I’m not sure we are actually back from WOMAD yet, I’m pretty certain I have left a little bit of myself in a field in Malmesbury – it is possibly the perfect festival for a family like mine. Our wide age range means it can be very tricky finding something which offers enough entertainment for each of us but WOMAD has so much on offer that we were spoiled for choice!
The weather was kind when we were setting up camp, the ground was flat (if VERY hard after all that sun) and there was plenty of space. Most of us arrived on the Thursday and I’m glad we did as people who left it until the Friday to arrive were more limited in their choice of pitch. Our old tent is a total nightmare to erect and I was casting an envious eye at the neat OlPro 3 man (review to follow) which Teen 1 and his lovely girlfriend were to share and which seemed to go up effortlessly while I was still struggling with pegs and billowing nylon!
Mr TS and I first went to WOMAD the summer we met 25 years ago. I remember seeing people with families then and thinking how fab it was to introduce children to such a variety of music and experiences. This year I got a chance to do it with my own. Five stages offering entertainment over four days meant that we could totally immerse ourselves in music. So…what was WOMAD for us?
We watched musicians from all over the world do their thing and we danced, clapped and cheered loudly! We heard Celtic music from the land of my mothers (Barrule from the Isle-of Man), listened to throat singers from Tuva, danced to the fantastic Chilean rhythms of Nano Stern. We dipped into Reggae, Dubstep and Québecois folk, shook our booty to the Afrobeat and sang-a-long a Craig Charles and his funky soul groove.
The children’s area was buzzing and I was impressed that this year saw two new areas for families with WOMAD weenies for the under 5s and the Happening tent for teens. Weenies offered a place for little ones and their parents to chill out a bit and there was space for breastfeeding Mums with advice and support on hand if needed. Teenagers were well catered for with a wide range of activities on offer to keep them busy including vocal workshops, drumming and zumba.
Bonus Boy’s favourite bits were the giant puppets, an amazing guy beatboxing and some manic music making. Can you imagine being allowed to have a go on a puppet this big?!
Here he is, working the head!
The best bit for me though was that this didn’t feel like a compound and that there were also plenty of things to keep them busy elsewhere on site meaning we spent very little time here so I enjoyed it rather than resenting it which I have done elsewhere! There are lots of trees in the arboretum all crying out to be climbed or for dens to be made inside and there were opportunities for a bit more music making tucked away in leafy glades.
Food is, of course, very important to the Thinly Spreads wherever we go and we had more choice as vegetarians at this festival than at any other music festival we have attended; Teen 1 in particular seemed determined to work his way through the lot! From wood fired pizza to burritos, olives, pasta, pancakes, curries, salads and the fabulous Not The Hot Dog Stall we were very well served. Bonus Boy was over the moon when I finally gave in and bought Churros and Chocolate – one of his favourite things from last year’s Wilderness Festival!
I would’ve liked to spend more time at the Taste the World tent where musicians were cooking up speciality dishes from their countries and the audience then got an opportunity to taste the results. The atmosphere was lovely and the mix of music, chat and food was right up my street!
For wordsmiths it was worth a wander into the World of Words and a pop to the People Parlour where you could borrow a person who would tell you their story. Bumping into the gorgeous Muriel Lavender and having a little smooch was a bit of a highlight (Muriel hails from my town and our children used to go to nursery together) and the librarians were familiar faces from Frome Wholefoods all gathered in the arboretum weaving words and telling tales.
Those seeking a more luxurious festival experience were in for a treat at WOMAD. The La Di Da Loos with their porcelain bowls and dressing room mirrors, the spa with jacuzzi and treatments and the World of Wellbeing with laughing yoga, massages and hanging upside down back stretching all ensured there were some very laid back festival goers a-wandering about.
We even found a hobbit hole and it was for sale! If we could’ve fitted it in our pockets it would be up in the garden right now!
I love music festivals after dark, the stalls all lit up, flashing lights and curling dry ice from the stages, little eyes alight with excitement as they take it all in. WOMAD went one better as it paid host to the fabulous Carter’s Steam Fair. Under normal circumstances I loathe funfairs but this one is just a little bit different; steam powered rides and traditional side shows made me grin from ear to ear and skip a bit!
It drew us back in the daytime too! Have a close look at this picture – as we were whizzing around on this wood powered beauty Bonus Boy suddenly exclaimed ‘Mummy, Mummy! You are riding on Chris!’ it was a total coincidence that I had ended up on the back of my namesake – we were there because BB wanted Stan! (Spookily, my friend Liz was at the same fair when it was in Hemel Hempstead a couple of weeks ago and her daughter was on MY horse!)
I have a secret love of motorbikes (it’s that Manx connection) so there was no way I was leaving without a visit to the Wall of Death, Bonus Boy was captivated!
The shopping experience at festivals can be a bit traumatic with children in tow but I got off lightly this year. DG tried on a hat or two
He did his Artful Dodger thing
we stroked vintage dresses and admired beautiful jewellery but we only came home with two flower circlets and some bubbles – sensible crew!
On a practical level, this was the cleanest festival I have ever attended and that really matters when you have family with you. There was barely any litter to be seen, the toilets were cleaned regularly and kept well stocked with loo roll and hand cleaner (Bonus Boy announced that he loved them, bit odd but that may be due to the pump handle flush) and when the rain came down on Saturday night woodchips were quickly spread over high footfall areas keeping the mud to a minimum.
It won’t surprise regular readers to hear that I am very keen on the ethos behind WOMAD and its fabulous WOMAD foundation. At a time when arts budgets have been slashed by a government who seems to have no concept of the importance of creativity, innovation and independent thinking (I’ll stop there, for now) WOMAD’s vision is to bring all that into the classroom. In the words of Peter Gabriel himself
‘If we truly want a world full of global citizens, we have to start bringing the world inside the classroom’
Having seen my children relax into world music, watched my smallest go from ear defenders to seasoned festy and heard my eldest planning next year’s visit I can only agree.
Oh…and fairtrade sugar candyfloss bigger than your head helps too!
I could go on writing this post for ever, I’ve barely touched on the things we saw and did, the music we heard and the people we met, WOMAD is top of my list for next year!
Disclosure: We were sent family tickets to attend WOMAD this year and we are VERY grateful! All words and pictures are, as always, mine unless otherwise stated.