WOMAD - it's a wonderful world

WOMAD (World of Music Arts and Dance) is a celebration of being human, enabling participants to connect with people and their cultures from all around the world through their music.  The video clip on http://womad.org/about/ gives a sense of what it is like - a glorious diversity of musical talent and styles, and an introduction to or reminder of the lives and issues for people in other countries.  WOMAD New Zealand is hosted by New Plymouth every March and the welcome by the local Taranaki Maori people is often cited as a highlight by the performers from around the world.  This wonderful festival is made even more special by being in a lovely location - the Bowl of Brooklands, with the backdrop of Pukekura Park.

The main stage faces a steep grass rise and is backed by trees with a reflective pond in front - the image above shows a corner of this.  More stages and areas for workshops, cooking demonstrations by the musicians, food and arts and crafts markets and so on are all in the park up beyond the hillside of the Bowl.  With all the dancing and walking WOMAD exercises the body as well as the senses.

This image shows about half of the Bowl of Brooklands - it extends steeply beyond the viewpoint, creating a kind of grassy amphitheatre.  Despite the number of people the mood of the crowd feels happy and easy going, so there isn't the feeling of pressure that such a crowd can cause, but so many people does make for messy photo edges!  The Soweto Gospel Choir are performing, and the large screen behind them gives a close-up view.  I really appreciated the extra sense of engagement from seeing the musicians so clearly.

Seen from near the side of the stage, the colourful crowd is packed up to the edge of the pond.  The steep path up to the rest of the venue can be seen in the background, and this view still does not cover all of the Bowl of Brooklands, nor give an idea of all the colourful flags and artworks displayed through the site.  This was on Saturday, which as you can see was sunny.  Not so the Sunday...

Can you see the rain?  It provided a welcome but too brief interlude to the drought, and stopped falling the next day.  The band played on - in this case it was The Melbourne Ska Orchestra - and the audience donned colourful rainwear and umbrellas and danced on - a bit uncomfortable, but too many mustn't-miss events.  The music continued regardless and it was great. 

On Sunday evening the Children's Parade is held.  The many children who attend WOMAD have the option of involvement in art workshops over the three days, making costumes and creations for this colourful event.  The theme this year was about rubbish, recycling, and the natural environment.

The Melbourne Ska Orchestra led the parade, which went down the hill, around past the stage and then back up the hill again.  (On the stage in the background you can see the Aotearoa National Maori Choir and the Yoots getting ready for their performance which followed the parade - a joyous sing along). 

It was happily chaotic by the time they got to the top of the hill.  There was much beating of drums and tooting of horns and taking of photographs.

Then the Ghostnet Taniwha appeared, woven from discarded fishnets and other debris which can be so damaging to marine life. 

Supported by a large number of young people, the long tail undulates behind it, reminding me of the dragons in Chinese New Year parades. 

And looming behind it were the Alien Junk Monsters. 


As their name suggests they are made of rubbish - unwanted materials which have been repurposed in a most creative way.

Three Alien Junk Monsters, cartoony but serious, as they remind us of all the useful materials that can end up on the scrapheap and be wasted, beating their drums. 

Following on their heels - reminders of the natural world that we want to protect.

Fish hats, sinuous eels and birds held aloft - a big one with a soft rainbow of feathers is cresting the hill.

The limitations of my photography of people in action and of my camera's performance in low light mean that this is only a ragged glimpse of it all.  But what an added pleasure to the feast of WOMAD!  Recycling on the site is a prominent aspect of WOMAD's organisation.  But seeing the children's creative exploration of how we care for the environment was a really delightful way of reminding us about how precious is our world and how important it is that we treat it with awareness and respect - and enjoy it.