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27 juillet 2007

Womad 2007 : Party in the park

One of the biggest parties in Malmesbury's history begins today, as the 25th WOMAD Festival gets underway. The World of Music, Arts and Dance is beginning its new life at Charlton Park, having spent its last 17 years in Reading. More than 100 artists from 45 different countries will be entertaining over 20,000 revellers between now and Monday. The ten performance areas have been set up, after a mammoth construction effort. Tickets are nearly sold out and have already been changing hands for well over £100 on Internet auction site eBay this week. Former Genesis frontman Peter Gabriel, who co-founded the world-famous event, will be performing on Friday night.

Schoolchildren from Malmesbury will also be taking to the stage. Artistic director and co-founder Thomas Brooman said it was a magical weekend for everyone involved. Speaking to the Gazette, he said: "We have some very famous artists playing, such as Isaac Hayes and Peter Gabriel and, as ever with WOMAD, we have artists who will be a surprise for everyone. You have to be a very uncurious person to come to WOMAD and not like something. The music itself is, time and again, very strong and expressive. Even though there may be the barriers of language and style, a lot of it touches people at a level they don't expect, which makes it very special. It is a fairly awesome thing to be in our 25th year. We didn't have any clear vision back then that we would still be doing it."

Mr Brooman said he, Mr Gabriel and everyone else involved were thrilled with Charlton Park. "It is marvellous," he said. "It is a lovely place and we feel privileged to be able to bring it here." Mr Gabriel said: "It will be great to hold WOMAD in some beautiful countryside. It gives people a simple way to approach music from around the world and I challenge anyone not to be amazed by at least one thing at WOMAD."

Insp Mark Levitt and Insp Neil Bagnall of Wiltshire Constabulary are supervising policing of the festival. Insp Levitt said: "We have been working with the organisers and partners for many months and look forward to a safe and enjoyable event. We have a large uniformed and plain clothed contingent on site and in the vicinity. The costs of the policing operation have been borne by the organisers."

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