Rain Dampens WOMAD Anniversary

The move to a new site and the staging of the 25th edition gave WOMAD Festival fans good reason to expect a weekend of celebration, but one of the wettest English summers on record put something of a damper on proceedings.

"It had rained for part of every one of the 50 days leading up to the event. Then, just as we began, the drizzle gave way to torrential rain," festival director Thomas Brooman explained after 22 millimeters of rain – double the July average – fell within a few hours.

He said he’s most unhappy about the way some of the fans – although less than 1 percent of the record 25,000 per day crowd – and certain sections of the media criticised the organisers for the state of the new site.

"We were moving a 20,000-plus capacity festival to a new site and it’s hard to do that in a seamless way and we did suffer criticism for the state of the ground. But no grass site can be prepared for rain like that," Brooman said.

After spending 17 years at Reading Rivermead, where the festival blossomed beyond the site capacity, WOMAD moved back to the west country, where it began 25 years ago.

Although this year’s Truckfest and Fflam Festival have already been put back due to waterlogged U.K. ground, and the latter has since been canceled altogether, the Daily Telegraph still felt the WOMAD site was "woefully under-prepared for weather conditions that were known about months in advance."

Brooman felt wounded because – apart from not agreeing about conditions being predicted "months in advance" – he felt the paper had taken no account of the fact that many events, including Glastonbury and its new draining system, have had problems with the ground churning to mud.

The Times was more tolerant, saying, "The weather Gods showed little mercy, … conditions never sank to Glastonbury levels and the overall atmosphere remained typically good-natured."

The Independent’s piece didn’t mention the weather or the state of the ground, preferring to spend every word of the review on what read like a stunning performance from Senegalese song and dance man Baaba Maal.

Among the other acts he might have also mentioned for braving the rain on the new WOMAD site at Charlton Park, Malmesbury, July 27-29 were Peter Gabriel, Toots & The Maytals, Isaac Hayes, Afrodisiac Sound System, Billy Cobham, Calexico, Candi Staton, Steel Pulse, Taj Mahal Trio and The Blind Boys Of Alabama.