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.

As always, the music is just part of WOMAD’s magic. Our children’s workshop collective always has a great time, both at our camp and out and about in the festival as a whole, and this year was no exception. As well as there being great food as always (hello, Madras Cafe and the Goan Seafood Company), there was excellent music backstage, because, in the last year, I have got a band together, The Four Fathers, and our campsite playing is rather better than it used to be. On the last night, we played an open mic session at Molly’s Bar, where we hit the crowd with my songs ‘Fighting Injustice’ (a roots rocking anthem that everyone seems to love) and ‘Tory Bullshit Blues‘, as well as ‘Rebel Soldier’, an old English folk song that I put to a reggae tune back in the 1980s in Brixton. All are featured on our debut album, ‘Love and War’, available here for just £7/$11 + P&P.

Later that night, we sat up for three hours playing pretty much everything we have ever learned to play, in an epic session that drew in a few passers-by and was wonderful to take part in. In the absence of two of The Four Fathers — Bren Horstead (drums) and Andrew Fifield (flute and harmonica) — Seb Sills-Clare (flute), Will Pearce Hamilton (percussion/guitar) and my son Tyler (beatboxing) got involved, joining myself on lead vocals and guitar, Richard Clare on guitar and backing vocals and Louis Sills-Clare on bass, and I was sorry when it all had to come to an end. We are currently looking for gigs for the autumn, and festival gigs for next summer, so do get in touch if you’re interested in having us play.

And in the meantime, I hope you enjoy the photos.

A link to the photos is also below:

WOMAD 2015

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose debut album, ‘Love and War,’ was released in July 2015). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign, the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, calling for the immediate release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and The Complete Guantánamo Files, an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

32 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted the link on Facebook to the photo set on Flickr, I wrote:

    Check out my photos from this year’s WOMAD – the world music festival in Wiltshire that I’ve been attending every year since 2002, where my wife runs children’s workshops. See my photos of great bands and artists, inc. Tinariwen, Tiken Jah Fakoly and the Atomic Bomb Band, marvel at the mud and the rain and the occasional rays of sun, and see my band The Four Fathers in action at Molly’s Bar! Enjoy!

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Anna Giddings wrote:

    That’s brilliant Andy. I’ve always wanted to be a rock God

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    I am getting there, Anna! We played three songs during the open mic slot, and each time we play I get more at home on stage. I’ve been talking publicly at the drop of a hat for years, but getting on stage and singing and playing guitar has taken a little longer to get comfortable with.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Anna Giddings wrote:

    I’m sure that’s all part of it. If you didn’t feel like that there would be something wrong with you. It will become easier I’m sure.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    We shall see, Anna. Some people think nerves are necessary, but I have to say that, from my experience, quiet confidence is preferable!

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Neil McKenna wrote:

    You certainly got the rain! I went a couple of times when it was held at Reading, at the Rivermead. I believe they left that site because of the Thames flooding on one occasion. Luckily I never needed the wellies I’d been so foolhardy as to not even consider bringing! Great festival.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    You’d like the new site, I think, Neil​. Much more spacious – and with an Arboretum! The wellies I’m wearing I got in 2007, the year of Womud, from the Oxfam stall. They used to belong to someone called Yaz!

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks to everyone liking and sharing this. I’m away tomorrow for a long weekend in Devon with friends, camping, although to be honest I haven’t yet recovered fully from WOMAD. The rain and mud really were quite tiring!

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Yvonne Worthington wrote:

    Miss going to WOMAD. Liked the Reading site but they didn’t have peacocks or rain.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, 2007, the year of the mud, was a big shock for WOMAD, Yvonne, as everyone had got used to it being sunny every year. We had some rain two years ago, but this year was quite a shock, to be honest. It’s depressing to wake up with it raining at 6am and for it not to stop all day. However, the music was as uplifting as ever!

  11. damo says...

    What’s it all about Andy……goodbye cilla

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    It seems like a lifetime ago that I used to watch Cilla on ‘Blind Date’, Damo – in what also seem, with hindsight, to have been more innocent times.

  13. damo says...

