WOMAD Charlton Park

WOMAD Charlton Park is the name given to the World of Music Arts and Dance (WOMAD) festival held in Charlton Park in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, England, since 2007. It is the direct successor to WOMAD Reading, which was held in the town of Reading each year from 1990 to 2006,[1] and previous WOMADs elsewhere in England since 1986.[2]

WOMAD festival is held on the last weekend of July, and currently lasts three and a half days, stretching from the Thursday evening to early Monday morning.[3] The line up is predominantly World music, but blues, jazz, hip hop, electronic and rock artists also appear.

WOMAD originsEdit

WOMAD was pioneered by various international artists, notably Peter Gabriel in Shepton Mallet, where the first concerts took place in 1982. Peter Gabriel is still a major driving force behind the organisation and its various branches of activity in the music industry.[4]

WOMAD in England 1982–2006Edit

WOMAD Reading 2003

Reading became the regular site for WOMAD in the UK, 8 years after its inception, and the festival became established there over 15 years. The first Womad Reading was held in 1990, and the last festival was held in 2006.[1] Previous festivals had occurred in Shepton Mallet 1982, Mersea Island 1985, Clevedon 1986, Carlyon Bay 1987, Bracknell 1988, and Morecambe 1989-1997[5][6]

The festival took place every year on the last weekend of July, at the Rivermead Centre and Little John's Farm in Reading. By the end of its run in Reading, the festival had three stages:[1]

  • The Open Air (or Main) Stage
  • The Siam Tent Stage
  • The Village Stage

WOMAD Charlton Park 2007Edit

In light of the mud caused by poor weather prior to the first festival in its new location, and on the Saturday night, many festival goers nicknamed the festival WOMUD.[7]

Since then, it has been relocated on the estate, as in the WOMUD year, the children's field was inaccessible due to it being flooded.

WOMAD Charlton Park 2008Edit

WOMAD Charlton Park 2008

WOMAD 2008 was luckier, a weekend of sunshine in an otherwise poor summer. The 2008 festival was well received and reviewed for its broad line-up and inclusive atmosphere.[8] Mercury Prize-winner Roni Size Reprazent said: "What makes this festival different from every other festival that I've been to is when you walk into the tent. It's filled up with kids and buggies and their mothers and their fathers. Now that is an unbelievable sight."[9]


The format has evolved and expanded since 1986. Stages in 2008 included:[10]

  • Open Air Stage: Sometimes referred to as the Main Stage, it is one of the two stages sharing headline acts, along with the Siam Tent. This stage hardly ever double books with the Siam Tent, as all the biggest artists usually appear on either stage.
  • Siam Tent: Introduced in 1998 as an alternative to the Open Air Stage.
  • Big Red Tent: The third main stage.
  • Little Sicily: A quieter haven for acoustic acts and conversation, with tables and chairs.
  • Dance Tent & Drum Tent: Two alternating venues of workshops featuring mainly African and Latin acts.
  • BBC Radio 3 Stage: Set outside the main arena, featuring many artists who also played the main stages, and broadcasting live on BBC Radio 3.
  • "Taste The World Stage" Where artists who are performing elsewhere at the festival are invited to cook for the audience. While they cook they are interviewed by a host and answer questions from the audience, and may play or sing as well. Unique to WOMAD

WOMAD Charlton Park 2013Edit

The headliners were Gilberto Gil, Rokia Traore, Seun Kuti and Lee "Scratch" Perry with Max Romeo (replaced Toots and the Maytals) Arrested Development were also added to the line-up later on

The following performers were on the BBC Radio 3 Stage, a quieter stage for smaller acts (in order of appearance):

WOMAD Charlton Park 2014Edit

The headliners for 2014 include Youssou N'Dour, Sinead O'Connor, Manu Dibango and Les Ambassadeurs.[11] The initial headlining act, Bobby Womack, died a few weeks before the festival.

WOMAD Charlton Park 2020Edit

WOMAD 2020 was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and a virtual festival weekend being held instead.[12] One band, Will Lawton and the Alchemists, however gained permission to access the site and recorded a short two song set purely to be "The only band to play WOMAD 2020", with the video and images being released via their Facebook and Instagram accounts.[13][14]

WOMAD was cancelled again in 2021 also due to COVID-19, citing a lack of government guidance on restrictions after 19 July, and as with many other British music festivals, the lack of cancellation insurance scheme from the government.[15]


  1. ^ a b c "Womad festival to move from Rivermead, Reading". WOMAD Organisation date undisclosed. Retrieved 4 March 2011.
  2. ^ Simon Miller, 1993, The Last Post: Music After Modernism p. 77-78
  3. ^ "Womad charlton park". Womad organisation 2011. Retrieved 4 March 2011.
  4. ^ "About us". Womad organisation 2011. Retrieved 4 March 2011.
  5. ^ Brooman,2017 p.374-377.
  6. ^ Miller, 1993 p.77-78.
  7. ^ Festival watch: Womad, Charlton Park, Wiltshire | Music, The Observer.
  8. ^ "WOMAD Cahrlton park july 2008". WOMAD Organisation archive 2008. Retrieved 4 March 2011.
  9. ^ Sun shines on WOMAD 28 July 2008, ITN, UK.
  10. ^ "WOMAD Charlton park – (70 artists and 8 stages) 2008". WOMAD organisation date undisclosed. Retrieved 4 March 2011.
  11. ^ "Lineup Overview » WOMAD UK". womad.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2 May 2012.
  12. ^ Snapes, Laura (8 April 2020). "Womad 2020 cancelled due to coronavirus pandemic". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 27 July 2020.
  13. ^ "Will Lawton and the Alchemists". www.facebook.com. Retrieved 27 July 2020.
  14. ^ "We have just got back from playing at the unofficial @womadfestival 2020". www.picuki.com. Retrieved 27 July 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  15. ^ "Organisers blame government as Womad festival cancelled again". the Guardian. 28 June 2021. Retrieved 29 June 2021.

External linksEdit