and Stange Cargo with their crop of freelance artists fed the ears and eyes of residents with visually appealing life-size artworks. The musicians filled the air with sonorous tunes while nature supplied cool breeze to complete the fest of music, mime, and delicate foot works. Folkestone, which was “once a “limb” of the Cinque Port of Dover, Folkestone shared that town’s privileges and duties until, in 1629, the local inhabitants obtained a license to build a port. From the beginning of the railway age, Folkestone developed both as a passenger port across the English Channel (Boulogne, France, lies 26 miles [42 km] away) and as a high-class seaside resort.” Now Folkestone boats of tourists coming to enjoy the sea, the Sun, and the spiritual.

Dr KT Bossmn
Dr. KT Bossman
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Mrs Odutola and Ms. Rose Williams

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