WOMAD 2016 Preview: Poetry by day, Molly’s Bar by night


WOMAD sign

Since 2013, WOMAD has been my highlight of every year. The warm atmosphere is often on my mind as a time to look forward to: four days blocked out of my calendar in which I can truly relax, feel safe and leave any worries from my mind, in an extraordinarily welcoming environment.

My boyfriend’s family have been part of WOMAD since long before the festival moved to Charlton Park in Malmesbury ten years ago, and it was a family tradition that I was gratefully sucked into when we got together. The festival is a mix of everything, from food, to music, to dancing, to looking after your body and mind, and the crowd is the friendliest I’ve ever experienced at a festival, full of families and groups of friends open and appreciative of cultures from all over the world. The World of Wellbeing is especially suited to the laughing-yoga, interesting-tea drinker that I am, where I love to relax and watch the Taste the World stage sizzle with family secrets from the bands, while children can entertain themselves at the fairground or with the colourful stalls in the main arena. Part of the draw of this festival for me is the size: large enough to include all sorts of music, dancing and art, and yet not so spaced apart that it’s too exhausting to walk from the campsite to the arena (that said, it would be unusual for me not take a pitstop in the World of Wellbeing on my way past, which probably helps).

World of Wellbeing

With such a mix of tastes and interests catered for, there are often few acts that I know beforehand, and I like it that way. I love buying the program when I arrive, learning about what’s happening and ticking off every band I want to see from their profile, before forgetting it in the tent for the majority of the weekend and just catching acts as they happen. There’s something about the lack of pressure to have to be at certain places at specific times that is so enticing – knowing whatever I see, it will be interesting and thought provoking makes my step light.

WOMAD stage

Of course, it’s also about the group you go with. Packing yourself into the car is a crucial step – if there’s space anywhere around you, including on your lap, you’ve forgotten something (obviously not the alcohol, but something less crucial, like the portable stove to semi-warm your tinned macaroni cheese on). Arrive as too large a group and it’s going to be hell to drag all of you at once over to “your” spot (near the water, but not too near the showers that everyone will pass you, is our usual specification) – arrive in too small a group and you’re going to end up doing multiple trips to and from the car, complaining about how many baked beans cans so-and-so has brought. For us, there’s also often the issue of how far away from the parents camp to be – being in your twenties, you don’t want them keeping you up all night, but at the same time, now you’ve left behind the stove in favour of an extra pack of beer they’re looking a whole lot more favourable. One of our friends will inevitably attract some sort of minor drug dealer, and that’s all just part of the fun. Spending (far too few, even with the extra Thursday ticket) days semi-napping on the grass in front various poetry and music tents and treating myself to some good food is what I’m living for at the moment. Later, after one and a half too many drinks, chilled in the blow up children’s pool that a friend often brings, and having gathered round the piano with some tone-deaf singers (including myself) for a good half an hour, I’ll look forward to dancing in San Fran, with the night completed by the sun coming up as we stumble home cackling from Molly’s bar about our friend being offered yet another joint. And then the recovery the next day by the parents’ stove: tinned macaroni and a peach (gotta stay healthy) at 11am – in some suitably flowing attire and a drooping sunhat – and I will feel the most relaxed I’ve felt all year.

WOMAD tickets available here