I am a freelance writer, fortunate enough to live near Byron Bay, one of Australia's most beautiful regions. My writing - for newspapers, magazines, online and for business - lives at vivienne pearson.com
Top tips for a wow-full WOMAD
WOMAD stands for World of Music, Arts and Dance. It is a series of annual festivals, held around the world, celebrating cultural and creative diversity.
Civilised, relaxed, friendly and beautiful - image from WOMADelaide Facebook page
WOMADelaide is a fusion between WOMAD and Adelaide - the only Australian location (others are in the UK, New Zealand, Spain and Chile). The festival was started by Peter Gabriel in the early 1980s.
WOMADelaide is an open-air festival, held over 4 days every March. You can buy tickets for 1 day, 3 days or the whole 4 days. The Friday is evening only and the other days are midday to midnight (though you can just go for Sat/Sun evening).
Dates are available well in advance, with tickets going on sale late the year before (with early bird pricing available).
9-12 March 2018
8 - 11 March 2019
6 - 9 March 2020
5 - 8 March 2021
11 - 14 March 2022
10 - 13 March 2023
8 - 11 March 2024
Dancing at WOMADelaide
WOMADelaide is a civilised, relaxed and friendly festival. There is no on-site camping and minimal dust and mud. It is held in the Botanic Park in central Adelaide. This part is situated between the Botanic Gardens and the Adelaide Zoo and shares their tranquil, leafy setting. Huge fig trees provide shade and most of the area is lush grass.
The music line-up varies each year but you can guarantee the pick of world music from all areas of the globe. Each year boasts some big drawcard names but I find it is the smaller, less known acts that bring the greatest joy. The seven stages range from big, raised, fully lit stages where a thousand people will stand, to small stages under fig trees where people sit to listen.
So much great music (photo of Angelique Kidjo from the WOMADelaide Facebook page)
To be honest, I barely know any of the musicians heading into the festival yet am always either delighted, intrigued or amused by what I see. If I go for more than one day, I enjoy picking up a buzz about which acts are the ones to see and, as most play two or three times over the weekend, it's usually not too late to see the group that everyone is talking about.
Music is the strongest of the 'Music, Arts & Dance' name but there is usually one dance act and the arts are sprinkled throughout the festival, including roving performers which are always worth keeping a look out for, and the beautiful silk flags that flutter around the festival site.
Silk flags flutter above the festival
A special part of WOMADelaide is that kids aged 12 and under are admitted free (along with a paying adult) and it is a very child-friendly festival. A dedicated KidZone area has special performances as well as craft and interactive experiences. See a list of Tips for WOMAD with Kids below...
Food is a big part of the festival, with the Global Village offering over 50 food and drink stalls. You are welcome to bring your own food into the festival site too and there are water refills stations.
Over 50 food stalls. Image from WOMADelaide Facebook page
*Chill out: Like all big events, there can be crowds, delays and frustrations. One of the wonders of Womad is that some of the best moments happen when you least expect it, so stay calm, smile and go with the flow!
* Plan for your essentials but stumble upon other acts: Have a good look through the program (online or via the Womad app) to see if there are any acts you simply must see. Get to these stages well ahead of time. For the rest of the time, see where your mood takes you and allow yourself to head to gigs that you have no idea what to expect. This is when the Womad magic happens.
* Pack and wear with care: It's tricky to work out what to take with you. The days can be hot, so you need water, sunscreen and a hat. The nights can get cool (especially because of the parkland setting) so you might find yourself needing a long-sleeved top. Definitely wear something that you are comfortable to sit on the ground in - and dance! You might want a rug to sit on, but not carry it with you all the time. Many people set up spots away from the main action where they leave their (non-valuable) stuff that they can return to.
* Leave some downtime: Don't rush from act to act all day/weekend. Some of my best WOMADelaide moments have been when I've taken some time to sit away from a stage, maybe under a silk flag, and observed it all from a distance. I've even been known to take a nap under the shade of a tree before getting back into the thick of the action!
TOP TIPS for WOMAD with KIDS
* Get there early: The gates open at 11am, before music starts at 12. Aim to arrive early - you'll miss the queues, you can get orientated before the crowds arrive and can plan your day more gradually.
* The distances are big: Even though the map makes the whole festival site seem really cute, the distances can be huge, especially for little legs. Plan toilet trips before things become desperate and don't try to get from Stage 1 to Stage 7 in five minutes - you won't make it.
* Enjoy KidZone but don't get stuck there: KidZone is fabulous but don't spend your whole day there just because you have kids with you. Apart from the huge performances on Stages 1 2 (which can get a bit frenetic for younger kids) all the acts are suitable for kids. Sure, they won't know the music, but neither will you. Encourage your kids to settle in, listen with an open mind and clap loudly!
* Bring food or buy food outside peak times: You will find food to suit kids but when the Global Village gets crowded, it can be hard to suss out options and then the long queues aren't conducive to happy kids. I find that bringing some food and then supplementing from the food stalls is the best way to go. (The organisers are totally happy for you to bring your own food - apart from glass containers).
* Plan getting there and away carefully: Parking nearby is nearly impossible and the nearest public transport is a decent walk away - especially for people with little legs who have a big day in front of them (or behind them!). Making use of the WOMAD-specific shuttle buses or getting someone to drop you off / pick you up are great options.
* Fans, spray bottles and glow sticks: If it is hot (and it often is), the best things I've packed are battery operated fans and small water spray bottles (even better if those two are combined into one!). they provide a wonderful mix of activity and coolness. If you are staying into the evening, glow sticks can make or break whether your little ones will be partying alongside you, or asking to go home.
Spray bottles help cool kids having fun at WOMADelaide