Published on August 19th, 2013 | by Faye Penfold0
Music and culture festivals litter the summer with their promise of amazing headliners, friendly people and lashings of sunshine, it can be hard amongst the many hundreds on offer to choose the best. For me there is a clear winner and that’s Womad Festival, hosted at Charleton Park in Wiltshire. In the myriad of very similar events all promising to be the pick of the summer Womad stands proud as something entirely different.
Womad, World of Music, Arts and Dance, is an internationally established Festival bringing together artists from all over the globe. For me WOMAD is a festival that celebrates musicality, the range is staggering and dizzyingly diverse, the commonality being that artists are selected for excellence in their craft, meaning Womad is very special indeed, passion and individuality, regardless of musical genre or geographical origin is key.As an organisation, Womad now works in many different ways, but their aims are always the same – at festivals, performance events, through recorded releases and through educational projects, they aim to excite, to inform, and to create awareness of the worth and potential of a multicultural society. Womad curates a festival full of smiling, happy and truly friendly people, something every festival strives for but I think Womad is alone in delivering. The site at Charleton park is stunning, and sensitively laid out, not a single piece of litter can be found on the grass and the audience are truly engaged and respectful, quite honestly for the 4 days Womad Festival is staged in late July, there is nowhere nicer, and safer to be in England. Each and every year tens of thousands of people flock to Wiltshire to attend the event and with children under 13 allowed in the site for free it is friendly and safe.
Each year at Womad the headliner is never personally important to me, it’s more about discovering wonderful new music and being taken on a musical journey around the world, through the streets of Kabul, the jungle in the Amazon basin and the bustling Parisian markets, Womad is magical and each year I discover something utterly unique, this year was no different, it was all about the French for me. French Dub from Dub Inc, French Dancehall, French Ska from Babylon Circus and Faux French Gypsy folk music from the wonderful band ‘Fromage en Feu’ from Bristol, who incidentally played at my wedding several years ago. Nothing gets a party moving quite like them, their music is magnificently uplifting, energetic and foot stompingly fun, nothing compares to them and on Saturday night, in Monsoon rains, Molly’s Bar was packed to the rafters with people who loved them just as much as us.
It’s impossible to list all the incredible artists who played this year’s Womad, but stand out performances were seen from Parov Stelar Band, the inventor and grand master of Electro Swing. Personally I discovered Electro Swing two years ago at Womad, and it’s been an ongoing love affair ever since. Parov is an Australian DJ, who takes Electro Swing to another level, from his mixing desk to the flamboyant live performances, this man is without a doubt the most exciting dance act in the world right now, and half of Womad shaking their tushes on Friday night wholeheartedly agreed!
Each evening ended on a party note for us with Radio 6’s alumnae Craig Charles playing a tremendous soul set on Friday, the astonishingly bonkers bass monkeys Schlachthofbronx rounding off after Arrested Development on Saturday and super stand in DJ Cheeba from Bristol on Sunday.
Taste the World, where artists are invited to come and talk about their lives, cook dishes from their childhood and play intimate acoustic sets in the beautiful arboretum is always a highlight for me and since last year the attendance to these gorgeous performances have increased ten fold, standing room only!
Womad festival this year was made all the more special by taking our decadent new bell tent, bought from the delightful people at www.belltent.co.uk. A veritable palace of splendor, decorated with only the finest candles, Thai cushions and a mini kitchen powered by www.coolboxes.co.uk and camping Gaz meant coffee and breakfast could be served in bed each morning, now that’s the way to do a festival in style!
“Pure enthusiasm for music from around the world led us to the idea of WOMAD in 1980 and thus to the first WOMAD festival in 1982. The festivals have always been wonderful and unique occasions and have succeeded in introducing an international audience to many talented artists.
Equally important, the festivals have also allowed many different audiences to gain an insight into cultures other than their own through the enjoyment of music. Music is a universal language, it draws people together and proves, as well as anything, the stupidity of racism.