Womad Festival - 29-31 July 2005

I had been looking forward to Womad as I had a great time there last year and it is a wonderfully diverse festival in terms of the entertainment there and the sort of people that go. I also had the pleasure of taking my niece, Tara to her first proper festival. We had gone to Lynton and Lynmouth festival for a day in June but this was the real deal for her with camping and everything!


We arrived on the Wednesday evening and found a place to park the van and set up home for the next five days. This was also the first proper outing for the van as a camper as although I took it to Glastonbury it never made into the campervan field! Womad is far more relaxed and the crew field was a mixture of tents and vans. I had a couple of briefings that evening, firstly the fire briefing for all stewards as one of our main jobs there is manning the fire towers. After that I had a supervisors briefing which was short and sweet as we were all experienced stewards and there was not much to go through. I got my shift times and luckily only had two eight hour shifts instead of the usual three, I was particularly happy about that as I had Tara with me and so could spend more time with her.


After the briefings we made our way back to the van and it wasn't long before other stewards turned up and a drinking session started. Some of us hadn't met before but we were familiar with each other from the online stewards forum and I had mentioned on there that all would be welcome at my van. It was nice putting faces to names at last and seeing stewards I had met earlier on in the year. I think the last people left at around 2am and me and Tara went to bed.


My first shift was Friday night so we spent all day Thursday really chilling out, I had been working hard for a few days before we arrived so it was lovely to have nothing to do. I mostly stayed round the van but did go and explore the site on the bike. Tara started making friends and was soon off doing her own thing! On Thursday evening there was a light show in the Siam tent that we went to watch with my friend and fellow Oxfam steward Yasir. On the way there we came across a strange act with a number of stilt walkers all dressed in white carrying massive white balloons which was a good introduction for Tara to the weird happenings at festivals!


On Friday we wandered around in the arena for a while but as I was working all through the night I went back to the van to try and sleep for a few hours while Tara went off with friends. The band I wanted to see the most, Culture were playing that evening so I got up just before then, got something to eat for us both and went off to see them. Although we weren't really allowed backstage we managed to get there to watch Culture from the side of the stage. They didn't disappoint, beautiful reggae grooves from a long established Jamaican group. It was over all too soon and time for work!


My first job was supervising inside the Rivermead complex which is a leisure centre where they have bands on during Womad. I had to work with the head of the security team there to make sure all the stewards were in appropriate positions. I also had to make sure my stewards were happy and got breaks which was fine. The Rivermead shut at 2am and so I then went into the main arena to help out in there. All the music had finished but there were still stewards on all the fire towers and stages through the night. It was a godsend having the bike, cycling from tower to tower is so much quicker than walking! My shift finished at 7am and I was straight to bed!


When I got up on Saturday it was almost time for Pama International a ska band I had seen a couple of times before. They were really good and that infectious ska beat soon got my feet tapping! I'd met the keyboard player Sean at a Zion Train gig in Gloucester in December last year so when they finished I went backstage and chatted to them for a while. The rest of the day was spent taking in the festival, wandering around and talking to random people. That evening the headliner was Youssou D'Nour who we went to see, again from backstage. He was good and did his most famous song, Seven Seconds which I really love.


It was an early start on Sunday as I was on shift at 7am. I spent the first half of it in the main arena and then was back in the Rivermead complex once it had opened. Tara spent the morning making a costume for the procession later on that day. I finished at 2pm and went and had food and a little rest before watching the procession. This was something I missed last year and it really is worth watching. So many different people, great costumes, stilt walkers, jugglers and lots of very happy kids!


That evening I went to watch Apache Indian, in the programme it said he was playing with a reggae band so wasn't sure what to expect as I remember him doing sort of Asian influenced hip hop. He was really good and I enjoyed being pleasantly surprised by someone new as I do kind of stick with what I know when it comes to live music. He had grown dreadlocks and the music was pure reggae. Me and Tara spent the next few hours in the backstage bar with the rest of the crew on a last night piss up! Well Tara fell asleep but I kept going for a while before bed beckoned and I had to leave. The next morning we left Womad with fond memories of a great family festival with brilliant music and wonderful people.

Below are a selection of photographs from the gathering.