Womad is not the rip-roaring, techno blaring, lets get a bit boisterous festival which is my forte. It’s a much quainter, easy-going, family affair, which captivated a good deal of my love and affection, and after two weeks of festivals of the heavy-duty former type, it was a welcomed change.
Womad’s clientele, for a start, were mass hordes of the multiple-parent-multiple-child combo, with the more experienced generation than myself taking paramount. Because of this, camping was done properly - constantly clean, with arguably the most impressive display of house-like tents set up to create individual settlements. To me, this was glamping. The comfort felt by everyone made for an always cheery atmosphere which was warm and hospitable, setting the tone for the rest of the festival.
As you exited the camp and entered the first field, you could find yourself at Molly’s Bar - strategically set up opposite the kid’s field - where a number of dance or workout classes, acoustic soloists and record-laden DJs entertained the masses. Participation felt compulsory. A short meander away, through the massage parlours and palm-reading tents in the Wellbeing field, the main arena lay. Here, the Bowers & Willkins stage hosted the more electronic side of things. A Guy Called Gerald entertained all with his live set, chopping from house and minimal tech, merged together with breakbeat cuts for a velvety smooth set from the dance music icon. In the evening other acts such as Francios K, and the ever eclectic Optimo, entertained the house-heads and parents who had escaped the clutches of their children (finally exhausted enough to slumber), enjoying an extra pint and the solitary cigarette they saved for just such freedom.
The aptly named Big Red Tent fronted acts with so much vitality. Roots Manuva produced a high energy performance whipping out all his fan favourites, and yet this was still dwarfed by Dubioza Kolektiv, a seven-piece ska-punk band from the Balkans. With many of the older generation being in attendance at this festival it was custom to see gaps in the crowds where people were sitting on their chairs, but not at Dubioza Kolektiv. With every man, woman, child, OAP, and all groups in between on their feet it was not a place safe to be holding a beverage. George Clinton and Asian Dub Foundation, being some of the bigger names on the bill, strutted their stuff on the Open Air stage, a mere 100m away from the Siam Tent where Ana Tijoux dominated with latin flared hip-hop the undercurrent to her fierce tone on the mic . A special highlight came at the Radio 3 stage as I sat on Oxfam’s perfectly placed deck chairs, tired from all my activities. A French-Canadian act called Le Vent du Norde demonstrated their honed command over a fiddle, accordian, guitar and hurdy-gurdy with upbeat folk that attracted a niche following.
This is the essence of Womad: a festival where everywhere you end up, the eclectic array of acts will surprise you in their own singular way, each one showing absolute mastery in their craft. It is not just a family affair, its for all those looking to have a glorious, well-mannered time where there is space to dance, clean toilets, a high variety of food and stalls, plus probably the most ambient wellbeing field you’ve probably ever experienced anywhere near Wiltshire. Though it may be a seismic shift away from the cutting-edge and underground acts of, say, Gottwood and its counterparts, Womad has quality music and an equally-as-quality vibe.
Words: Tai Kolade