Philippa Walker has grown up alongside the award-winning WOMAD festival.
The Taranaki woman was 12 years old when WOMAD first hit the stage at the TSB Bowl of Brooklands in 2003, and she’s been in the crowd from day one.
As the festival has grown, so too has she, and her joy has shifted from discovering wonders in the Kidzone, to being immersed in the amazing music, dance, and international cuisine.
Now, the 28-year-old is one of thousands of WOMADers who first went to the festival as a free child, and now buy their own tickets year after year.
“I remember heading along with my friend and her parents, so excited to go to our first festival,” Walker says.
“We didn’t really know what we were in for, but they suggested we’d enjoy it and being 12-year-olds we happily agreed to go along. We had the time of our lives dancing away to the music, roaming around buying friendship bracelets and other cool knick-knacks from the shops, and trying heaps of new foods for the first time. I knew then I’d be back.”
And back she has been – in fact she’s only missed one festival since 2003, and that was because of a wedding.
“It’s the highlight of my year. There’s no festival quite like WOMAD – it caters for everyone with the variety of things on offer, and that means there’s a really neat dynamic at the festival because people of all ages and walks of life come together.
“I love the unknowns, you never know where in the world your favourite act of the weekend is going to come from. You discover so many different genres and have so many unforgettable experiences.”
Over the years she’s continued to be an advocate for the WOMAD experience and has shared that love with new people who have come into her life.
“Back in 2012 I brought my now husband to New Plymouth for three days at WOMAD. Normally he finds festivals a bit full on and chooses to sit them out, but I twisted his arm this time round, and he was a WOMAD convert right away because it has such a happy and relaxed vibe. He has come with me every year since.”
TAFT Chief Executive Suzanne Porter says she has watched many children come along as free youngsters with their parents, and return as full paying adults years later – some with their own children.
“They have grown up with WOMAD, and WOMAD has grown with them,” Porter says.
“They were here at the start and now it’s an intrinsic part of who they are. They’ve evolved with the festival, they’ve bought friends with them, they’ve even returned with their own children to share that very same experience.
“We cannot underestimate the true value of that very early decision to allow children in for free with a paying adult.”
For Walker, her involvement with the three-day festival now stretches into her work life as she is the Media and Communications Manager at TSB.
“TSB is a main partner of WOMAD and this year we’re sponsoring the TSB Wai Water refill stations and the reusable metal drink bottles,” Walker says.
“I am a bit of a concert junkie, so I spend as much of my spare time as possible going to gigs and festivals and it always makes me really sad to see the rubbish scattered across the site at the end of the event. I’ve always loved that WOMAD is such a clean and green festival, so I feel really proud that TSB is contributing to that.”
This year Walker has a must see list that is packed with artists she can’t wait to check out.
“I’m a huge fan of supporting Kiwi music so I can’t wait to see Teeks and Finn Andrews, also my old favourite Nadia Reid who puts on an amazing live set. I can’t wait to dance the night away at the Correspondents and Angelique Kidjo doing Talking Heads sounds so great. There are too many to choose from!”
- WOMAD is an award-winning three-day music and dance festival, held in many countries throughout the globe. WOMAD NZ is on from March 15 to 17 at the stunning TSB Bowl of Brooklands in New Plymouth. For more information visit www.womad.co.nz
- Every adult ticket holder can bring in a child (12 and under) to WOMAD for free. The one ‘Free’ child does not require their own ticket. Additional children are $35 per child and will need a ticket.
CAPTION: Philippa Walker has been with WOMAD New Zealand every (dance) step of the way.