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21 octobre 2006

the lowdown on the new WOMAD site

including photograph

Fri 20th Oct 06

WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance) held a press launch on Thursday afternoon at its organisational home at the impressive Real World Studios near Bath, to reveal the location of the new festival site for WOMAD 2007 as Charlton Park, near Malmesbury in north Wiltshire.

WOMAD press conference
Bill Cobham (musician), Paula Henderson (Festival Director), Peter Gabriel (WOMAD co-founder), Thomas Brooman (WOMAD Managing & Artistic Director), Annie Menter (Director, WOMAD Foundation), Johnny Kalsi (musician)

First we were told a little about WOMAD's aims - to bring together and to celebrate many forms of music, arts and dance drawn from countries and cultures all over the world, and were treated to a short video about WOMAD and a great two song performance by Sam Tshabalala and Patrick Bebey.

The first five acts for WOMAD 2007 were confirmed, as well as the details about tickets – on sale now. See here for this news.

Speaking about the new site, Thomas Brooman expressed his excitement at a new chapter for WOMAD Festival in the UK, and with the new site being bigger, there's the opportunity to develop new ideas for the festival.

Leader of North Wilts District Council Carol O'Gorman – herself a WOMAD attendee - was pleased to welcome the diverse and family festival to the area. Although the site is yet to have an entertainments licence granted by the council, the enthusiasm with which many councils now embrace festivals means that the licencing process should run smoothly.

Given the chance to ask some questions, Peter Gabriel was asked if, with it being WOMAD’s 25th year in 2007, he'd be performing. His reply was "I may be playing the fool but I'll be playing in some way". What exactly did he mean by that? I couldn't be sure either way.

There then followed a trip to Charlton Park, to see the new site for ourselves. Owned by The Earl of Suffolk and Berkshire, we were welcomed by Viscount Andover on behalf of Charlton Park.

The site is around five miles north of junction 17 of the M4, and just off the A429 this should mean few problems or queuing delays for those arriving by car. At 280 acres (including the car parking areas), it's around 50% bigger than the previous site in Reading, and with the number of attendees at around the same size (it will be 20,000 in 2007) this means significantly more space.

The site is mostly very flat grass fields with a fair number of trees scattered about, and also includes an arboretum which is likely to be used as a part of the site.

Any possible downsides? With there having been a fair amount of rain recently, it's not surprising that I left the site with mud stuck to my shoes, but this was misleading ... I'd walked over an area that had been fairly newly planted with grass (in readiness for WOMAD), and the grass there was thin and the soil overly soft - it should be better grassed and have firmed up by next summer. Elsewhere there wasn't the same problem, and having been told that the land drains well, it shouldn’t be a nightmare in the event of a summer downpour.

Charlton Park
photo 1: the small hanger in the distance is likely to be behind the main stage, with the stage front pointing to the left, so that the crowd would be behind the small clump of trees to the left of the picture (these are about 30 yards from the hanger).
photo 2: having turned about 60 degrees clockwise, Charlton Park House is in the distance - the site extends almost to the house.

Charlton Park
photo 3: having turned about a further 60 degrees clockwise, the site extends across two fields to the solid block of trees in the distance - this area is likely to be camping &/or car parking.
photo 4: having turned about a further 90 degrees clockwise, the site extends to the trees in the centre of the photo in the far distance. The arboretum is out of shot to the right. This area is likely to have camping &/or car parking to the left and perhaps at the far end, with a part of the entertainments area more central/in the foreground and to the right.

Charlton Parkphoto 5: having turned about a further 90 degrees clockwise, the arboretum is out of shot to the left, and the small tree towards the foreground on the right is the other end of the small clump of trees from photo 1. The site extends to the trees on the far of the photo. The area shown between the clump of trees to the right towards the forground and the trees at the far side would be towards the back of the main stage audience area. A tented stage is likely to be sited to the left of the photo close to the trees.

"My decision to invite WOMAD to bring their festival to Charlton Park was an important one, as Charlton Park has always been a private estate with a great community spirit all around. WOMAD came extremely highly commended by everyone to whom I spoke, specifically regarding the impact WOMAD would have on us all, and we trust they will continue their great work here in Wiltshire. I am very excited by this project and look forward to a long and successful relationship between Charlton Park and WOMAD." - Viscount Andover, on behalf of Charlton Park.

"It was wonderful to receive the invitation to Charlton Park at a moment when we and our audience felt we had outgrown our home in Reading. When I visited with Thomas Brooman, it was immediately clear what a perfect venue Charlton Park would be for us and it was also great to have such a warm welcome from Viscount Andover and his team. WOMAD has always worked best as a partnership with a community, and we very much look forward to bringing WOMAD back to the west country, where it began 25 years ago." - Peter Gabriel, WOMAD co-Founder.

"In this special 25th festival anniversary year we are creating a new rural vision and a new life for WOMAD in the United Kingdom. After all these years, Charlton Park is in many ways a fulfilment of our earliest dreams for the festival. WOMAD has always aimed to bring artists and audiences together in an atmosphere of delight, discovery and peace, and at Charlton Park we believe we have found the perfect place to achieve this... a unique cultural experience in a corner of the English countryside at its idyllic, bucolic best." - Thomas Brooman, WOMAD's Artistic Director.

WOMAD @ Charlton Park

Peter Gabriel, Thomas Brooman, & Viscount Andover

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