    Lol blind date was a lorra lorra laffs,lol sorry Andy I couldn’t resist,lol yes it seems a more innocent and indeed quieter time unlike todays screaming,shrieking,gurning,grimmaceing,eye rolling,….jibber jabber over saturated times,lol,lol

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    I’m not sure I should confess this, Damo, but an occasional guilty pleasure in our house is Take Me Out, a dreadful ITV dating show except for the fact that it’s presented by the comedian Paddy McGuinness, who has an array of catchphrases that are both ridiculous and funny.

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:

    Nice pics, Andy. Love the one about human rights, of your son (?) performing, and one of my favorite bands from Algeria! Great fun. Really cool that you also got to perform too.

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Tashi. Yes, that was my son beatboxing – and he also played with us, which was a first. We hadn’t previously been on stage together. And one of your favourite bands from Algeria? Is that Souad Massi and her band? She has such a lovely voice.

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:

    ‘Tinariwen is a Grammy Award-winning group of Tuareg musicians from the Sahara Desert region of northern Mali. The band was formed in 1979 in Tamanrasset, Algeria, but returned to Mali after a cease-fire in the 1990.’

    I love the Tuaregs, Andy. I very fortunately got to spend time with them in Algeria. One of my favourite experiences there and being in the Sahara was fascinating, felt like being on another planet! I actually went to Tamanrasset when Amar was still a baby. (He nearly died from dehydration! Another story for another day!)

    Anyway, not that it is my place to be — but I am very proud of you and your good fathering and your musical accomplishments. I remember telling you that you have an artist’s soul a number of years back — and now I get to see it come to fruition. Very gratifying as an outside observer. I think you are a really great dad too! Tyler is lucky to have you as an influence (and you are blessed to have him, of course).

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:

    ‘Who Are the Tuareg?’

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:

    Of course Andy, I can’t talk about Tuaregs without thinking of them and their plight for justice… so have a little read (if you have the time). Really interesting things going on. (I just love how they are the ones being called ‘rebels’ when their way of life is no longer possible due to National borders and blood sucking oligarchs!)

    Mali’s Tuareg rebels sign peace deal

    Rebels in Mali have signed a peace deal with the government, offering partial autonomy to the north of the country.

    Tuareg-led rebels had refused to sign an initial peace agreement last month, but came on board after their demands were met by the government.


  20. Andy Worthington says...

    Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:

    Mali: A peace deal to promote conflict

    Twenty-eight months after France’s military intervention in Mali in January 2013 to end the Islamist extremist insurgency and Mali’s “crisis”, a much-trumpeted peace signing ceremony was scheduled to be held in the capital, Bamako, on 15 May 2015.

    The intended signatories were the Mali government, a number of government-backed militia and the Coordination for the Movements of Azawad (CMA). The CMA comprised some half-dozen groups, including the two main Tuareg rebel groups, the Mouvement National pour la libération de l’Azawad (MNLA) and the Haut Conseil pour l’Unité de l’Azawad (HCUA), who took up arms in January 2012 for the independence of “Azawad”, as Tuareg call northern Mali.

    The ceremony was an embarrassment to those who had been promoting it. Only Mali’s foreign minister, Abdoulaye Diop, three representatives of pro-Bamako militias (who had previously been part of the Islamist insurgency that took over northern Mali during 2012) and two minor members of the CMA signed the Algiers-drafted agreement. The MNLA and HCUA refused to sign.

    Pierre Boilley, the French African historian and internationally recognised authority on Mali, described the peace deal as not worth the paper it was written on. I had earlier described it as a farce.

    Both descriptions fall short of the mark. The peace deal is much worse than that because conflict and instability in Mali, as this peace deal will cause, tend to have consequences, especially in terms of the spread of extremist militancy, for the wider Sahelian and North African regions.


  21. Andy Worthington says...

    Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:

    Hollande meets Bouteflika in Algiers to discuss Mali, Libya, trade

    French President François Hollande was to meet Algeria’s ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on a visit to Algiers on Monday. France is anxious to keep good relations with Algeria for the sake of billions-of-euros-worth of trade but also because of the conflicts in Mali and Libya.


