Photos of WOMAD 2019: Awareness of the Global Environmental Crisis Hovers Over Three Days of Sunshine and Great World Music

A few of my photos from this year’s WOMAD festival at Charlton Park in Wiltshire.

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Check out my WOMAD photos from this year here!

What a difference a year makes. Last summer the global environmental crisis was certainly on many people’s radar, but it hadn’t gone mainstream like it has in the last 12 months. The change has come about in particular because of the resonance of the global climate strikes by schoolchildren, initiated the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, and the actions of the campaigning group Extinction Rebellion, but the real trigger was the publication, last October, of a chilling report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, warning that we have just 12 years to avert an unprecedented catastrophe caused by man-made climate change. 

Awareness of the unprecedented climate emergency was everywhere at WOMAD, as you would no doubt expect at a clued-up, globally-minded, middle class festival — and it certainly helped that the day most of the crew arrived, Wednesday, was the second hottest day ever in the UK, with temperatures reaching 38.1C (100.6F) in Cambridge. 

I had numerous discussions with people involved in the WOMAD organisation, in which we either briefly discussed the urgency of the environmental crisis, or alluded to it, although it wasn’t promoted specifically, except through the presence of Extinction Rebellion activists, and the conspicuous efforts to tackle waste and recycling issues. The most shocking example of out-of-control throwaway culture at festivals in recent years was, most notoriously, Glastonbury, whose aftermath was featured in truly shocking photos in 2015, but everywhere our casual addiction to plastic, and an enthusiasm for abandoning tents has led to the aftermath of festivals becoming a vivid and disturbing demonstration of how, collectively, we have become startlingly adept at turning everywhere into a vast dustbin. Even this year, at Glastonbury, where climate change and the environment were the festival’s theme, the sale of single-use plastic bottles was banned, and David Attenborough turned up to thank festival-goers for using less plastic, saying, “That is more than a million bottles of water that have not been drunk by you”, vast amounts of litter were still left behind.

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I’m Off to WOMAD to Forget About Boris; Why Not Watch Tidemill on the BBC While I’m Gone?

A photo from WOMAD 2018 (Photo: Andy Worthington).

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My friends, I’m off to Wiltshire for six days, for the annual WOMAD world music festival in the grounds of Charlton Park in Wiltshire. My wife runs children’s workshops at this very family-friendly festival, and this will be our 18th year of entertaining children with craft activities, soaking up some of the best music from around the world, and hanging out with friends and family backstage and in crew camping.

It will be a relief to get away from London as the fallout from Boris Johnson’s election as Prime Minister by just 92,153 members of the Tory Party continues, to the dismay of everyone vaguely sentient, and if you’re stuck for something to do until I’m back, why not check out ‘ How the Middle Class Ruined Britain’, a BBC2 documentary featuring working class Tory stand-up comedian Geoff Norcott exploring Britain’s class struggle, which was broadcast last night, but is available on iPlayer for the next eleven months.

I worked closely with the producer and director, and spent an interesting day with Geoff focusing on the Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaign in Deptford, particularly focusing on the proposals, by Lewisham Council and Peabody, to demolish Reginald House, a structurally sound block of council flats, as part of their planned redevelopment of the old Tidemill primary school and its former wildlife garden, which myself and others occupied for two months last year until we were violently evicted in October.

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Photos: The WOMAD World Music Festival 2018 – Global Joy and Creativity, Threatened by Brexit

Photos by Andy Worthington from the WOMAD world music festival 2018.See my photos on Flickr here!

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Since 2002, the end of July every year has been defined for me by my participation in WOMAD (World of Music, Art and Dance), the world music festival founded in 1982, which I attend with family and friends, working at the children’s workshops. These involve hundreds of children making all manner of wonderful creations, and they culminate in a childrens’ procession on Sunday evening through the whole of the festival site.

I’ve taken photos of the festival every year, and have made them available on Flickr since 2012 — see the photos from 2012 here and here, from 2014 here, from 2015 here, from 2016 here and from 2017 here.

This year everyone expected that the heatwave that began at the end of May would continue throughout the festival, but although Friday, the first day of the festival (and the two days before when we were setting up) were deliriously hot, the weather turned on the Saturday, although the festival-goers’ spirits were generally undimmed.

