Friday, 30 July 2010

WOMAD UK - with baby By Kate

OK, we cheated a bit. For the first time in the history of our attendance at WOMAD we didn't camp. But when you've got a six month-old baby and a handy guest room at parents/in-laws fifteen minutes drive away, it was a no-brainer. Plus I'm not a huge fan of camping in any case. It's kind of fun up to a point, but when you're a light sleeper who invariably needs to get up for a pee (or three) in the night, you can basically rule out much in the way of useful snoozery. Not that I get huge amounts of that at the moment anyway, but why make it worse?Accordingly we rolled up in Delilah the Delica early on Friday afternoon armed with sling, baby ear defenders, a picnic rug and a hopeful weather outlook. It was clear from the outset that Rosie was intrigued - no, make that fascinated - by the sights and sounds of the festival. As we walked onto the site her head bobbed from side to side, eyes bright with interest as she took it all in from her comfy position tied to Daddy's chest. Theo, meanwhile was doing his best impression of a pack horse, also wearing a backpack with various items (rug, changing mat, umbrella) hanging off it. I carried my flower pattern backpack and felt a teeny bit guilty about it. But only a teeny bit.
Duly wristbanded and clutching a festival programme, we headed for the Big Red Tent, Ipercussonici and the first potential obstacle to everyone's enjoyment. Would Rosie consent to wear her ear defenders so we could enjoy the raised decibel levels without having to clamp hands over our offspring's shell-likes to prevent possible hearing damage? The answer, thankfully and slightly surprisingly, was a resounding Yes. In fact, so successful were the defenders, that Rosie proceeded to feed then sleep quite happily while wearing them during the loud desert grooves provided by Toumast at the Open Air Stage. She napped in the first of several improvised nests we made for her on our rug (with the help of a colourful, highly sequinned parasol we'd purchased from one of the festival stalls) while we indulged in a half of lager and a bit of hip gyrating to Toumast. When Rosie woke up, she charmed everyone around us with huge grins as we danced with her (still in the ear-defenders) and generally Got Down. One woman even came and took our photograph, so enchanted was she by our beaming baby daughter. It was the best possible start to the weekend.The rest of the day was punctuated by more shows (most notable of which was that provided by the French lounge-core outfit Nouvelle Vague and their inspired renditions of various punk and New Wave classics) and a meet-up with Theo's sis, Hermione and spouse Richard and our mates Stu and Sam. In the end we stayed until almost nine o'clock (*thrills*), so comfortable did Rosie appear to be with her role as Official Festival Babe. We caught a bit of Chumbawamba, but were too far from the stage to really hear much, so took our leave.On Saturday we arrived at the festival slightly better prepared than the previous day - we bought a few cans of lager and cider. We also found a superb spot at the edge of the Open Air Stage which gave us line-of-sight and sound with both that stage and the neighbouring Siam Tent. As the two alternated their shows, it meant we could remain comfortably in position and simply re-angle ourselves to take in one or the other. Probably the highlight of the day performance-wise was a German outfit called LaBrassBanda - yes, a brass band. They were fantastic. Rosie's favourite (if her smiles were anything to go by) was Angelique Kidjo and Orchestre National de Barbes, seen by us in Madrid last year, were as endearingly entertaining as we remembered them. It was also good to see locals Phantom Limb in action with Yolanda in fine voice as they ran through their country-tinged set. We caught Imogen Heap's first couple of numbers, but Rosie wasn't especially grabbed and was clearly getting tired by that point, so we made a graceful exit.

On Sunday we had it down to a fine art and managed to catch Sounds of West Africa (did what it said on the tin - very well, too); the Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars (infectious uptempo music, totally belying the misery behind their formation); Mayra Andrade (sultry Samba-style songs - perfect for a sunny Sunday afternoon), Orchestre Poly Rhythmo de Cotonou (good, lively stuff) and the legend that is Rolf Harris.
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He was a lot of fun, a consummate performer. Rosie, however, was unimpressed, preferring to sit in the sling firmly clamped to my right breast and doze throughout his set. The rest of us enjoyed it though. The Sarod player Soumik Datta was the last show we watched, hanging out agreeably with Patrick in the Arboretum as the expertly plucked strings sent out their rhythms and melodies from the Radio 3 stage. We ate a healthy festival meal of pie and mash followed by chocolate brownie, then reluctantly took our leave.
We came away two shirts (Theo) and one parasol (me) richer, several pounds poorer, amazingly clean (ah, the bliss of not camping...) and with a baby who, if this was anything to go by, is shaping up as a committed festival enthusiast, just like her parents. As long as it isn't Rolf Harris.

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