In an increasingly competitive festival market, it is testament to the ethos of WOMAD that this year it reached capacity status, marking a genuine celebration of everything the festival stands for.
Musicians and punters alike gathered from around the world to celebrate music for what it is and to enjoy a festival that manages to do it all. From the beautiful surroundings of the Charlton Park estate, to the relaxed and happy staff and crew (Counterfeit’s photographer was allowed to take his junior apprentices in the pit to get a taste of the action), coupled with great facilities, food and bars, and a line-up of such global acclaim – the only fault was that it all ended on the Sunday.
In a weekend of such capacity, singling out the highlights is a tough call. However, Ibibio Sound Machine was such a treat, her stage presence and voice owned the stage and all who danced to her. Similarly, Kobo Town created a storm in both their sets. Added to the excitement of headliners Sinèad O’Connor, Youssou N’Dour and Oliver Mtukudzi: who closed the festival in style, every stage, tent and performance space was enveloped by energies that embraced and enthused the whole audience, delivering a constant flow of new and legendary performances: Clinton Fearon, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Afrikan Boy, Les Ambassadeurs, Batch Gueye Band – names that may have been a familiar presence on vinyl for years or never heard before – at WOMAD, it doesn’t matter as long as you enjoy the music.
There is an earnestness to WOMAD quite unlike anything found at other festivals of comparable size. This could be seen by the volume of dedicated fans at every stage, but also in the spontaneous protest in support of the people of Gaza on the Sunday afternoon, which was followed by an enormous parade led by children and performers that snaked through the entire site. Artists of all status could be spotted wandering round, enjoying the music and atmosphere – a true marker of how enjoyable the whole event was.
If you are looking for something really special, get in quick with WOMAD. Following a sell-out 2014, all bets are on for a knockout 2015.