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24 juin 2008

This year's WOMAD will be the best yet

By Lois Avery / Gazette & Herald

WOMAD founder Peter Gabriel has promised music fans the best festival yet now it has settled into its new home at Charlton Park.

In its 26th year the international music, arts and dance festival used to be held in Reading. But last year they moved to the grounds of Charlton Park near Malmesbury in order to expand the festival. After problems with traffic management and torrential rain the festival faced criticism last year but Mr Gabriel says that this one will be the best yet. He is also pleased to be working close to his recording studio, Real World, in Box, near Corsham.

He said: "I think in a lot of ways it is a bit like coming home because it all started in the west country and it is great to be back. Also it's just a stones throw from Box where our studios are based so it makes sense. Charlton Park is a fantastic venue and it is pretty flat and in a beautiful location with the house and trees. And this year they have let us, very kindly, use more land and we have put measures in place to make sure last year's situation isn't repeated. It was more WOMUD. The weather is already looking better this year so it's encouraging. The line up is looking the best ever, and I don't always say that."

Booked to play are artists such as Boy George, Finlay Quaye, Eddy Grant, and Squeeze.

Mr Gabriel has tipped his favourites across the weekend. "On Friday I think Sharon Shannon and Shane McGowan and Sheikh will be great," he said. "Saturday we've got Martha Wainwright, who has a fantastic voice, and Roni Size and Reprazent. And of course Eddy Grant of Electric Avenue fame so it's looking great."

As well as bringing big names to the area the festival does a lot for local schools. Last year children from all of the primary schools in and around Malmesbury were given the chance to perform on the main stage and they will be doing the same in July.

Mr Gabriel said: "From the outset when we started in 1980 we really wanted to include kids so part of the aim of WOMAD was to introduce a lot of music. If we can teach them about some of the joys of the world then it is a wonderful thing. It's like with food. If you don't let them eat different things they won't like things that are strange or foreign. We also do have a world food area this year to tie in with that so it is a multi cultural experience."

Mr Gabriel also hopes that this years festival will bring more to the local economy now some of last years problems have been ironed out. He said: "We know the impact we had in Reading was really quite considerable. Especially on hotels, B&B's and cafes and garages. So hopefully if we can get traffic moving we can bring a lot into the area."

WOMAD festival will take place between July 25-27. For tickets and information visit

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