NAIJA EVENTS IN LONDON

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In our minor yet sizeable Nigerian community here in the UK Diaspora, many of us within certain industries rely on mutual exchange of services and favours for our events and functions – and many are great beneficiaries of this arrangement. There are others however, who have no understanding of how this works.

In all I organize no less than 5 or more events annually – and I have done so for at least 2 years. I also utilize my PR outfit in helping many others publicize and advertise their events on my various Social media walls and pages.

When you organize an event, you market it, shout about it, advertise it and rely on others to help you pass on the info about your event – with the hope that a good number of people will respond and help you give it even more publicity, buy your tickets – and attend. Sometimes, you are lucky to get 85% of expected attendance. Other times, you might no be so blessed by getting about 50 or 60%. It is what many of us have to live with

But what galls me is that those who shut their ears to all your calls, never acknowledge your messages or even as much as give a like to your event flyer; those that give a loud “DECLINE” to your invitation and most definitely do not attend your events – even the free ones, are usually the first to tag you relentlessly to their flyers when their own event comes along. I very rarely tag people into my flyers or posts because of its intrusive nature.

But it seems that many others have no such problems. They will tag you – and 99 others into their flyers sometimes many times daily!! They will send you endless inbox and email messages, and make it sound like its your duty to pass on the info about their event and also to attend. And these are the same people that never relate to, communicate with or respond to anything from you.

A lady readily comes to mind – who had never communicated with me in any capacity and most definitely had never attended any of my events. But the moment I posted the news about my appointment as City People Magazine correspondent, was the very first to inbox me to demand that I come and cover her event for inclusion in the magazine – for free!! Never mind that I didnt even get an invite to her event before my “announcement”!!!

Many folks will benefit from or even expect free tickets to your events but when it is time for theirs, will not even think of putting you on their guests list.

Some never ever pay a dime to attend any event – yet expect invites to every event. There is a joke around town about a certain “community leader” who has an aversion to buying tickets. When you see him at an event, you know for sure he’s been given a free one. But when he’s conspicuously absent, you can definitely conclude that the organisers have not given him a free ticket!!

So many well meaning Nigerians will pay a full ticket price for your event – even if they know they wont be attending – simply to support you. But some see their attendance at your event as a birth right for them and and privilege for you. Like they are doing you a massive favour. Others have been known to demand fees for making an appearance at events!!! Like some Demi God!!! Recently at one major event, a leader of one of the Nigerian Associations was given a complimentary ticket which allowed entry for a Plus 1. This gentleman turned up with an entourage of 6!!!

Now networking Events and Social Corporate gatherings have really exploded in the past couple of years and have become a way of life – particularly among Nigerians in London. These events cost thousands of pounds to organise and corporate sponsorship that many rely upon is sparse and thin. You will be absolutely lucky to get a 25% sponsorship deal if any at all. But when they do come in, it extremely surprising that they very rarely come from Nigerian businesses. Companies like Lebara Mobile have become the darling of many Nigerian Event Organising – sponsoring up to 75% of events in the city while Nigerian owned businesses that make huge money from the Naija Diaspora market, constantly turn their backs and shut their doors against organisers and community events. Kato Enterprises is about the only Nigerian owned company in London that consistently supports and sponsors events as drinks sponsors supplying Naija brews and drinks. One Nigerian business once gave us a sponsorship amount of £500. Then turned up at the event with 10 complimentary VIP guests at £75 per head!!

These sponsorship funds are life savers for many events organisers. Most events are ticketed but our people suffer from the incurable last minute syndrome. In most cases, with barely 2 weeks before your event, you are still on no more than 5% ticket sales. My (Nigerian Events Awards UK) NEA UK co founder and I, Vanessa Oluwole, have come to learn in the 3 years of the event, not to panic if tickets are not selling. We have consistently experienced more ticket sales in the last 24 hours before the event than the preceding 3 months of ticket sales!

