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Ambitious plan for Afro-Latino Festival in Margate

A dance teacher has a dream to stage an Afro-Latino festival on the Kent coast this summer.

Leon Williams is busy creating a calendar of events that include dancing, African drumming classes and bass-heavy parties to Margate.

Leon teaching at the World of Dance weekend in 2019
Leon teaching at the World of Dance weekend in 2019

He first noticed an interest for African and Latin rhythms when staging his World of Dance weekends, which have been running for three years in the seaside town.

The dance expert said: "We run all types of dances during those weekends, however the Afro and Latino workshops and parties always seemed to be the busiest."

The events were so packed that Leon made the decision to organise a separate dedicated festival, which will take place between Friday, July 17 and Sunday, July 19.

Music weekend festivals are becoming something of a signature for the coastal area, with Broadstairs Folk Week and Margate's own Soul Weekend proving to be popular with holidaymakers and residents alike.

The 53-year-old life-long dancer said people are getting hooked on the rhythms of South America and Africa because big chart names like Stormzy and Ed Sheeran are using them.

Leon hopes to bring the festivities down onto the sunny summer sands
Leon hopes to bring the festivities down onto the sunny summer sands

He said: "The Latin rhythm habanera is infiltrating modern and mainstream music.

"You've now got the big Latino artists like Daddy Yankee, there's another Latino artist called J Balvin who collaborated with Stormzy."

Another Latin-influenced track to make waves across the UK inwas Despacito featuring Justin Bieber, which was number 1 in the Official UK Charts in 2017 for 11 weeks.

The track then stayed in the charts for a further 74 weeks, with audiences falling for its rhythm and melody, which is based on a form of Puerto-Rican music called Reggaeton.

Leon hopes the same people hooked on the tropical sounds of the charts will come and dance the night away at his festival in July.

Leon hopes his festival will bring people together from communities all over Thanet
Leon hopes his festival will bring people together from communities all over Thanet

Since advertising the event on Facebook, he has been contacted by people all over the country who are interested in attending.

He said: "I put this up as an event and already I'm getting people from Bristol, Reading, even a couple of emails from Norfolk."

During the weekend Leon is organising a huge collaborative African drumming workshop run by Rich Rhythms, a local African drumming teacher.

He has also invited a group of musicians from Bristol who teach African dance classes to live percussion.

His plan is to stage events in venues up and down the Margate seafront, including on the beach, pending permission from Thanet District Council.

Leon first got a taste for dancing aged eight
Leon first got a taste for dancing aged eight

Despite his main love of African and Latin rhythms, Leon got into dancing at the age of eight through an entirely different style.

The Cliftonville resident said: "My mum came in one day and said, 'this Saturday you and your sister are going ballroom dancing down the local village hall.'

"I was eight at the time. So she kind of marched us down to the village hall, I had my first ballroom lesson and I absolutely loved it."

After growing up in Borstal, Rochester, and moving around country learning and teaching all styles of dancing, Leon moved to Margate nine years ago.

He said the people outside of the area have been surprised at his plans for organising a vibrant multi-cultural festival in the town.

The dancing teacher said: "I don't think people necessarily expect it, Margate has taken a bad hit over the past 20-30 years.

"I was handing out leaflets for the festival in Colchester and people were saying 'Margate, are you sure?'"

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