A rainbow nation in a field of Cath Kidston tents – must be Womad
The chilled-out world music festival, now in its 29th year, has never tried to be cool, and it's all the better for it
Sunday 31 July 2011
Hipster festival-goers may turn up their noses at the world music festival Womad, but there's an atmosphere here that transcends what and who is cool. Nobody is here to promote "that tricky second album". Tonight's headline act, Booker T Jones, has been in the business for 50 years.
Womad is about more than the music, although the music – in this, its 29th year – is very strong. It's about bonhomie and the feel-good factor. Those stragglers arriving on the 9.30pm shuttle bus from Chippenham on Friday night felt their shoulders drop as they put up their tents in Malmesbury's Charlton Park.
Dawn yesterday rose on 35,000 – tickets sales were up 29 per cent on last year – a huge crowd far less definable than a Glastonbury or Latitude equivalent. Rainbow-haired sixtysomethings and babies in tie-dye-lined prams, teenagers trying out their first festival, and couples gorging on gourmet food and a rare opportunity to dance uninhibitedly without ridicule: they all ricocheted between the five main stages, a funfair and such elegant delights as the Human Library, the Riverfood Organic-run Taste the World demo tent and a sea of Cath Kidston tents.
The most popular stalls were the Pants to Poverty one – perhaps it was the young man behind the table, clad only in green briefs – and the Stop Hearing Loss one, where the same baby ear-defenders that Gwyneth uses were selling well. And those free samples of Ecover products went down well with the campers (so good for getting Green & Blacks out of the picnic rug).
Giant dreamcatchers have been spinning non-stop, like the wheels on the charge-your-mobile-by-cycling stand. The only injuries were twisted ankles from hidden dips in the meadows and a bruised nose from a low-slung tree branch on the approach to the Siam Tent, where soulful fado singer Ana Moura entranced the crowd. (OK, that injury was suffered by your reporter.)
Last night, serious musos beat a trail to the BBC Radio 3 stage to see Fatoumata Diawara, a rising star from Mali, before a raucous set from Baaba Maal. On the evidence of this crowd, world music is thriving. Next year's 30th promises to be even bigger.
'The Independent on Sunday' is an official supporter of the Womad festival
BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital moveTV
FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets
Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Reader dilemma: 'Our son is 34 with an IQ of 85, and spends all his time in his room. What will happen to him when we're no longer here?'
- 2 Tunisia hotel attack: Locals form 'human shield' to protect hotel from gunman Seifeddine Rezgui
- 3 Russian officials ban yoga because it's too much like a religious cult
- 4 German ethics council calls for incest between siblings to be legalised by Government
- 5 Ginger Pride festival to take place next summer, organisers say 'time of bullying gingers is over'
Glastonbury 2015: The best things you missed from Lionel Richie and the Dalai Lama to how beautiful the festival is
The picture of a man crowd surfing in a wheelchair at Glastonbury is brilliant, but it wasn't taken at Glastonbury
Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L James's Twitter Q&A didn't go exactly as planned
Guillaume Tell, Royal Opera House, review: Gang rape and stripping naked of female actor met with boos
Glastonbury 2015: Shocking scenes of rubbish left strewn across campsite as clean-up begins
The moment a Queen's Guard soldier lost it and drew his gun at annoying tourist
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Pentagon accuses Russia of 'playing with fire' over nuclear threats towards Nato
They are neither a 'state' nor 'Islamic': Why we shouldn't call them Isis, Isil or IS