Photos: The Wonderful WOMAD Festival, Charlton Park, Wiltshire, July 2014

See my photos on Flickr here!

Every year since 2002, I have attended the WOMAD world music festival (it stands for ‘World of Music, Arts and Dance’) with my family and with friends. My wife runs children’s workshops at the festival, and for five days, at the end of July every year, we escape from the city and join the gathering of the tribes in a trouble-free version of the festival idyll that was first dreamt up by the counter-cultural pioneers of the 1960s and 1970s, and has since grown to appeal to — well, almost everyone, if Glastonbury’s success is anything to go by.

WOMAD had a capacity crowd this year for the first time since it moved to its current residence, Charlton Park in Wiltshire, from Reading in 2007. That meant that 40,000 people turned up to be hammered by the relentless sun and to be thrilled, entertained and moved by musicians who are not generally on the mainstream musical radar in the UK — with the exception of Sinead O’Connor, who stepped in at the last minute to replace the late Bobby Womack, and who was extraordinarily powerful, her unique mixture of vulnerability and anger bringing many in the crowd to tears, and not just during “Nothing Compares 2 U.” Sinead played many songs from her new album, “I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss,” which promises to be excellent.

From further afield, I enjoyed Clinton Fearon from Jamaica, formerly of the roots reggae legends the Gladiators, the legendary Manu Dibango and the magisterial Youssou N’Dour, but WOMAD is also about making new discoveries, in my case Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni ba, Malians who lit up the first night, folk legends Martin Simpson and Dom Flemons, and — my favourites this year — Debademba, a very funky, rocking and soulful bunch of West African groovesters featuring the Malian griot singer Mohamed Diaby and guitarist Abdoulaye Traoré, who was born in Burkina Faso. Read the rest of this entry »

I’m Off to WOMAD, Back on Monday: Lee Perry and Seun Kuti on the Bill!

Since 2002, my family and I, along with a crew of friends, including our kids, have been regulars visitors at the WOMAD festival (World of Music Art and Dance), originally in Reading but, since 2007, at Charlton Park in north Wiltshire, where my wife runs children’s workshops, and we get backstage passes to mingle with the great and good of the world music scene.

The festival is a world music lover’s dream, and this year I’m looking forward to seeing my hero, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry (now, astonishingly, 77 years old!), appearing with Max Romeo, with whom, of course, Perry produced the extraordinary “War Ina Babylon” album, in 1976, featuring “War Ina Babylon,” a perennial favourite (and the song that Bob Marley begged to have for himself), which I’m posting below. That album also featured other timeless classics, including “Chase the Devil“: Read the rest of this entry »

Big Skies and Global Beats: Photos from WOMAD’s 30th Anniversary Festival (2/2)

Yellow flags at WOMADThe WOMAD follyFat David's Olympics protestCrowds at WOMADClouds above WOMADThe big trees at WOMAD
Flags and the main stage at WOMADCharlton ParkTipis at WOMADHobbit homes at WOMADSka Cubano at WOMADWOMAD at night
Raving in greenRaving in blueThe Birdman at WOMADGreenpeace protest against Shell's Arctic plansBull piñata at WOMADChildren's procession at WOMAD
The Birdman and the childrenBoubacar Traoré at WOMADThe vintage MercedesThe vintage Bedford busThe sky at the end of WOMAD

Big Skies and Global Beats: WOMAD’s 30th Anniversary Festival (2/2), a set on Flickr.

Yesterday I published my first set of photos from this year’s WOMAD world music festival in Charlton Park, Wiltshire, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. The product of a great flowering of interest in festivals, WOMAD, which began in 1982, as the brainchild of Peter Gabriel and five friends and colleagues, tapped into the thirst for festivals that Michael Eavis had identified at Glastonbury, when the modern era of Glastonbury began with the 1981 festival and a name change from the Glastonbury Fayre to the Glastonbury Festival.

Long-time readers of my work will know how much the festival culture that has since bloomed into a phenomenon that draws millions of people into fields every summer came out of the upheavals of the 1960s and free festival movement of the 1970s, and, at its best, drew on Utopian, cooperative, environmentally aware ideals that were ahead of their time. A trajectory of these counter-cultural movements, and their successors in the 1980s and 1990s, in the rave scene and the road protest movement, can be found in my books Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. Read the rest of this entry »

Photos from WOMAD’s 30th Anniversary Festival, Wiltshire, July 2012 (1/2)

Flags at WOMAD, ThursdayWOMAD, The Open Air Stage, ThursdayThe lonely ice cream vanThe Gallopers at Carters Steam FairThe Paramount Chair-o-Plane and the Big WheelThe Excelsior Steam Yachts
Illuminated pinesThe blue treeFlags at WOMAD, Friday morningStiltman in the Children's Area at WOMADChildren's workshops at WOMADBird hats made by children at WOMAD
Blue flags at WOMADFloating flags at WOMADNarasirato at WOMADChildren on the WOMAD signGrupo Fantasma at WOMADThe Manganiyar Seduction at WOMAD
Clouds above the campsite, WOMADClouds over WiltshireWhite flags at WOMADRaghu Dixit at WOMADKeeping WOMAD cleanKareyce Fotso at WOMAD

WOMAD’s 30th Anniversary Festival, Wiltshire, July 2012 (1/2), a set on Flickr.

In the history of British music festivals — and especially those with an appeal that spreads beyond these shores — the behemoth that is Michael Eavis’s Glastonbury, with its roots in the free festival movement, may well be the best known, but also of great significance is WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance), the world music festival, founded by Peter Gabriel and five others, which began in Shepton Mallet in Somerset in 1982, and has since expanded to include regular events in Spain (in Cáceres), the Canary Isles (Gran Canaria), Australia (Adelaide) and New Zealand.

In the last 30 years, there have, in total, been more than 160 WOMAD festivals in twenty-seven countries including Abu Dhabi, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Sardinia, Sicily, Singapore, South Africa, Turkey and the US, at which over a thousand artists from over a hundred different countries have appeared, entertaining over a million people. Read the rest of this entry »

I’m Off to WOMAD, Back on Monday: Please Listen to Me Discussing Bagram on the Radio with Scott Horton

Every year, on the last weekend in July, WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance), the world music festival, takes place in the UK — for the last few years, in Wiltshire, on a wonderful site in Charlton Park — and this year is its 30th anniversary. My wife has been running children’s workshops there since 2002, and every year a group of us — friends and our kids — get to hang out together for four days, to do the workshops and create a wonderful sculpture for the children’s procession on the Sunday, to eat great food (unlike the kind of catering that will be in place for the Olympics), to watch great music, and to chill out backstage, and also in the backstage camp. My guitar is tuned, and I’m looking forward to some strumming and singing.

I’m back on Monday, but while I’m away, please check out the photos I’ve been posting regularly over the last month, if you haven’t yet seen them, beginning with yesterday’s excursion to the Olympic Park in the blazing sun — and see below for a bonus photo from Greenwich, which I took on my way back home. Click on the photo to enlarge it — and I’ve also just added it to the Olympics set on Flickr. 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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