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United Kingdom summer; Social season for those far away from home

By Joseph Ngugi | June 9th 2013

By Joseph Ngugi

In a good year, summer in the UK lasts no more than three months and in a bad one, there is hardly a day of sunshine worth making families leave their houses for the beaches or to the teetering in theme parks.

But when a hot summer finally arrives, most Kenyans in UK fill their dairies with social activities and events. This is the most ideal season to catch up with friends over nyama choma, cold beer and the never ending overnight mugithi gigs, which in most cases are re-enactments of home-away-from home happy hours.

For most Kenyans, summer season starts with the Madaraka Day celebrations, an annual event they so religiously observe and celebrate, perhaps to the scale of other Kenyans back home.

A friend once quipped that living far away from home seemed to have made most Kenyans in UK more patriotic, united and cohesive – but this is unfortunately restricted only to the celebration of national days. Anything else politics has remained as divisive to the Kenyans in UK as it has to their countrymen back home.

For Kenyans living in London, Madaraka Day is usually the beginning of various social activities ranging from huge fashion shows, beauty contests and football showdowns involving Kenyan families. Kenyans living in other cities around the UK also have their events, although they mostly remain inconspicuous.

For those who consider themselves party animals, Madaraka Day parties are the best social events to attend and catch up with friends - as well as engaging in the politics too. For those Kenyans who are public-shy, private garden beer parties are the best way to show their solidarity with Kenyans back home in commemorating this national day that Kenya became independent. For the most religious people, there is always a wide choice of places to go for worship since UK has is home to more than 80 Kenyan churches. This high number of religious groups makes Kenyans the second other group with the largest number of religious organisations, second from Nigerians.

This year’s summer will, however, has already been like no other. Apart from holding one of the biggest beauty contest ever organised by Kenyans, the “Face of Kenya,” the other biggest event that attracted much more Kenyans was the football contest between African teams in UK.

According to the manager of the Kenyan football team, The Kenya Star, that was taking part in the tournament, John Gachara Kigathi, the Africa of nations, UK is a football competition that comprised of teams from various African countries living in Britain.

The tournament which was launched in 2009 with 16 teams now has 20 countries participating. It started as a social event to bring Africans together but has already been recognised by the FA and registered and operating under the London and Essex FA licence.  Nigeria, the favourite to win this year has lifted the trophy thrice and Ugandans once. Kenya Star, like their national team in Kenya, The Harambee Star, is still hopeful that the trophy will come home one day in the future.

This year’s preliminaries were held on the Madaraka Day and saw Kenyans attending in unprecedented huge numbers to support their team and country. It went without saying that while their team was no match for their opponents, Kenyans had the largest and loudest crowd at the West Memorial grounds, East London.

They came prepared to rejoice and made merry, which prompted other African fans to abandon their sides to join in the free-flowing nyama choma that went very well with Kenyan music spinned out by DJ Dubwise.

This year’s finals will be played on July 15 at The West Ham United Football Stadium, home to the Premiership side and is expected to attract more than 50,000 fans across the three weekends of the tournaments. While men will be out stretching out their muscles in the field, women too have a match of their own that will recognise the most outstanding African women in Europe.



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