So sponsorship deals come in really handy but only if funds are released prior to the event. Then you can at least have a start up fund to get your organising under way. And any other funds you can lay your hands upon when planning an event that you expect to be a memorable one for your guests – and not a splishy-slpashy, wishy-washy event thrown together with no finesse and no real planning due to a lack of funds. I have heard of events that the venue owner blankly refused to allow the event to hold due to the fact that the organisers couldn’t pay the venue costs in full before the event’s date.

So at times like this, the least you can expect is that folks who are planning to attend your event, would kindly and helpfully dip their hands in their pocket and pay for their ticket and not sit at home, expecting freebies or turn up without tickets or invitations and expect to be allowed in.

The month of May in London heralds the onset of the events and party season. Most events that are not weddings or birthday parties – are the “love them or hate them” Awards Dinners. And London is full of those. It would now seem that everyone that thinks they can, are now Awards Organisers. With the exception of a few ones that are specifically directed at specific industries and professions, many of the others are just cheap duplication, or triplication of already existing Awards bodies. You can even be forgiven for saying that many who organise awards shows do so, because they have failed to win awards at other Awards events!! Many Awards shows are organised, simply to “give the finger” to another Awards organiser and not really awarding any outstanding achievements whatsoever. At some events, the Awards winners are those that have supplied the event’s music, catering, photography, MC service, and even the organisers outfit. I have personally been at awards events where recipients names are filled in by organisers as the event went along rather than reading from a list of pre-selected, pre-determined Awardees.

A lot of Award events are nothing more than friendship appreciation events here organisers simply compile a list of their fans and supporters or vendors and give then certificates and plaques – not for any form of contribution to the community or some outstanding achievement that many can attest to. One community personality once asked me “If I buy your ticket, will you give me an award?”. Of course, many awards are bought and paid for with huge amounts of money exchanging hands in return for the Holy Award!

Many Awards organisers invite nominations from the public or even self nominations from folks who believe they have performed outstandingly in their endeavours and believe they deserve to be recognised. Personally, I see nothing wrong in that as the NEAs also employs this system to obtain nominations.

But some folks have turned awards self nominations into a daily medication. They look out for and nominate themselves for anything and everything going. Some folks will nominate themselves in every single category of an Awards body – whether or not it applies to them. Awards winning has become the new drug of choice for our people. So also has awards presentation or Special Recognition Awards to the same set of people. A big brother of mine, a major player in the fashion industry once said, there is hardly any weekend he goes out – Friday to Sunday – that he doesn’t come back with Awards! Others self respecting folks simply reject awards claiming they do not know what they are being awarded for. You can almost predict whom recipients will be at most Awards shows that reading out the names of other nominees is usually considered a massive waste of time. Many Awards organisers are just so lazy that they can’t be bothered to go out and research individuals and prospective recipients. They simply go through the list of awardees from the previous week’s event and hand out awards to them – again.

And then there are Awards show organisers who simply use the events as a cover and a front for a self parading, self presenting event. They are the MC, Awards Presenter, Entertainer and Event Caterer!! Basically inviting folks to come and see them showcase themselves.

But among all these, many of our Awards bodies are excellent initiatives. Hate or love them, Awards presentations for the right reasons and the right motives, that organise and celebrate folks who have shown excellence and dedication in their fields and professions must be encouraged and supported. We have a large number of community leaders and community champions; professionals, public officials, sports personalities and service providers in our community here in London – and the UK in general. People who touch, influence and impact the lives of others in huge ways; people who provide services without which our socio-cultural lives and traditions would be very dreary indeed. These men and women do great jobs often times, at great personal sacrifice and deprivation and these unsung heroes among us really do deserve to be rewarded.

Awards and Special Recognition Events have become part of our cultural lifestyle and looks that for now, they have come to stay. But the intergrity of Awards will be preserved and prolonged if organisers of such events have the best interest and the best motives at heart.

Hopefully, before long, those that put on these shows of ridicule and embarrassment will get bored and move on to the next craze, thus leaving the field for bonafide, well organised and well established Awards organisations to put on credible and valuable Awards presentation shows.

Copyright Jummy Ariyo (Baroness J)

June 2015

(Also published in City People Magazine 8h June 2015)

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