Trust says Womad 'best ever'

2012 edition of Womad hailed as best ever

HANNAH FLEMING
Last updated 05:00 21/05/2012
tdn womad stand
Cameron Burnell
Taft boss Suzanne Porter is pleased that New Plymouth's Womad festival has been rated one of the best in the world.

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The 2012 edition of Womad has been hailed the best ever by the Taranaki Arts Festival Trust.

And Taranaki's hosting of the event has also drawn high praise from Womad International representative, Chris Smith.

The British-based festival guru rated it one of the two best Womad Festivals in the world, the other being central Spain's Caceres version.

After breaking even, hosting 43,927 festival-goers – 60 per cent from out of town – and contributing $10.9m to the economy, Taft chief executive Suzanne Porter said it had been the best Taranaki Womad she had been involved with.

"It's hard yakka in festival land at the moment, so it's great for the festival but Womad has also been absolutely critical for shaping the perception of the city," she said.

With its contract set for renewal next year, Taft has a further three year right of renewal, and Ms Porter said it was unlikely the festival would leave the region anytime soon.

"I think the general feeling here is that there is a massive sense of ownership of the festival. I don't think the locals would have a bar of it going anywhere else," she said.

"It is part of our calender of events now and it really does put the spotlight on New Plymouth."

Mr Smith was in Taranaki this week to attend the annual Womad wrap-up, and said although Taranaki and Caceres had a different feel, they both stood out from the rest.

The location and vibe of the Taranaki festival was the reason it was so special, he said.

"You always know when you're at a Womad festival, but the difference here is that the locals really get behind and embrace it. There's a real passion for it which is just excellent."Although the Caceres festival is held in the middle of its town square, and Taranaki's in a park, Mr Smith said they both had a common thread.

"Festivals are always better when they are situated outside the major cities.

"We used to do it in Madrid and people would look out their window and say: `Should I go, should I not'. With Caceres it's a three-hour drive, so people commit themselves to going long before the event."

It was the same with the New Plymouth festival, he said.

The seven other Womad festivals around the world could learn from the relationship Taranaki Arts Festival Trust had developed throughout the region, Mr Smith said.

"Suzanne and the team have created an amazing partnership between the council, the public sector and the community.

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"It's really extraordinary that it can happen here. I've often thought `how on earth can this town have this festival', and once you get here, you realise how."

Ms Porter said they would focus on volunteer well-being next year, as well as introducing possible features such as "glamping" – a more sophisticated version of camping.

- Taranaki Daily News

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