I had a wonderful time this year, thanks to the great company, in particular, as well as — of course — great music as always from around the world. I also particularly enjoyed helping to facilitate the children’s creativity during the workshops, and also enjoyed playing with Richard from The Four Fathers at the Open Mic at Molly’s Bar (where my son Tyler joined us beatboxing) and also watching Tyler perform with his friends Caleb and Haroun, and, on Sunday evening, taking part in a wonderfully successful workshop with two other members of the BAC Beatbox Academy, Conrad and Nate, who came from London to give a WOMAD audience an exhilarating masterclass in the art of beatboxing. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s Holiday Time: Off to WOMAD and the West Country, Back in August

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Dear friends,

Every year, at this time, I attend the WOMAD world music festival in Wiltshire with my family and friends. I’m slightly astonished to work out that this will be our 17th WOMAD, as we’ve been going since 2002, when we spent a boozy, hard-working time there between our wedding in Edinburgh, and a post-wedding party in London. The drinking has tailed off or come to an end since that time, but we still do children’s workshops, and WOMAD continues to be the perfect festival, with amazing music from around the world, and a very peaceful vibe. Every year, I discover music that I love, but that I had no knowledge of beforehand, like last year’s Thursday night entertainment (before the festival proper began) —Bixiga 70, enthusiastic and talented Afrobeat players from Brazil, whose music has moved me all year.

On Monday, we’re heading down to Cornwall, to stay for a few days with friends near Mevagissey, and then we’re heading back east, but only as far as Dorset where we’re staying for a few days in a very special place on Chesil Beach that we’ve visited before. We leave there on August 8, and travel to Bristol, where I have a radio interview that day, and a screening of ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, the film abut resistance to the destruction of council estates, which I narrate, and which I posted an article about yesterday. Read the rest of this entry »

My Photos: The Wet But Still Wonderful WOMAD Festival 2017

A photo of WOMAD 2017 by Andy Worthington.

See my photo set on Flickr here!

The WOMAD festival (World of Music, Art and Dance) takes place on the last weekend of July, and since 2002 I have attended the festival every year — first at Reading, and, since 2007, at Charlton Park in Wiltshire — with my family and friends, as my wife runs children’s workshops, culminating in the children’s procession on Sunday evening that snakes through the entire festival site.

I’ve taken photos of the festival every year, and have made them available on Flickr since 2012 — see the photos from 2012 here and here, from 2014 here, from 2015 here, and from 2016 here.

This year the weather was quite challenging, but we all had a great time anyway. The camaraderie was great in our camp, and there was wonderful music everyday — starting on the Thursday night before most people were there with my favourite band of the festival, who I had never heard of before — Bixiga 70, a Brazilian Afrobeat band — and an old favourite, Orchestra Baobab, from Senegal, and continuing with Junun (from Israel and Rajasthan) and Oumou Sangare (from Mali) on Friday, young rapper Loyle Carner (from Croydon), kora legend Toumani Diabate (from Mali) and Toots and the Maytals (from Jamaica) on Saturday, and whirling dervishes from Syria, Benjamin Zephaniah from the UK, Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 from Nigeria, and US vibes legend Roy Ayers on Sunday. Read the rest of this entry »

Off to WOMAD, Back on Monday! Have A Listen to The Four Fathers While I’m Away

A comparatively rare sunny interlude at the often rather wet WOMAD 2015 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist and commentator.





 

Dear friends,

It’s that time of year again, when a whole posse of us from south east London head down to Charlton Park in Wiltshire for the WOMAD world music festival, which this year is celebrating its 35th year!

This will be my 16th annual visit, as part of a group of family and friends running children’s workshops, led by my wife Dot. I first went just after our wedding, and have been every year since — in the festival summers of 2004 and 2005, for example, when I launched my books Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield at the Glastonbury Festival, and also spoke and sold books at the Big Green Gathering and the Shambala Festival, and in 2007, the first year at Charlton Park, after the move from Reading, when it became a mud bath, and we feared it might not survive.

But this “hardy celebration of music marginalised by the western pop machine”, as the Times describes it, is not so easily destroyed. WOMAD came bouncing back in 2008, having redesigned its place in the landscape of Charlton Park, and it has been thriving ever since. Read the rest of this entry »

My Photos: Wonderful WOMAD 2016

Children on the iconic WOMAD sign at Charlton Park, Wiltshire, in July 2016 (Photo: Andy Worthington).See my photo set on Flickr here!

14 years ago, in July 2002, just after my wedding, I visited — and took part in — for the first time the WOMAD festival (World of Music, Arts and Dance), a world music festival that was established by Peter Gabriel and a number of colleagues in 1982, and which, at the time, was at a site by the River Thames in Reading. I went with my wife Dot, and our two-year old son, to take part in children’s workshops run by an Australian friend, who then returned to Australia, handing on the workshops to Dot, who has run them ever since, with myself and a number of our friends and their families.

