Womad Festival unveils line-up for 2013
The man in charge of the West’s biggest festival unveiled the top world music stars already booked to play this year’s event – and added that it was “completely and utterly the point” that few people in the region will have heard of them.
Chris Smith, the director of the Womad Festival of world music, arts and dance, said the annual get-together on a country estate in Wiltshire was meant to be an “experience to discover new things”, and said that was why the festival was thriving while other big music events faltered.
Womad, which is run from Peter Gabriel’s Real World studio complex in Box, near Bath, has been a success story since it moved from Reading to Charlton Park, near Malmesbury in 2007. Last year’s event attracted record crowds of more than 36,000, but Mr Smith said he was not keen on the event expanding further.
A dispute over the licensing, planning and security arrangements for the festival have now been resolved between Womad and Wiltshire police, and this year’s event in July will be the first to take place under new security arrangements.
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“I think we’ve proved that Womad is a safe and secure festival. Crime last year was down 33 per cent, and this year hopefully festival-goers won’t notice any difference,” he said.
Next month, Womad will be publishing an analysts’ report into the impact of the festival on the north Wiltshire economy, which receives a major boost ever time the four-day event takes place. The report is expected to estimate that the festival has created the equivalent of 90 full-time jobs in the Malmesbury area.
This summer’s event will once again showcase artists from around the world few people in north Wiltshire will have heard of. English reggae legend David Rodigan is one signed up, as is Brazilian revolutionary singer Gilberto Gil and Rokia Traore, a Malian songstress.
The line-up announced initially also includes a Polish band fronted by a Mongolian singer, a traditional Italian band, a reggae band from France, an 11-strong Japanese drum group, a French Canadian traditional group and a Bavarian oompah-band that play techno music.
“It’s completely and utterly the point that people are coming to the festival without knowing who or what they are going to see or hear,” added Mr Smith. “It is the opposite of going to the V Festival to see Beyonce and listening to her album on the way there in your car. At Womad, it’s about the experience and seeing new music you would never have seen before, and then driving home listening to the album of music you didn’t know about before.”
Womad has grown in popularity while other festivals have suffered in the recession. “What happened was there was a great explosion of festival in the last ten years but now the reality is harder for everyone and it is neither easy nor cheap to put one on,” said Mr Smith.
“A lot of artists are signed up to one festival exclusively and the big crisis is there are not enough good artists to go around. We don’t tend to have that problem with our artists. That is what is different about Womad – you are guaranteed to come to Womad and it will be a festival unlike any other.”