WOMAD Turns 40


The World of Music, Arts and Dance festival, WOMAD, will celebrate its 40th year this July.

The first festival took place in 1982 in Shepton Mallet, two years after its inception and the diverse acts showcased in that first year, became indicative of WOMAD’s commitment to creating a platform for a wide selection of artists each year. The first year was both an artistic success and a financial disaster. The event organisers had little experience catering for events with more than 1,500 people and WOMAD’s first year saw the arrival of approximately 10,000 people. Though festivalgoers remember nothing but an amazing event, the WOMAD founders faced the very real prospect of financial ruin. However, WOMAD founding member, Peter Gabriel, was able to rally his former Genesis bandmates and perform a benefit concert to raise funds.

The following year saw much needed guidance and support from festival industry giants and with their help, the second WOMAD festival was able to achieve a much better bottom line. Over the years the festival has gone from strength to strength, founding the non-profit WOMAD Foundation dedicated to bringing the spirit of WOMAD into schools and staging WOMAD festivals in more than 30 countries and across multiple sites in the UK. Whilst the international events proved successful, multiple sites across the UK became unsustainable and Rivermead in Reading became WOMAD’s permanent home until 2007, after which it moved to Charlton Park in Wiltshire.

In its 40th year, WOMAD continues to be a celebration of universal diversity, combining cultures and traditions through music, act, dance and food. Lianne La Havas, Kae Tempest and Fatoumata Diawara are just a few of the headliners leading the celebrations for WOMAD’s historic anniversary, and with tickets selling faster than ever despite increased costs due to soaring supply chain related production costs, WOMAD 2022 seems set to make a momentous return.

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