Taranaki students to open WOMAD 2019

A hundred students from across Taranaki will open WOMAD 2019 with a song they create especially for the award-winning festival.

In pre-festival workshops primary and secondary school students will collaborate with two New Zealand songwriters to devise a song to perform on the TSB Bowl of Brooklands stage at the opening of WOMAD 2019.

The Make Every Word Count songwriting workshops are part of WOMAD’s community programme and are run in partnership with TSB Community Trust and Todd Energy.

New Zealand musicians Victoria Girling-Butcher and Charlotte Johansen are teaming up to mentor the youngsters for this once in a lifetime opportunity.

Victoria Girling-Butcher. CREDIT: Smash Photography

Girling-Butcher, who for 10 years fronted the critically-acclaimed band Lucid 3, still remembers the first song she wrote – it was for a school project at Highlands Intermediate when she was 11 years old.

“The song was called Multicolour Love. One of my best friends from that class still remembers the lyrics,” she says.

She knows the students from WOMAD’s songwriting workshops will also remember their original lyrics for decades to come.

“Performing on the TSB Bowl of Brooklands stage will be a memory these young people will have for life, so I hope I can help them feel proud and confident to make that memory a lifetime highlight,” she says.

Johansen, who is based in Taranaki, appears in the Friday night opening with the budding songwriters, and then performs her own set on Saturday.

Charlotte Johansen

“To be part of WOMAD is such an honour for me, it’s a dream come true – and to be part of a songwriting workshop is the icing on the cake,” Johansen says.

“Helping and inspiring people to write songs and express themselves is one of my greatest joys.”

WOMAD NZ Event Director and Programme Manager Emere Wano says the community programme aims to make the international music and dance festival as accessible as possible.

“We’ve created a unique collaboration between our partners TSB Community Trust and Todd Energy for 2019, whereby students from select primary schools and secondary schools come together to explore their inner storytelling through songwriting,” Wano says.

“The strength of these outreach programmes is that through the interaction with artists our youth are exposed to and explore experiences beyond the realms of their day-to-day education and life.”

TSB Community Trust Business Operations Manager Glen West says WOMAD is a testament to what can be achieved in the region and it aligns with one of the trust’s key drivers; to increase access to opportunities for the Taranaki community.

“WOMAD brings a diversity of cultures from around the world that we believe has a positive impact on our community, not to mention the fantastic opportunity to showcase Taranaki,” West says.

“One of our key priorities is investing in tamariki. We have a strong focus where we want to increase the number of Taranaki children, young people and whanau actively participating in their communities. For us it’s about improving child and youth wellbeing.”

Manager Community Partnerships and Public Affairs at Todd Energy Hamish McHaffie says WOMAD’s community programme helps to spread the joy of the festival.

“At Todd we’re really committed to doing our bit to help open up the magic of WOMAD to a much wider audience, including those who may not otherwise get to experience all of the cultural experiences WOMAD has to offer,” he says.

“Over the years we have regularly received feedback from the schools that the WOMAD experience encourages children to interact with others they don’t normally interact with, and helps children come out of their shells and present confidence they don’t normally display.”

WOMAD’s 2019 community programme also includes artist visits to Saint Patrick’s Primary School and Matapu School in South Taranaki in partnership with Todd Energy, and a free two-hour NPDC Pop-Up Concert, which is on Thursday March 14 at Puke Ariki landing.

TAFT chief executive Suzanne Porter says the community programme is made possible by the generous support of partners and it is an intrinsic part of the three-day festival.

“It allows different communities to engage with some WOMAD artists in a more in-depth way and for some communities to be able to access elements of WOMAD for free. We are very lucky to have Todd Energy, TSB Community Trust and NPDC committed to these programmes,” Porter says.

The Community Programme workshops are attended each year by a select group of schools.  Participating in this year’s Make Every Word Count songwriting workshops are Huirangi School, Tikorangi School, Coastal Taranaki School, Stratford High, Waitara High, Opunake High, Patea Area School, Hawera High, Francis Douglas Memorial College, New Plymouth Girls’ High, Sacred Heart Girls’ College, Spotswood College, and New Plymouth Boys’ High.

Main photo caption: WOMAD New Zealand is on from March 15 to 17 at the stunning TSB Bowl of Brooklands in New Plymouth. CREDIT: Dane Scott