Parents know that once you join the mummy and daddy club you notice other members a lot more frequently.
We wear the membership badges of milk stained shoulders and bulging nappy bags with pride and knowing smiles to one another confirm our memberships like a secret handshake. As if to say “Oh, you’ve chosen to tackle this too, huh? Good luck and God speed!” fellow Wo-Dad.
I’ve been rocking out at WOMAD for 11 years now. Long, hot days filled with music, art and beautiful people have been the highlight of every year.
There have been so many wonderful memories it would take me all night to list them here, but I can say in all honesty that WOMAD has changed my life for the better.
My somewhat unhealthy obsession with Kora, The Correspondents and The East Pointers began here and have never left. The same goes with Hungarian fried bread but music doesn’t collect around my waist, so I’m glad there isn’t a Spotify for deep fried dough products.
I’ve always noticed young families milling about the sprawling festival grounds but only this year has it become apparent to me just how many parents strap themselves in for a totally different WOMAD experience with their babies in tow.
It changes the way you experience things, avoiding the surging masses at the front of the stage and choosing to hang back a bit instead. Finding the secret, quiet spots to let your young one out of the confines of a sweaty pram or wrap and let them free roam for a while. Glaring at those young whippersnappers who go barging through the crowds trying to get to the next stage in time *shakes fist angrily*.
For my young family, WOMAD 2020 was quieter than previous years but it was no less joyous. We celebrated the small victories we achieved during the first 13 months of Ira’s life.
Gone is the tiny baby who would scream at the slightest inconvenience or loud noise, replaced with a confident little trooper who boogied to an eclectic array of international music. No longer a world of black and white for his beautiful eyes, WOMAD exploded with colours and shapes that he had never seen before and captured his imagination and heart.
Despite his all consuming love for crackers he was determined to sample every delectable treat that mummy and daddy were eating (How good were those Yorkshire pudding wraps?!) and loved every single bite. Waving his tiny hand at anybody who caught his eye, such a confident, friendly little man.
WOMAD is a place for people watching and for my little family to be there, with so many eyes on our little unit, I couldn’t be prouder of him and his beautiful mummy.
The traditional Sunday WOMAD crowd rocked, loved and laughed in a balmy late summer day. Thankfully we were treated to a slight breeze which kept temperatures to a more comfortable level for all and sundry.
Ira wore his best floral harem shorts and a tie dyed onesie for the occasion and drew plenty of compliments, while daddy felt like a tool in his white t-shirt/blue shorts ensemble.
Has becoming a father made me less cool? Should I have worn my Thai Fisherman pants and tree of life shirt?! Why did nobody tell me I looked like a … Dad? (If I turn up next year in sneakers, jeans and a T-shirt with a picture of a fish on it just take me out back and shoot me)
Looking the part, Ira toddled his way around the flowerbeds, gleefully grabbing handfuls of dirt and leaves. Having only been walking for a week leading up to WOMAD, he was confined to his buggy for much of the weekend so finding open spaces and grass for our intrepid explorer to roam was a priority.
Thank goodness for the La Leche League and their wonderful setup by the OMV Taste The World tent. Shade, sofas, toys and plenty of room for the youngest of attendees to play. If any parents or parents to be are debating whether WOMAD is the type of event to bring your baby or toddler, I can absolutely recommend they do so.
The beauty of the TSB Bowl Of Brooklands is how spacious it is as a venue. Sure, during the rush between stages to catch the next must-see act you definitely feel like there are 15,000 people there with you. But there are plenty of times when you have space to spread out, lay back and have a bit of a nap under a tree or catch up with friends and dig into some delicious paella. If you time your journey to and from stages or shops, you’ll have no trouble navigating through the park, buggy, toddler and all.
Seasoned WOMADers know that the secret to the event is to plan ahead, and that goes double for doing it as a parent. Plan ahead, leave a little bit earlier, give yourself a bit more time to get around and you’ll be fine. You might not be wedged in between hundreds of other sweaty revellers in the mosh pit, but you’ll still be making incredible memories. I think the memories of WOMAD as a daddy are the best I’ve made.
Just as I’ve watched WOMAD grow and develop during our times together, so have I seen my son grow each day. He handled the entire weekend like an absolute champion, never afraid to venture out to meet someone new, always willing to go the extra mile in the name of hunting out the perfect cracker.
He has showed me a new side to WOMAD and to myself. One of the clichés of parenthood is “the fear”. The fear that your little one is going to get hurt or lost. But as WOMAD powered through the weekend, so did my son. Not a tear was shed, not a single bump or bruise or graze. Just smiles, laughs, love, colour and happy memories.
That’s WOMAD isn’t it, though?
For more than 10 years, Martin Quicke has loved everything about WOMAD – the music, the food, the beer and especially his glitter beards.
This year he experienced a new side of his favourite festival, as a New Dad @ WOMAD.
Words by Martin Quicke with photos by Hannah Dodd