In 2017, a national disaster struck Sierra Leone, bringing together a group of passionate creatives based in London. Siana Bangura, Abu Yillah, and other Sierra Leonean artists worked tirelessly to raise funds for the victims of a devastating mudslide that claimed over 1000 lives in Freetown. Through a series of events called ‘Stand Up for Salone’, they managed to generate money and support for the affected community.
One of the highlights of their efforts was the first-ever Sierra Leone Arts & Culture festival, curated by Bangura and Yillah, with the help of volunteers like Makeda L. Cole. The success of the festival and its fundraising initiatives inspired the team to establish a non-profit organization called The Young Sierra Leonean. Registered as a CIC, this organization’s mission is to showcase the untapped talents of Sierra Leonean heritage in London and across the UK.
After a short break, the renowned showcase is set to return to London in November for its fifth edition, SLACFest 2023. This year, the festival will take place across two venues in two different London boroughs. With an estimated attendance of over 500 individuals, this two-day extravaganza aims to inspire, ignite, and entertain.
The festival’s themes for this year are ‘Re-introduction’ and ‘Re-emergence,’ reflecting the resilience and strength of Sierra Leone’s culture and community spirit. The curatorial team has planned their biggest and most ambitious programming to date, promising an intergenerational event that will captivate attendees.
Now, let’s meet the extraordinary talents behind this vibrant cultural festival:
Siana Bangura is a writer, producer, performer, campaigner, and community organizer. Originally from South East London, she now divides her time between London and the West Midlands. Bangura is the founder of the Black British Feminist platform, No Fly on the WALL, and the author of the poetry collection ‘Elephant’. She has also produced a documentary film called ‘1500 & Counting’ that delves into deaths in custody and police brutality in the UK.
Abu B. Yillah is a British-Sierra Leonean interdisciplinary artist and cultural curator. He combines his passion for film and poetry to create poetic films for individuals and established UK organizations. Yillah has been commissioned by various institutions, including Safer London, Spread the Word, and the Museum of London. He is also a co-founder of Young Salone and co-curates the Sierra Leone Arts & Culture festival.
Makeda L. Cole is a British-Sierra Leonean event producer and corporate professional. By night, she curates art-based events that aim to inspire thought-provoking conversations and foster harmonious connections. Cole co-founded The Young Sierra Leonean and served as a co-curator of SLACFest from 2018 to 2020. She holds a Masters Degree in Organizational Psychology and continues to contribute to the festival’s success.
These talented individuals have played a crucial role in making Sierra Leone renowned for its vibrant culture and strong community spirit. Through their dedication and hard work, they have created a platform that showcases the rich heritage of Sierra Leoneans in the UK and beyond. As SLACFest returns to London this year, it promises to be an unforgettable celebration of art, culture, and resilience.