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29 juillet 2007

Mudlarks brave rain for music

A muddy World of Music, Arts and Dance (Womad) festival came to an end under blue skies.

The festival, at Charlton Park, near Malmesbury, saw thousands of music lovers head for North Wiltshire to see stars such as Peter Gabriel, Isaac Hayes, Candi Staton and Baaba Maal.

Heavy rain last week left the site, which was hosting Womad for the first time, looking more like the traditionally muddy Glastonbury.

But of the 10 performance arenas only the Meadow Stage had to be aborted, with other areas on the whole surviving well. Soul legend Isaac Hayes provided a rain-soaked crowd with a memorable performance on Saturday. The Oscar winner played to an audience of thousands, who shrugged off the awful weather to listen to the remarkable set.

When the 64-year-old and his band performed Soul Man, followed by the theme tune to hit 1970s movie Shaft, you could feel the electricity in the crowd.

Melissa Shields, 27, of Reading, said: "It was amazing. To see someone like Isaac Hayes perform live is awesome and it was incredible when he sang Soul Man and then Shaft. He was superb."

Thankfully, in spite of the rain, there was no electricity coming from the sky. However, there was no way to avoid the heavy downpours, which punctuated what had otherwise been a glorious day. A severe weather warning had been issued earlier in the day and, right on queue, at 8pm the heavens opened.

The rain was expected to last until about 7am. It worsened the mud at Charlton Park, after the ground had at last started to firm up again, making the journeys back to tents and cars less than pleasurable.

Christian Aid worker Katherine Hogg said: "The mud is pretty bad, but you can't let it stop your fun. Everyone is getting stuck and all you can really do is laugh along with each other." It was Womad's 25th anniversary, and it is usually held in Rivermead Park, Reading.

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