WOMADelaide is a world of arts and music right in your backyard

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WOMADelaide is a world of arts and music right in your backyard

Photo: Jack Fenby
WOMADelaide - image by Jack Fenby
WOMADelaide - image by Jack Fenby
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Words by Greta Brereton

Festival season is upon us. Longer days and warmer nights mean a truckload of events are going down over the next few months. As well as the awesome array of Melbourne festivals, other cities have also got some tasty things on offer – especially Adelaide.

The South Australian capital is gearing up for its 28th WOMADelaide next March. The four-day event is always extravagant, playing host to an enormous variety of international and local musicians, as well as street artists, dance performances and large-scale art installations.

The complete 2020 program has finally been unveiled, featuring artists like Mavis Staples, Ziggy Marley and Aldous Harding, as well as a series of discussions called The Planet Talks. An aerial art piece titled As The World Tipped will also be on display, plus the usual Taste of the World cooking program. It’s looking to be another big year, and Program Manager Annette Tripodi is starting to reap the rewards of her hard work.

“It’s been such a positive early response to the lineup,” she says. “It’s always such an exciting day when all the things you’ve been  working on are finally out there.”

Tripodi has been part of the WOMADelaide team for over 20 years. Originally a volunteer in 1997, she landed her first role as program manager in ’99 and never looked back.

“I was just really hooked on the excitement of a team of people working towards the same purpose and vision,” she explains. “I absolutely love it.”

WOMAD, which stands for World Of Music, Arts and Dance, is a global organisation, which started in the UK back in 1982. They host events in different countries across the world, and Tripodi has been lucky enough to work with teams for WOMAD New Zealand, Singapore, Athens and even Chile. These cross-continental relationships are useful for discovering potential future guests, allowing Tripodi to draw inspiration from the Adelaide festival’s global siblings.

“It’s kind of an international family,” Tripodi explains. “I go every year to WOMAD in the UK, which is obviously a treasure trove of amazing music.”

“There are definitely artists that play in Adelaide that my colleague from WOMAD in the UK will see when she’s here and take them to the UK or other festivals.”

With a program featuring artists from various corners of the globe, much of Tripodi’s work revolves around finding acts fitting of a slot on the WOMAD lineup. This mammoth task sees her and Director Ian Scobie attending countless gigs and festivals across Australia, as well as hunting for talent abroad.

“We focus periods of time where we’re both at WOMAD in the UK, and then, for example, last year I went to a street theatre festival in France, and [Scobie] went to the Sziget festival in Hungary,” she explains. “Between us, we probably saw 100 amazing things.”

While this kind of research means the pair end up with an abundance of ideas, deciding who makes the cut can be difficult.

“We could literally have anywhere between 500 and 1000 ideas on the table every year,” Tripodi muses. “We genuinely do look at all of it and somehow, through hard work and some kind of magic, it eventually becomes this wonderful, collection of outstanding artists that works.” 

This eclectic mix of entertainment is what gives WOMADelaide its edge. Sure, you can go to any festival in Australia and see live bands, but there aren’t many that offer such a wide range of genres on the same program.

Over the four days at Botanic Park you can take in medieval music from Spain, dance to trance music from North Africa, soak up traditional Brazilian sounds or familiarise yourself with Australian contemporaries. There’s something here for everyone, and the chance to discover new things, too. 

“There really is a very diverse range of sounds and individuals and, of course, cultures, that are coming together,” Tripodi explains. “People will see our lineup, generally, and maybe know half a dozen names.”

“What we want to do is introduce incredible artists from other places to WOMADelaide, Adelaide and Australia. We want to make sure that the festival is really different from any other festival that may be going on over the summer period, or over the whole year.”

According to Tripodi, it’s watching this melting pot of music, people and art come together that makes her job so rewarding. More than just a memorable spectacle, WOMADelaide creates opportunities for overseas artists and broadens the minds of local crowds.

“When it comes down to it and the festival is on, I personally get incredibly excited about seeing the results of everybody’s hard work and seeing the results of these wonderful interactions,” Tripodi gushes.

“We get 18,000-ish people per day across the seven stages and it is insane and so rewarding to see a band get onstage and, within five minutes, they have an audience in the palm of their hand and everyone’s dancing or sitting quietly in absolute reverence.”

“There’s a real open-mindedness and incredible generosity of spirit that is indefinable as something about Botanic Park and WOMADelaide. As soon as people come in, they just relax and they’re open to everything.”

WOMADelaide returns to Adelaide’s Botanic Park from Friday March 6 to Monday March 9. Head to womadelaide.com.au for tickets and the full program.