Posted on 22 May 2019

This week we are really pleased to sit down and get some wise words from our World of Words producer, Linda Ross. Linda takes us on a whistle-stop tour of what to go and see this year in the leafy, arboreal sanctuary that houses our literary side of the festival.

For the very best of the World of Words, over to Linda!



With 2 months to go before we open the gates of Charlton Park for another jam-packed festival, the office here is crazy busy as we all finalise our programme and go about getting our artists, speakers and guests into the festival. I am a content producer at WOMAD and one of my areas of responsibility is the World of Words. I love that we are in the arboretum; it’s great when the sun is hot as we’re under the shade of the trees, and equally fabulous when it rains as we’re under shelter and lots of our venues are seated.

There’s loads to look forward to at the 37th WOMAD and I wish I could see everything, but here are some of my wordy highlights this year;

Terry Waite CBE will be celebrating his 80th birthday at the end of this month and he is joining us to talk about the re-release of his book “Travels with a Primate”, which is about travelling the world in the 1980s with the then Archbishop of Canterbury. I’m intrigued to know what insights Mr Waite will give us all these years later about the state of the world, how it compares to travelling now as he still does a lot of it in connection with his humanitarian work, and how kindness and compassion can remain intact after the traumatic experiences he has endured.

Terry is part of our Book Club, learn more about the Book Club and how to take part here.


I’m also excited to welcome Kurikindi to the World of Words this year. He is a Shaman of the Kichwa people who live deep in the Amazonian rainforest of Ecuador. He was born into a traditional shamanic family, and has travelled extensively through South America to other indigenous people to share wisdom and knowledge. I’m looking forward to hearing what he has to tell us about ancestral traditions as well as how working with plants can help us reconnect with ourselves and nature.

On a similar theme, we also have the Seed Sistas talking about sensory herbalism and plant-based cures for the most common health complaints.

We have some great panel discussions this year including “Fast Fashion, are your clothes wrecking the planet?”, “Cohousing, the rise of intentional communities”, “11 years to change the world – Climate’s Ticking Timebomb” and of course our annual “Sunday Papers Panel” which is always a lot of fun.

We have a few “in conversations” with some of our music artists; this year from over 40 countries around the world.  Before their performance on the Charlie Gillet stage, Emmanuel Jal and his sister Nyaruach join us not only to talk about their music, but their earlier experiences in Southern Sudan. Emmanual was a child soldier, and Nyaruach was separated from the rest of her family when she was only 4. The two were reunited in 2004, and Nyaruach still lives in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya.

We also get up close and personal with the Tobagan powerhouse that is Calypso Rose. There’s much to discuss with the 79 year old who champions sexual equality, was the first woman ever to win the “Calypso King” contest in 1963, and who has performed with the likes of Bob Marley and Manu Chao.

Learn more about Calypso Rose here.


Another of our WOMAD Book Club books this year is by Joanne Harris, best selling author of the global bestseller “Chocolat”. Her latest book “The Strawberry Thief” revisits Vianne Rocher who still lives in the French village and still runs her chocolate shop….but things are about to change! So come along and re-imagine Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp a few years later.

Immediately after this session, we stay with the theme of chocolate, when James Wheale and Annie Zimmerman talk about how storytelling affects flavour, so grab a seat and experience an “edible mindfulness story” with chocolate (and feel free to imagine Juliette or Johnny at the same time).

Over at the Hip Yak Poetry Shack, there are loads of wonderful spoken word artists, and the headliners this year are outstanding. Harry & Chris the comedy-rap-jazz duo, who you might have seen on the Russell Howard Show, headline Friday.  Expect lots of laughs, songs ranging from panda repopulation to Robot Wars, and some whimsical words from the World Poetry Slam Champion. I’m also really looking forward to hearing spoken word superstar Hollie McNish who headlines Saturday. She’s won the Ted Hughes award for her poetry and packs a powerful punch when she performs (expect strong language by the way). On Sunday the top slot goes to Zena Edwards who likes to fuse her poetry with music, check her out on YouTube before you come, you’re in for a treat. If you want to win your own slot at the Hip Yak next year, then enter our Poetry Slam competition on Sunday (sign up at the stage from Friday – it’s first come first served for one of the 12 spaces).



If you fancy an interesting conversation (with someone you don’t already know!) head over to Human Books, where there are over 40 “titles” to choose from. Pick a human book and sit down with them for half an hour and be challenged, inspired, or just plain fascinated. Some of my favourites this year are Clare, who having lost her leg in an accident a few years ago, now designs beautiful leg covers for prosthetic limbs. How amazing that someone can go through such a terrible thing and then create something so beautiful to help others embrace their difference. And if you’ve ever watched those “Hoarder Next Door” programmes and wondered how on earth they can live like that, then book a chat with Esther who has had a hoarding disorder most of her adult life. She wants to confront the preconceptions about it, so be prepared to think differently after opening your mind for 30 minutes and listening to her story.

If you would like to apply to be a Human Book, please fill in the application form here.



This year we’re making a Senbazuru in the World of Words; 1000 origami paper cranes. An ancient Japanese legend says that anyone who makes a senbazuru will have their wish granted by the gods. Ricky Martin aka CBBC’s Art Ninja will be demonstrating how to make one every morning but come along at any time throughout the day to make your own paper crane and write your wish on its wings for others to read and enjoy.

I could tell you so much more about what’s on offer but I’ve already gone twice over the requested word count for this blog, so download the app in early July where you’ll see the full programme. Hopefully, I’ve whetted your appetite enough to come and see us in the arboretum this year (it’s also where you’ll find the World of Physics too – but I’ll have to leave that for another post!).


See you in 2 months!

Linda x


Check out the musical line-up here.