Thu 18 Oct 2018

WOMAD's staying in New Plymouth

Taranaki’s love affair with WOMAD could continue for another decade.

At the annual Womad launch, held in Parliament’s Grand Hall last night, WOMAD UK manager Mike Large revealed an agreement to extend the contract for the event at the TSB Bowl of Brooklands had been signed on Tuesday through to 2024.

He said that “in all probability” it would be extended to 2029.

In paying tribute to the Taranaki Arts Festival Trust which staged WOMAD, he said music proved the stupidity of racism and in the current climate that was more important than ever.

“We have felt it in the UK; great artists don’t want to come because they feel they will not be welcome. In New Zealand the opposite is true – this is a place which is comfortable with the world.”

Last night’s function, hosted by New Plymouth MP Jonathan Young, also featured an address from WOMAD fan and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who is the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage.

She recalled the controversial conclusion to Sinead O’Connor’s 2015 performance when the Irish singer abruptly ended her signature song Nothing Compares To you after being distracted by a duck.

“It’s a unique event and it leaves memories for Kiwis,” she said.

The Prime Minister noted it was a festival “for everyone”. It had brought $126 million into Taranaki since 2003 “but that’s not what drives you.”

“For me, it’s a given there are economic spin-offs.”

She also spoke of the association between major sponsors and the community and the army of volunteers who encouraged the drive to “zero waste”.

WITT sponsors the World of Words section of WOMAD and was represented at the function by Council chairman Robin Brockie, chief executive Barbara George, and WITT’s business development executive director Brian Souness.

The function drew about 100 people, mostly from Taranaki.  They included major sponsors, business leaders, mayors Neil Holdom and Ross Dunlop and Justice Minister Andrew Little.

There were warm words of praise for the Taranaki Arts Festival Trust from New Plymouth Mayor Neil Holdom who spoke of WOMAD as being a beacon of inclusiveness and recalling seeing his children climb all over the WOMAD sign while absorbing amazing sights and sound. “You rock Suzanne,” he told TAFT chief executive Suzanne Porter - “we are proud to be associated with you”.

Artists listed so far for WOMAD 2019, running from March 15 to1 17 are:  Angelique Kidjo (Benin)   Silkroad Ensemble (Various), Amjad Ali Khan (India), Baloji (DR Congo/ Belguim), BCUC - Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness (South Africa), Dona Onete (Brazil), Jamie Smith's Mabon (Wales), La Dame Blanche (Cuba), Las Cafeteras (Mexico), Maalem Hamid El Kasri (Morocco), Maarja Nuut (Estonia), My Baby (Netherlands), Rebetien (Greece), Sharon Shannon Band (Ireland) and Taiwu Childrens Ancient Ballads Troupe (Taiwan). New Zealand performers include Teeks, Charlotte Johansen, Finn Andrews, KORA, Nadia Reid, Niko Ne Zna, Ria Hall and The Black Seeds.

More artists will be revealed next month.