IT is party-time once more in the Earl of Suffolk’s sumptuous back-garden this week as hordes of world music lovers from Swindon prepare to make the now familiar 30 to 40-minute pilgrimage into the heart of Wiltshire for their favourite annual soiree.
They will set up their tents in the midst of a global village that springs up for four days every July in the glorious countryside near Malmesbury for a mouth-watering selection of exotic music.
Now in its 31st year the World of Music And Dance (WOMAD) festival – which starts on Thursday night – took root in the grounds of stately Charlton Park, with its shady retreats and wooded chill zones, after relocating from Reading in 2007. But it is not just the music which pulls in the same crowd every year – the event includes a global market, food from all corners of the world, crafts, music workshops and a funfair.
Mother-of-two Bridget Fitzsimmons, 49, of Old Town, who has notched up 11 consecutive WOMADs, said: “This where I can be a woman of madness and delight: floppy hats, colourful clothes and always a full glass of wine.
“Where else can you dance with your children and share music and food from all around the world?”
GP’s nurse Bridget goes on: “One of the joys of this festival is sharing the experience with friends and family. I always think of the group of friends I am with every year as my WOMAD family.”
Bridget adds with a grin: “It is a cocktail of happiness and bacchanalian feasts.”
Youth worker and holistic therapist Janine Illes, 38, of Central Swindon has been going to WOMAD with daughter Kemani, now 18, for six years.
She says: “It doesn’t matter if you don’t know any of bands who are playing – you’ll discover some great music just by walking around and hearing stuff from different stages.”
It’s not just about the music, either, she says. “It’s a very clean festival. The toilets are impeccable.”
Janine went on: “The family vibe is great, too. If you give them (your children) a few basic ground rules then you know they are safe wandering around the site.
“Kemani comes to WOMAD with me every year: she wouldn’t miss it.
“The world market is really good as well. You can get some good bargains; the final day, Sunday, is great for haggling.”
Swindon Nationwide worker Alan Dent, 54, has been going to WOMAD for 13 or 14 years.
“A friend kept badgering me about going; ‘you’ll love it, you’ll love it’ he said. He was right, I did.”
Alan, of Rodbourne, goes on: “You just hear the most outstanding music – the sort of stuff you’d never otherwise hear. No-one who loves music could fail to love WOMAD.
“I still love people like Dylan but WOMAD broadens your horizons. It’s enlightening.”
Beautician Penny Rogers, 21, of Old Walcot, went to WOMAD for the first time last year and says it is the best festival she has been to.
“I loved it. I’ve been to Reading and Bestival but WOMAD is on another scale. It’s really chilled there.
“There’s a fantastic vibe at WOMAD – a really good atmosphere. I’m definitely going again this year.” Civil engineer Garry Smith, 57, of Old Town, said: “The outstanding quality of music is achieved at WOMAD without the need to engage trendy and expensive headline performers, giving it a more relaxed family atmosphere that appeals to festivalgoers of all ages.
“It is set in an idyllic landscape and, for me, it’s a great place to meet up with friends from around the country, some of whom I won’t have seen since last year’s WOMAD.”
Garry, who has been going to the festival for ten years, added: “Unlike many other festivals WOMAD has not succumbed to a policy of greed and remains the least commercial of all major festivals.”
l WOMAD FESTIVAL – Charlton Park, Malmesbury, Wiltshire, SN16 9DG.
Thursday 25 – Sunday 28 July 2013 BOOKING LINE: +44 (0)118 960 6060 ONLINE: www.womad.co.uk