In the past couple of days Womad has once again given us all a refreshing reminder of just what a unique festival it is.
The World of Music and Dance, as the acronym stands for, truly comes alive in so many myriad ways that we, and our guests, would never conceive of.
It is that ever-changing diversity that has made this iconic event such an integral part of Taranaki's cultural landscape. And never has the reminder of its virtues been more timely or appropriate; its very existence may be under threat.
At Tuesday night's marathon meeting of the New Plymouth District Council a move was made to delete the $850,000 Events Attraction Fund from the draft Long Term Plan the council is putting out to the public for consultation. After some spirited debate, councillors voted against the move, which would save just over 1 per cent from the rates bill, so at this stage it is unlikely. Councillor Phil Quinney was quick to point out the benefits that come from events that come to the region, which otherwise would almost certainly go elsewhere.
They included the two Fleetwood Mac concerts, the three 2011 Rugby World Cup matches and a host of other events, ranging from sporting to cultural. Womad's future is almost entirely dependent on it getting support from the fund. In recent years both Christchurch and Nelson, to name just a couple, have been putting out feelers, wanting to entice the event to their regions.
Quite rightly, that has been resisted and Womad, at least for the immediate future, remains firmly New Plymouth's.
Another interesting comment during the council debate came from Pauline Lockett. It was one of perception. When she travelled to Auckland for instance on business, she would be asked where she came from. Upon answering New Plymouth, the reaction was inevitably a negative one, she told her colleagues.
These days, that had changed and the reaction was uniformly positive. The perception of New Plymouth had changed, and Womad and the Bowl of Brooklands were often mentioned as an example of a vibrant, fun place to live. A community those on the outside think is doing well.
It also made it easier to recruit young professionals and skilled tradespeople, she said. They have so many choices, we need to be seen as a place that is indeed going ahead.
Without wanting to pre-empt any debate that will surely take place in the next couple of months, councillors must be aware that they meddle with the likes of Womad at their peril.
It truly is an event Like No Other and it is up to all of us, from the thousands who attend, to the retailers who perhaps could do more to capitalise on the unique experience that is Womad.
On behalf of the community we welcome performers and visitors alike to our region.
- Taranaki Daily News
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