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20 mai 2008

WOMAD bid for Ashbourne

ASHBOURNE - Ashbourne could be thrust into the festival spotlight in a few years if the WOMADelaide Foundation decides to purchase the 250 acres of land it has been eyeing off in the area.

WOMAD wishes to use the land to create a new October "Earth Station" festival from October 2010 that would become an annual event.

It would be a performing arts festival, with a strong focus on issues of environmental sustainability.

The WOMADelaide Foundation is the presenter of the hugely successful WOMADelaide festival in Botanic Park in Adelaide since 1992, with this year's crowd reaching 18,000 over the three-day event. WOMAD stands for the World of Arts Music and Dance and is an international festival organisation based in the UK which co-presents such festivals internationally.

Director of WOMADelaide, Ian Scobie, was a guest speaker at Monday's Alexandrina Council meeting, and told elected members he and his team envisage the Ashbourne event to be of a much smaller scale than the Adelaide event.

The Adelaide festival has eight performance stages in total, whereas the proposed festival would only start with one stage, and potentially grow to just three.

A community meeting was held in Ashbourne on April 24, where residents were able to ask questions and voice any concerns.

The WOMADelaide Foundation has looked at approximately 16 possible sites for the Earth Station site, and narrowed it down to two, Ashbourne, which is their preferred site, and a site in Eden Valley.

Mr Scobie said it was the natural beauty of the site at Ashbourne that had attracted the foundation.

"It is a beautiful area of land, plus the proximity to the environment of the Murray is of interest to us, and relative closeness to the city is a also plus," Mr Scobie said.

He said the foundation expected crowds of between 3,000 and 4,000 for the first five years of the event, with growth after that.

"Then we would expect between 10,000 and 12,000 realistically, it's never going to be as big as the Adelaide festival, and it is our intention to have a much lower key activity."

The block currently only has one access to the site, and the aim would be for the foundation to create a second road into the site, at a cost of about $400,000.

The ambition is to make the site sustainable, with no need for connection to mains water at all.

Before the foundation proceeds with the purchase of the land, the it needs to complete its financial model and put it to the State Government for funding and also to lodge a development application for permission to use the site as a festival venue.


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