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WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance) is an international arts festival. The central aim of WOMAD is to celebrate the world's many forms of music, arts and dance.
WOMAD was founded in 1980 by English rock musician Peter Gabriel, with Thomas Brooman, Bob Hooton, Mark Kidel, Stephen Pritchard, Martin Elbourne and Jonathan Arthur. Original designers Steve Byrne and Valerie Hawthorn. The first WOMAD festival was in Shepton Mallet, UK in 1982. The audience saw Peter Gabriel, Don Cherry, The Beat, Drummers of Burundi, Echo & The Bunnymen, Imrat Khan, Prince Nico Mbarga, Simple Minds, Suns of Arqa, The Chieftains and Ekome amongst others performing.
Gabriel and his company, which had funded WOMAD, faced financial ruin from high costs of the festival in its very first year, worsened by the lack of suitable transport to the venue (Shepton Mallet Showground) and a lack of publicity. At the suggestion of Tony Smith, the manager of Gabriel and Genesis, he and the remaining members of Genesis agreed to play together for a single show under the name 'Six of the Best' at Milton Keynes. The show rescued the company and made it possible for further WOMAD events to take place.
Since 1982, WOMAD Festivals have travelled all over the world, bringing artists to numerous locations and entertaining over one million people. The main UK event was held at Rivermead in Reading, Berkshire, from 1990 until 2006.
In 2017 WOMAD UK marked its 35th anniversary. Headliners Emir Kusturica & The No Smoking Orchestra, Toots and The Maytals, and Roy Ayers, Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 along with 30 other artists performed for a record-setting audience for the festival of 35,000 people.
From the outset, the WOMAD name has reflected the festival's idea; to be embracing but non-definitive, inspiring and outward looking; and more than anything, enthusiastic about a world that has no boundaries in its ability to communicate through music and movement.
WOMAD has always presented music that they felt to be of excellence, passion and individuality, regardless of musical genre or geographical origin. WOMAD encourages collaboration amongst the artists they invite to perform. The first WOMAD Festival in 1982 had Echo and the Bunnymen join forces with the Drummers of Burundi, and WOMAD Abu Dhabi 2010, saw a collaboration between Tinariwen, TV on the Radio members Kyp Malone and Tunde Adebimpe, Grammy-winning producer Ian Brennan (music producer, author), and the French Algerian Mehdi from Speed Caravan.
WOMAD in the UK takes place in the grounds of Charlton Park, a stately home in Wiltshire. The arena holds at least 5 main stages with a further one in the Arboretum. An old fashioned steam fair, global market, children's area, wellbeing section is also found on the WOMAD UK festival site. WOMAD Charlton Park falls on the last complete weekend in July.
WOMAD came to Bristol Zoo in 2011, with a subsequent event in 2012. A boycott of the 2012 event was called for by the Captive Animals Protection Society because of concerns that noise from the festival could affect the animals' welfare.