I am off to WOMAD – the World of Music and Dance. Held in New Plymouth, Taranaki this festival of world music has been in my sights for many years as something to go to. This year is my turn – with girlfriend Liz and friends Ceridwyn and Danielle, we are off to Womad for the week.
The Journey: Cambridge to Taranaki
First stop on the recommendation of our friends is coffee at Boscos. It’s on the right on the way into Te Kuiti from the north. It did not disappoint. As we drove in, I blurted out – “what a sexy building”, and it was. Wood, louvres, decks, colour, high studs – everything I love about a building. Inside the service was snappy, we had barely sat down when our coffee (very good it was too) and eats arrived. Maurice at the till spotted us as Womad goers and wished us well. Too early for lunch, we bought something to have by the river at Mokau.
The area around Cambridge through to Te Kuiti and beyond is an arboretum – mostly huge old exotics, in another few weeks the autumn colour will be amazing.
Through the Awakino Gorge, we emerged to the wild west coast, and the small fishing villages that line it. Beside the river at Mokau we read that this is history country – the Tainui canoe made its first landfall here in the 14th Century. We share our lunch on a picnic table in a brisk south westerly – we eventually met up with our friends – very little cell phone reception here, so don’t rely on it!
A heart stopping karanga that began the welcome drifted to us as we emerged from the tree lined walkway of Pukekura Park. Then there was the obligatory speeches from sponsors. politicians and organisors as people dribbled in. It starts to drizzle but nothing to worry the crowd – ‘Taranaki sunshine’ the mayor calls it.
Womad in Brooklands Park
We sit watching across the pond as the first band comes on – a brassy Chicago boy band who soon gets the crowd pumping and on their feet. The resident ducks simply stay on doing their thing in the pond in front of the stage and the seagulls sit atop the stage, occasionally soaring out over the crowd.
My girlfriend Liz has been to Womad in Adelaide for 20 years, and this is her second here in NZ, she agrees that this setting in Brooklands is more lush and the natural amphitheatre of the Brooklands Bowl is an amazing place to hear the musicians – everyone can see, hear, boogie and enjoy the show.
The only downside is that there are some hills to climb and by the end of the night I am definitely limping home. For the last show I get into the 65+ raised seats by pointing to my walking stick and saying I can not stand up any longer.
Who is here?
Well there is a fair few baby boomers like me, but all in all it seems a general cross section of people. Heaps of kids – they have a kidzone dedicated to them and a parade on Sunday evening. There are babies and toddlers with ear protection, through to face painted and bouncy 8 year olds and heaps of young teeny boppers strutting their thing.
Womad has made an effort to make sure everyone is included, and this year with TSB funding there is even some 65 + bleacher stands for when it gets too much to stand.
The local Taranaki paper described the crowd as having a touch of Woodstock. I disagree, I thought it had more of a touch of a Green Party gathering – lots of energy, not too much ego, no one wasted, peace and goodwill abounded and a sense of the global village.
I end up meeting friends I have not seen for years – four of us who had been to Morocco together with Venus Adventures, a friend and her husband and 10 year old son – when I knew her there was no sign of a child, Kate and Lyn from The Big Blue House accommodation for women in Auckland, Marney and Alison hosts at Whatipu Lodge on the west coast of Auckland
I enjoy people watching, and tended to be at the back of the crowds, watching the pulsating energy of the crowd dance as one to the music playing. Liz was down there in the middle of it, though having danced her feet off on Saturday, had to have a quieter day of it on Sunday.
Other venues were quieter with people lying in the sun listening to the music or quietly chatting with friends. Between events there were rivers of people flowing between the main stages, weaving between the billowing flags. All the colours of the rainbow in the people and the flags.
What to chose – that is the only question. There is food from around the world and just plain old steak sandwiches and chips if that is your fancy. The main food tents are spread around a huge branching tree with seats and tables set up under it, and people on rugs further out – it is just one big picnic.
Monteiths is on tap everywhere and wine for sale (you can’t bring your own), but even after 12 hours I never saw anyone drunk or under the weather, unlike the FM Winery Tour crowd earlier in the year. Though there were a few gently stoned souls. Womad is very mellow and laid back – a friendly, family, generous and open feeling everywhere you go.
Will I go again?
Maybe in a few years – I found it physically demanding and needed a walking stick to get around. Liz will definitely be here again.
Would I recommend it?
Definitely, I think this is something that everyone needs to do at least once in your life, and if you have not done it yet – book in for next year.
What to bring