  22. Andy Worthington says...

    Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:

    The Dying Sahara: US Imperialism and Terror in Africa
    By Jeremy Keenan

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Tashi​, for all those links. I had forgotten that Tinariwen had formed in exile in Algeria. I’ve been a fan of theirs for many years – since 2004, in fact, when I bought their album Amassakoul. That year they played WOMAD but I missed them because, as they played their opening chord, my son, who was 4 at the time, started wailing and needed to be put to sleep. I really wasn’t happy! However, I saw them on a tour with Rachid Taha and Daara J in 2005 (the African Soul Rebels tour), and again at the Barbican in 2007:
    Thanks for the history lesson too. I recall hysteria regarding al-Qaeda in Mali a few years back, and it wasn’t until later that someone knowledgeable about Mali told me how exaggerated that had been – and how damaging for tourism. That said, I recently got into Songhoy Blues, a great group formed primarily from another tribal group in the north of Mali (the Songhoy), who had to come south to escape Islamist persecution, and who formed their band to keep their voice alive. I wholeheartedly recommend them. Their album is called ‘Music in Exile’:

  24. Andy Worthington says...

    Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:

    I think ‘al-Qaeda’ is a term used to confuse the masses, Andy. It got attached to any ‘Islamic’ character that did not conform to puppet governments or in many cases they were characters acting on covert missions to manipulate others into violent action. None of it had to do with Islam itself, except in the case where people’s religion was used against them to manipulate them into action. The same tactics are being employed with ISIS. It’s a very thoughtful plan that is being carried out – and unfortunately – it has been a successful one.

  25. Andy Worthington says...

    Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:

    I must not forget to mention as Amar began to slip away from dehydration in the desert it was one of the Tuareg men who brought him back to us. I am forever grateful for that good action! I left that lovely Tuareg man with my Sony walkman but it was all I had of value with me at the time and only a tiny payment for my huge sense of gratitude!!!

  26. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks again, Tashi. I shouldn’t have mentioned al-Qaeda as shorthand for what’s been happening in northern Mali, as it’s a much more complex situation involving various groups opposed to Malian government control, some of which are seeking political independence, while others – including examples apparently aligned with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb – are more concerned with imposing Sharia law. These groups have, in turn, come into conflict with each other. Some background here:

  27. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks also for the account of what happened to Amar – and the story of his saviour. I hope he has made good use of the Walkman!

  28. damo says...

    Just off topic I see the Tories have killed kids company

  29. damo says...

    Andy they realy,realy are trying to destroy and discredit kids company ,like a pack of fucking heyennas,fraud,abuse,drugs,just trying to destroy completely……my God its so vile even vannessa on glr was in on it with callers sticking the knife in,until a caller stepped up to defend and owned vannessa on her own show….good…she deserved it ,kids company was unconventional was unotherdox….but its done a hell of a lot of good and helped many,many vulnerable children who have and had been let down by social services ,they were children crying ,children that would be fed by kids company ….yes hungry children in one of the richest countrys in the world…….this meanspirited nasty little country and its population …..are a discrace,pity those poor desperate migrants ….do they no wot there letting themselves in for…….dxx

  30. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi Damo,
    I watched a quite unpleasant Channel 4 News with Kids Company chairman Alan Yentob (of the BBC) being given the treatment by Matt Frei – too much of it these days, decent people being put through the wringer, while the real scum get off scot-free. Yentob was upset and angry as Frei hammered away at the financial irregularities story, even though that appears to have been exaggerated.
    A few links here:

  31. damo says...

    Normaly I don’t like yentob but last night I was very impressed how he stood his grownd ,frei was a total areshole trying to be a hapenny paxman and yentob put him in his place …good….the Tories have no concept of how people live ….but I think hopefully this is a step to far and it looks like it could rebound and blow up in the Tories face for far to long the Tories have been on a divide and conquer seek and destroy mission again listening to glr yesterday about the tube strikes Boris was getting a good kicking….good…all we can do is hope kids company is reopened asap becouse those children’s lives in some cases depend on it.

  32. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, I agree with everything you’re saying there, Damo. Certainly, if Kids Company is shut down, someone needs to take over its work with children who need it as soon as possible. It was upsetting watching the parents in Camberwell and realising that was being replicated in so many other places. And how neatly it fits with the Tories’ philosophy – that the cost of everything must be borne by the consumer, even though we’re fleeced by the greedy 24/7, and far too many people don’t earn enough or have enough money to pay for what they need.

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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 and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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