I’ve dedicated two previous blog pieces to what was cool about the Lake of Stars experience. Now in this final instalment, I’ll dish out some constructive criticism. Here are three ways it could be even be better:
#1 Make it easier to get there
The big problem here is that flights, much like bandwidth, are still too expensive across Africa. A flight from Johannesburg to Blantyre costs R5,100. You know where else you could fly with that money? Milan.
There is hope though. 1Time has announced that it will offer flights to Kenya this year at a cheap R1,619. SAA currently offers the same flight at the might-as-well-fly-to-New-York -and-back price of R8,338. Hopefully we’ll see cheaper flights to East and West Africa in the next few years.
At half the price of a plane ticket, the festival organised a special bus from Johannesburg, but only two festival-goers made use of this. I was one of them. It was a trip full of highlights and trouble, but never dull.
I hope they don’t cancel the bus this year. If organized and promoted properly, it could become a jolly, music-filled bus ride, similar to the MK Avontoer.
On the local level, transport could also be easier between the resorts in Mangochi . If your lodging wasn’t at the festival site, getting home at night was tricky and unreliable. An hourly shuttle service could solve this.
#2 Make it easier to spend money
If you’re running a business, one of the things you don’t want is a shortage of ATMs and credit card facilities. There was only one ATM at the festival and when it inevitably stopped working, the only other ATM for miles was in town. To get to town, you’d have to pay for a taxi. So if you happened to be broke, as most ATM-seekers are, you’d find yourself in a proper Catch-22.
The only place I could find where you could pay for food or drink with a credit card was the Nkopola restaurant. And even they treated a credit card transaction like a strange and inconvenient custom. Paying took a long time, and you had to do it at the front desk. Once the payment went through, a letter, not a receipt, was printed out for you to formally sign. It ultimately became amusing, something to joke about with the receptionist.
#3 Make it like Ibiza
Wait, hear me out first. I’m not suggesting it should imitate Ibiza’s electronic dance music or its island-of-vice reputation. Lake of Stars should strive to have the cultural significance of Ibiza. In the same way Ibiza incubated the Balearic Beat in the 80s, Malawi could be the playground of an emerging sound. It could be a place where musicians showcase new material, learn from one another and compete. Sometimes, isolation breeds innovation. We’ve seen influential music scenes develop in peripheral places like Seattle, Manchester and Bellville. Let Mangochi be the next.