Record crowds for 30th anniversary Womad festival
It was nearly four in the morning and the party was still going strong in a darkened bar in one of the many hidden corners of the weird, wonderful and wacky world of Womad.
A big group of festival-goers filled a couple of tables, but few people realised that in the centre of the group, was the third in line to the throne.
Prince Harry’s presence at the Womad festival caused something of a stir in the backstage area earlier on that evening – with the photographers who switched from snapping west African singers to British royalty being told firmly to leave him alone, which they did. It was left to ordinary festival-goers to capture on their camera phones the proof to their unbelieving friends, although the Prince has Womad pedigree: he was one of many to be thrown out of the San Fran Disco Bar a couple of years ago for sparking up a cigarette on the non-smoking dance floor.
On Saturday night he was resplendent in a bright yellow ‘Angry Birds’ hat, played table tennis and sampled Bath Ales’ finest ciders – not too dissimilar an experience to many of the tens of thousands of fellow Womadians who swapped reality for a taste of the rest of the world’s music and culture for the last few days.
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Fears the Olympics could have dampened enthusiasm for the festival proved unfounded – a record 37,000 people partied at Charlton Park in north Wiltshire, among them was Mick Hunter, from Bath, who was unmoved by the presence of royalty in his midst.
“Womad is about the vibe, it’s about the music and experiencing something new, something unexpected,” he said. “Maybe that’s why people like him come, because no one really cares who they are.”
So Womad is that sort of place, where out in the children’s field, England football legend Tony Adams was enjoying the craft workshops with his children, while Olympic athlete Derek Redmond was also spotted checking out the music...
On stage, Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant headlined the main arena last night, as the scorching weather that kicked off the festival gave way to a chilly wind and showery air.
Earlier, the buzz was all about DJ Yoda and the Trans-Siberian March Band, where tubas met dance beats with interesting results, and about the Manganiyar Seduction from India, who were so good they got to play twice.
Sadly, one untimely death, of a man in his 50s from natural causes, was reported – and medics, police and security dealt with a number of younger festival-goers who had been affected by the sun and the ale.
“It’s actually been a really safe festival, we’ve had about ten crimes reported, and the police and the security have worked really well together,” said festival director Chris Smith, whose build up to the festival involved a dispute with the police over manpower and the licence.
“It’s a record crowd and we were able to expand the site a bit and give people more room. I’m not sure we want to expand much more, we don’t want to make the same mistakes other festivals have done and get too big. It’s all about the vibe at Womad, not the size,” he added.