MTN Bushfire: Where creative expression and social responsibility burn bright

Known as the greenest festival in Africa, and one of CNN’s “7 African music festivals you really have to see”, MTN Bushfire is an internationally acclaimed music and arts festival that takes places annually in Swaziland. It celebrates creative expression while promoting social responsibility, stimulating the economy, and drawing talent and tourists from across the continent and the world.

Festival director Jiggs Thorne told us more about the ethos of the festival and what to expect in 2018.

The ethos of MTN Bushfire is focused on “igniting social change”. Since its inception, what impact has the festival made?

“Bring your fire” is the festival’s rallying call, that encourages participants to proactively engage in a range of themes in and around Bushfire that address societal concerns. I feel that consciously committing to leverage the festival’s creative environment and inspire participation around issues that affect us means we can all become agents for positive social change. Knowing that we all need to be part of the change we want to see is a positive communication Bushfire promotes.

What goes into selecting the various organisations and environmental partners for the festival and in the events leading up to it?

Festival partnerships develop around the various festival themes we identify. Finding partners for the Bring Your Fire Zone is a combination of passionate individuals seeking out the festival as a platform where they can share their fire, and the festival seeking out partners that have already made major impact in their sectors.

With it being one of the largest festivals on the continent, offering not only music but theatre workshops too, what challenges and milestones are notable in its 12-year run ?

Bigger is not necessarily better. One of the greatest challenges in the context of growth is remaining true to the festival’s founding DNA, and that in the process of decision-making, we continue to be relevant and maintain Bushfire’s magic formula.

Talking milestones, Bushfire has become a wildfire, generating amazing feedback from people who attend this festival from all corners of the world. The event was announced by CNN as “one of the seven African music festivals you really have to see” and described by BBC as a “top African festival”. We also recently won Africa’s Best Responsible Event award at the 2017 African Responsible Tourism Awards.

How did your journey with the festival start?

I had the privilege of being inspired by very creative and entrepreneurial parents. I went on to study drama and politics at university, then set about creating a performing arts venue in Swaziland, House on Fire, with my brother to support the development of the arts in Swaziland. The festival developed out of our year-round arts programme that we host at House on Fire. It was basically the next stage in our creative evolution.

What are your favourite travel destinations – be it for music festivals or just for some downtime?

Downtime is about getting away from the busyness of things. A quiet beach in Mozambique or the Lowveld bush are favourites for my family and I. Talking festival getaways, check out the amazing Sauti za Busara in Stone Town, Zanzibar!

What can people expect from the 2018 festival?

Bushfire celebrates and brings people together. The festival attracts Africa’s most diverse audience from more than 60 different countries,  so expect a community of spirit!

On a customer-service level, we’re consistently looking to raise the bar and improve the overall Bushfire experience for festival-goers. In 2018, we will open up the campsite a day earlier so travellers can beat the queues at the border. We also have a new range of luxury camping with en suite showers and toilets, and festival-goers can experience the latest technology with the introduction of a new cashless system! See you in 2018…. #BringYourFire!

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