WOMAD – World of Music and Dance; is exactly that, with 120 performers from 53 countries, in its 33rd year. So you would be right in thinking that the organisers know a thing or two about putting on an amazing festival.
35,000 people of all ages and backgrounds (maybe a few more of the middle upper class) enjoyed WOMAD this year despite the rain which fell ALL day Friday and most of Sunday; which, by the way didn’t dampen (no pun intended) people's spirits. It was an exercise to see how inventive you could be with a plastic bag. Failing that, the ‘stocked for all occasion’s’ traders had wellies and waterproof poncho’s to keep you dry.
Thankfully, the site was pretty well drained in the Arena and by Saturday eve you could hardly tell it had rained. It was the Sunday rain that tipped the balance, making it fun trying to drag one's feet in the ankle deep sludge. There was always shelter to be found somewhere – be it a little cosy corner . But even that was welcoming as you could meet some very friendly and interesting people. One couple we met ranted, as they were not impressed with the pre-erected tent they had opted for. They said they leaked, so they hunted for another unoccupied tent dragging their belongings around in the heavy rain. (A little tip: if expecting rain when camping, put your sleeping bag and clothes in bin bags- just in case). Enough about the weather.
The first band we saw on Thursday was Shantel & Bucovina Club Orkestar who played upbeat tunes of many cultures to an appreciative audience. I did enjoy them but I could not help thinking they seemed “manufactured” for a festival. However a bonus band if you wished to enjoy a four day festival experience. Thereafter, we had a wander around, getting our bearings and noting where amenities such as toilets (plentiful), showers, phone charging tents, ATMs, food vendors (numerous, with a international choice of cuisine’s) bars, various stages and music venues, Frank Water (buy a bottle and get free re fills) and workshop areas were located.
Sooooo much to do and see in addition to the fantastic music. There was even a Fun Fair; Carters Steam Fair with its beautifully decorated rides, some powered by real steam engines. If you looked and listened closely you could see the steam rising from the chimney and hear the delightful ‘chuff chuff’ of the engine. Night time is the best time to see the fair when the rides are brightly lit, magical. If you can find time to do a workshop or two there is a wide choice of activities from dance, crafts, cooking, yoga and drumming to name a few.
The children were well catered for too with their own children’s world, providing lots of activities for all ages, and there's a large children's procession on the Sunday. Luckily, the whole site is pretty flat so if you have buggies, trolleys or are a wheel chair user it’s reasonably easy to get around (well, if there isn’t too much mud). The Arboretum (looks fantastic at night with the trees a glow with subtle lighting).
The world of Wellbeing is where you go to get a range of massages and alternative therapies, to ease those aches and pains or just for the pleasure of it. Over in the general camping area there are a range of traders selling everything from general provisions, camping gear to funky hats - all the usual necessities!! There is also Molly’s Bar, a late night venue that is always well attended and the Lunched out Lizard- A cool Moroccan style coffee bar (with a licence) festooned with colourful drapes and low level seating that also has DJ’s playing late into the early morning .
Friday - Rain, Rain, Rain….. After consulting the WOMAD program (a necessity for helping you decide who to go and see if you’re not familiar with the genre of any particular band), I thought Kapela Maliszow sounded interesting, so off we trot to the Charlie Gillett stage. There was a sizeable crowd when we arrived but after listening to a few songs we decided it wasn’t quite to our taste.
The rain was not letting up so we ended up spending some time in the Real Ale Bar with other raincoat and wellie clad patrons chatting and having a jolly good time.
Swindle Live in the Big Red Tent pulled a BIG crowd, they looked as if they were having just as much fun as the audience. Two of the band members were wearing day glow orange ponchos with the band’s name scribbled in black marker pen, jumping around the stage with big smiles.” Swindle” announced at the end of the set that he had played at WOMAD, 2 years ago as part of another band. He revealed to us there and then that he made a promise to himself to return to WOMAD fronting his own band . Well it didn’t take him long to achieve his dreams!
Sheelanagig over in the Arboretum were fab, getting the crowd jigging and clapping. They really needed an area with more audience space as the crowd was so large it was forced to form itself around an adjacent marquee. Molly’s Bar was next where we caught a bit of Biscuithead and the Biscuit Badgers in a packed house. Lastly The Lunched out Lizard kept us bopping until the very early hours.
Saturday; Just about managed to see Kakasitsi Master Drummers of Ghana at 12 noon !! If it wasn’t for the blazing sun heating my tent to what seemed like 200c forcing me out, I would off probably missed them- so I’m glad it did as they were amazing.
Tiken Jah Fakoly pulled a massive audience who danced in the sun at the open air stage. He is an impressive looking character with, traditional African nomad robes and dreadlocks, following in Bob Marley’s footsteps singing songs of repression, rebellion, redemption and hope.
The Staves, wow; what beautiful voices and harmonies from 3 young sisters, the Siam Tent were mesmerised. Spiro, another band we saw on the Ecotricity stage in the Arboretum (could also have done with more spectator space) draws you in calmly then gradually moves towards fever pitch, fab.
Sunday; the best day for me musically. There was soooo many bands I wanted to see, I was never going to se them all, and to be honest I wimped out, opting to see bands playing undercover as the weather was wet wet wet! ( I really should of taken my wellies). Orquesta Tipica Fernandez Fíerro sounded promising from the description in the program and they certainly played with the passion of Tango but after the 4th song we gave up to find something a little less repetitive so we waded gleefully like children in the now ankle deep mud. Over to the Big Red Tent to see Osaka Monaurail - Japan's answer to James Brown, fancy footwork an all.
The Apples in the Bowers and Wilkins sound system sphere (bigger, better surroundings this year) were one of the highlights for me; with Hi-Fi quality sound, 4 way 135,000 watt speakers, brilliant! Slipping and sliding in the mud we headed back to the Big Red Tent for Shy FX & Stamina for a bit of drum & bass and garage, cleverly mixed with a bit of sing along pop from the earlier years. Very enjoyable, everyone likes a sing song; and the crowd did.
Not wanting to be out too late as the morrow was pack up and depart day, we thought the Bowers and Wilkins stage was a go0d bet and wasn’t it just. Analog Africa Soundsystem was playing. People of all ages enjoying the music and friendly vibe, dancing around piles of raincoats and rucksacks, what a fab ending to a wonderful festival.
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