Here at WOMAD HQ things are really stepping up a gear as the festival draws ever closer. A lot of the team are in Cáceres right now, but those of us still back at base aren’t jealous at all, no really, honestly (!)
At least it gives me time to tell you all about what’s going in the World of Words this year. I’m so excited at the prospect of being back in the arboretum after 2 years – 2019 seems like SUCH a long time ago, and to be all together again in our 40th anniversary year feels very special.
I love welcoming some of our artists to the World of Words to chat before their performances on the music stages, and this year Nitin Sawhney will be with us to chat with DJ Kate Hutchinson about what he’s been up recently, and also to introduce a film he’s executive produced and provided some of the music for; “Hostile” which focuses on Britain’s complicated relationship with its migrant communities. There’s a Q&A with the director Sonita Gale after the screening for anyone interested in finding out more.
Ukrainian duo Folknery are also going to be sharing the stories from their “Two Wheeled Chronicles”; where they documented their 60,000 miles travelled on bicycles collecting music and folklore. And I’m really looking forward to listening to Ramy Essam in conversation with us before his performance on the Charlie Gillett stage, as a protest singer who went viral during the Egyptian revolution of 2011. It’s great to listen to these artists in an intimate setting before seeing them perform.
We have loads of fabulous authors this year too, (and Mr B’s bookshop are with us again if a book takes your fancy once you’ve heard all about it). Harry Parker is talking about his new book “Hybrid Humans” which is a fascinating insight into how robotics, AI and computing is fusing with the human body as science and technology develops. After stepping on an IED in Afghanistan Harry is now 12% machine with two high-tech prosthetic limbs with his right knee controlled by a micro-processor, and he’ll be talking about all the people he met while researching the book.
I know I’ll also be gripped by the interview with Suzanne O’Sullivan who is a neurologist and author. Her latest book which is out in paperback this year is The Sleeping Beauties, which she was inspired to write after a poignant encounter with the sleeping refugee children of Sweden, where hundreds of children disconnected the conscious part of their brains and went into a long sleep, sometimes for months and months. Suzanne travelled the world visiting communities who also had outbreaks of “mystery illnesses” in places like Nicaragua, Kazakhstan and Colombia, and she’ll be telling us all about her insights.
A growing phenomenon, possibly one being embraced by some of our festival goers, is Van Life. We hear from hugely popular Instagrammers Laura and Aaron from “Parking on the Wild Side” who have 230k followers. So if you’ve ever wanted to know how to do a low-budget eco van conversion, or how to create a nomadic off-grid lifestyle this is the session for you.
There’s loads more to tell you about but not enough space so please investigate the line up when the programme and the Festival App are released. Before I go I have to tell you about the awesome line up this year at the Hip Yak Poetry Shack. The hugely entertaining John Hegley headlines with the wonderful Dizraeli, back under the shade of the trees is Zena Edwards, and for the first time at WOMAD we welcome Raymond Antrobus. There’s a plethora of phenomenal poets this year, so check out all the names on the poster and take yourself off to the Hip Yak to listen to them all perform. There’s also a special Hot Poets show about climate change, and if you want to give performance poetry a go yourself, get your name down for the Sunday Slam – as the winner will be performing in their own slot next year.
It’s not just passive listening that goes on in the World of Words mind you – the giant crosswords will have you scratching your head, the PingPong Thunderdome (needs to be seen) will have you challenging your mates, the naked mirror will have you looking…well, naked, and for those with a few minutes to spare, we’d love you to contribute to our huge textile art project.
I hope to see you in the arboretum sometime over the festival weekend. For those with a more scientific leaning, watch out next week for the World of Physics line-up too.
Here’s to a fabulous 40th year!