After a two-year hibernation, the Association for the Teaching of English in Malawi (Atem) Drama Festival has announced a comeback and an overhaul of its organisational set-up.
The oldest English stage drama competition, established in 1969, has had its fair share of both sunny and dark days, but its two-year absence represents its lowest point since its establishment. Now, led by a new interim committee, the competition has announced its return.
The new leadership has pledged to oversee the holding of an elective annual general meeting (AGM) to elect people who have passion for drama.
Speaking in an interview, interim president Davie Mpaso said they have decided to revamp Atem to bring back sanity and direction to the organisation.
He said: “For the past four years, it was like Atem was in the hands of an individual. Now we want to make things better.”
He said the interim committee has made some changes and improvements to the organisation of the competition. Mpaso said they are pleased that schools from the Northern Region, who boycotted the competition during the last five years, have promised to rejoin the contest this year.
“At the moment, we don’t have any sponsor, but we are in talks with a number of corporate players. Many have advised us to put our house in order first and we are hopeful that something will come up,” he said.
The competition has for long been seen as a feeder nursery for English drama talent which has benefited a number of outstanding drama outfits in the country. Filmmaker Charles Shemu Joyah admits the lack of vibrancy in the Atem set-up has impacted negatively on the local drama and film sectors.
He said: “We saw how Wakhumbata Ensemble Theatre benefitted from Atem. But now the situation is different. Even for us from the film sector, it is easy to work with people who have been trained in drama, who understand drama and who have gone through the Atem mentorship.”
Apart from Mpaso, the interim committee also has Maxwell Chiwamba as vice-president, Chipiliro Mlenga as general secretary, Japhet Nkhata as treasurer and Fredrick Thom as publicity secretary.
This weekend the competition starts at divisional level with performances scheduled to take place at Zomba Catholic Secondary on Saturday. They will be followed by another round of performances at Luchenza Secondary and Zingwangwa Secondary Schools on February 1. Over 50 secondary schools from across the country have registered for the competition.