Impact International UK/Euro: Chris Smith

Chris Smith

© Elliot Caunce

The contribution WOMAD has made to the exchange of culture and love of music since its inception in 1980 can hardly be overstated. In a digital era of numbers and spreadsheets, in a world more connected yet more divided, the ethos of WOMAD is needed more than ever. According to festival director Chris Smith, that ethos is about “creating opportunities for people of all cultures to come together, and celebrate just how amazing it is to be human.”

WOMAD travels the world across the year, starting in Adelaide, Australia, in March, and heading over to New Zealand the following weekend. It lands in Santiago, Chile, in April; Spain in May. The Italian premiere took place in June, unfortunately it met catastrophic rain on the last day. The UK edition went down in July, followed by a small event in South Africa.

Finally, in November, WOMAD will celebrate its last edition of the year in Las Palmas in Gran Canaria, an island off the Spanish coast. The events couldn’t be more different, from the almost pristine Botanic Gardens of South Australia to Chile’s spectacular Plaza de la Paz in a developing area. Each edition is organized by a local team.

Smith likes to use festival founder Peter Gabriel’s phrase: “the best music that you’ve never heard.” Over time, WOMAD developed from representing the “World of Music, Art and Dance” to an all-encompassing cultural experience: art, artists from all over the (developing) world, literature and language.

Says Smith, “Lots of people say the best music they heard was a band they had never heard of. I think it’s about discovery. It’s about openness. This isn’t a commercial, multi-million dollar experience. It’s about artists who may be superstars in their home country, but are unknown in the UK or Europe. And it’s about introducing all these diverse cultures through art and music, to audiences all over the world.”