Photos and Report: WOMAD 2023 – Amazing World Music, and Two Elephants in the Room

Khushee the elephant in the children’s area at WOMAD on July 28, 2023 (Photo: Andy Worthington).

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From July 27 to 30, WOMAD, the world’s biggest world music festival, once more occupied part of the 4,500 acres of land belonging to Charlton Park in Wiltshire, the ancestral home of the Earls of Suffolk since the late 16th Century, whose Grade I listed mansion stands a safe distance away from the annual invasion of around 40,000 people in search of extraordinary music from around the world.

This year, 41 years since the festival began, there were two elephants in the room. The first, designed by my wife Dot, was a delightful cartoon elephant, Khushee (meaning happiness in Hindi), a representation of a young female Indian elephant who sat in the backstage catering area, charming the artists, when she wasn’t being promenaded around the children’s area, delighting children and adults alike.

Khushee was accompanied by Oke, a cute little puppet mouse, also designed by Dot, who made his first appearance last year, when, after years of doing children’s workshops, Dot came up with the idea to, instead, create a large animal figure to draw the attention of WOMAD’s children by processing through the children’s field on a daily basis. Last year, marking WOMAD’s 40th anniversary, that creature was a lion, Zaki, based on the lion in the festival’s logo, and it was so successful that this year it was Khushee’s turn.

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Trump’s Victory Confirms 2016 as the Year WASPs Began, Alarmingly, to Embrace the Far Right in Significant Numbers

A photo taken by Andy Worthington in New York in January 2016, used as the cover image for Andy's band The Four Fathers' song "Neo-Liberal Bullshit Blues," which features a verse about Donald Trump.

Please listen to “Neo-Liberal Bullshit Blues” by my band The Four Fathers, with its verse about how “Donald Trump is no answer / He’s just a selfish and dangerous fool / He’s just another version / Of the Neo-Liberal Bullshit Blues.”

Like June 23, 2016, November 8, 2016 will go down in the history books as a day when dreams of progress and tolerance and hope were brutally dashed. On June 23, in the UK, a slim majority of voters who could be bothered to turn out to vote in the EU referendum gave a kicking to the British establishment and endorsed racism and xenophobia, damaging the economy for no discernibly important reason whatsoever, making us a laughing stock around the world, and resetting the UK’s default position on tolerance to one in which foreigners can be openly abused, and anyone foreign-born, or appearing to be foreign-born, can be treated as “the other.”

In the US, as Jonathan Freedland wrote for the Guardian today, “We thought the United States would step back from the abyss. We believed … that Americans would not, in the end, hand the most powerful office on earth to an unstable bigot, sexual predator and compulsive liar.”

And yet, that is exactly what happened, and the parallels with the UK are, unfortunately, illuminating. Voters gave a kicking to the establishment, represented by Hillary Clinton, and white voters turned to Trump, the showman who, like Nigel Farage, pretended to be a “man of the people,” even though that was patently untrue. 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 and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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