From those first days, when we drank merrily while our kids slept in their buggies, we have seen our children grow at WOMAD, and we now tend to go to sleep while they are still out clubbing. Our group of workers also shares a special camaraderie, and, of course, we have also watched a wealth of world music talent over the years. We have also worked every year with children to prepare headdresses and other creations to accompany a giant figure, designed by Dot, that, with others made by the many other groups involved in the workshops, is, every year, carried through the whole site on the last day of the festival, as part of the children’s procession that reminds all of us of the central importance of children in all our lives.

In 2007, WOMAD moved to Charlton Park, a stately home in Wiltshire, near Malmesbury, and we went with it, of course. I’ve taken photos of it every year, and have made them available on Flickr since 2012 — see the photos from 2012 here and here, from 2014 here, and from 2015 here. Read the rest of this entry »

Off to WOMAD for A Long Weekend of World Music, Back on Monday

A comparatively rare sunny interlude at the often rather wet WOMAD 2015 (Photo: Andy Worthington).My friends,

I’m off to WOMAD, the wonderful world music festival in Wiltshire, for the 15th year running, with a posse of good friends and their families. I’ll be back on Monday. My wife has been running children’s workshops since our kids were tiny toddlers, when WOMAD was still by the river in Reading, and now our kids are young men and the festival is happily settled into Charlton Park near Malmesbury, a wonderful site.

I never quite know who’s going to be on. One of the great joys of WOMAD is being surprised by wonderful musicians from all round the world — and, for me, especially, Africa — so I’ll report back later on my discoveries. I do know that Asian Dub Foundation are the welcoming band on the Friday night, and that George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic will be wowing us at some point.

I also hope that my band The Four Fathers (on Twitter here!) will be playing the Open Mic at Molly’s Bar at some point over the weekend, and I already know that my son Tyler (The Wiz-RD) will be beatboxing and providing some spoken word pieces at the Hip Yak Poetry Shack. Read the rest of this entry »

Photos: Mud and Magic at WOMAD 2015

Flags at WOMAD, at Charlton Park in Wiltshire, in July 2015 (Photo: Andy Worthington).See my photo set on Flickr here!

I have been visiting WOMAD — World of Music, Arts and Dance, the world music festival established by Peter Gabriel and a number of colleagues in 1982 — as an artist since 2002, helping my wife run children’s workshops with a number of other friends, and this year our posse — eight adults, five teenagers and two children — survived the rainiest WOMAD in our collective experience, although it couldn’t dampen our spirits, or that of WOMAD as a whole. (See here and here for my photos from 2012, and here for 2014).

WOMAD has been based at Charlton Park in Wiltshire, in the grounds of a stately home, since 2007, notorious in WOMAD’s history as the year when the new site was churned up before the festival even began and turned into an unparalleled mudfest as soon as the festival-goers arrived. This year wasn’t quite as arduous as 2007, but it wasn’t far off. Friday began and ended with rain (often torrential), and although Saturday was sunny, it began raining again on the Sunday and didn’t let up much for the rest of the day — although there was a wonderful interlude when the sun shone for the children’s procession, an annual highlight of the festival.

So while we were inconvenienced and tested by the weather, we continued to take in the great music that is always on offer, and this year my discoveries included Pascuala Ilabaca, a Chilean singer and accordion player, with the voice of an angel, the powerful African reggae singer Tiken Jah Fakoly, and the Atomic Bomb! Band playing the music of the reclusive Nigerian funk star William Onyeabor, while old faves included the Tuareg desert blues of Tinariwen. Read the rest of this entry »

I’m Away at WOMAD for Six Days: Why Not Check Out My CD, ‘Love and War’ by The Four Fathers?

Children on the WOMAD sign at the 2012 festival in Wiltshire (Photo: Andy Worthington).My friends,

Every year, on the last weekend in July, I travel to Charlton Park in Wiltshire with my family and friends for the WOMAD world music festival, where my wife runs children’s workshops, where the sun nearly always shines, and there is great music from all around the world — and there is always some great band from west Africa, especially Mali, that I love. I know a few of the bands playing this year — Tinariwen, for example, and the Mahotella Queens — but not many. One of WOMAD’s great pleasures is discovering musicians that I didn’t know previously.

WOMAD also provides an opportunity for me to sing and play guitar at our camp, in one of the crew camping areas — with two other members of my band The Four Fathers, Richard and Louis. Traditionally, we’ve played a lot of covers — a lot of Bob Dylan and the Pogues, for example, but since last year I’ve written a number of songs that are featured on The Four Fathers’ debut album, ‘Love and War’, available here on CD for just £7/$11 plus P&P — and we’ll no doubt be playing unplugged versions of them this year. They include ‘Song for Shaker Aamer’, which is featured in the campaign video for We Stand With Shaker, the campaign calling for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, which I established with the activist Joanne MacInnes last November.

The video is below: Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer (The State of London).
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Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion

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Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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