Like coming home…
As young adults, we spent many happy summers cutting our festival teeth at WOMAD. At the time it was right on our doorstep in Reading and was responsible for our love of the whole festival scene. WOMAD has and always will be the most welcoming and inclusive festival we know. It continues to hold a special place in our hearts ❤
This summer celebrated 40 years of this fabulous family festival. Over the last 4 decades, since the first event in 1982, WOMAD has presented more than 300 events across the world so they really how to put on a great show.
We were a little nervous about returning after so many years away as we’d spent many carefree (and child-free) summers in the 90s and 00s enjoying the WOMAD magic. It doesn’t matter what people say, festivals with kids are a whole different game and this time we’d have a tween and teenager in tow.
Camping and facilities
Set in the lovely green and flat location of Charlton Park in Wiltshire the backdrop to WOMAD is pretty special and also ideal for buggies and those with wheelchairs. We really couldn’t fault any of the facilities and even though 2022 welcomed record numbers of guests after several years of enforced (covid) break, the toilets were plentiful and really well looked after.
Disabled camping is located directly next to the Arboretum which is full of magnificent trees and the main way through from general camping to the larger stages. At times the stages and main area where food traders were got very busy but we could always find a nice shady tree in the arboretum to relax under. Here we enjoyed music at our favourite spot The Ecotricity Stage, or spoken word and poetry at the Hip Yak.
The spacious campsites at Womad extend pretty far with the furthest you could walk being around 10-15 minutes to the main stage. Live-in vehicle fields are beyond the tent camping but it’s an enjoyable walk through the well-planned out campsites. All campsites had helpful hubs and stewards ready to assist guests. We found all the volunteers and crew super helpful and always wearing a smile.
If you have little ones, a buggy or trolly is a must as the festival is spread over some size. It’s really easy to move around provided you can drag them out of the huge World Of Children!
A close second to the brilliant performances we lazed around to on the Ecotricity stage came Molly’s Bar for our family. A highlight catching Too Many T’s there, who even got the teenagers dancing. WOMAD presents artists from across the globe that you’d never get a chance to discover all under one roof at any other event. That’s what we’ve always loved. It was a joy to catch Nitin Sawhney again 20 years after first seeing his mesmerising performance at WOMAD in Reading. Over on the main Open Air Stage, our weekend highlights included a welcome heavy mix of empowering female artists including Les Amozones D’afrique. And a total honour to be blown away by Fatoumata Diawara. Check them out!
Music is spread across several other stages including the d&b Soundscape tent, the Siam tent, and the Charlie Gillett stage.
Food and drink
Womad was busy. After several years of no festivals, there were times we found it a little too busy around the main vendors and food stalls. With a bit of effort, you can plan meals outside of busy times and avoid the regular lunch and long queues. As one of the few large-scale festivals that allow guests to bring their food and drink in from the campsites without unnecessary searches, we found the waits at vendors OK as always packed a few snacks.
As with performance and music, you can find pretty much everything your heart desires to eat at WOMAD. You could even support charity efforts with your meal choice with a pretty good curry. I was surprised to see a shisha lounge at a family festival, but perhaps that’s my lack of cultural knowledge.
World music, art and dance – and everything else
The gallery below shows just a fraction of what you’ll find at WOMAD in addition to the music, art and dance it is famous for. Our older children absolutely loved exploring the shoppers’ heaven array of stalls and we spent hours chatting to friendly traders and artists in the ‘handmade artists’ village’.
Our two grumbles about the festival (and it was hard to find any) were the ridiculously overpriced double-decker sweety bus and the poorly placed fun fair rides right in the middle of the festival. These made a parents life less relaxing as you had the pass them several times a day. Pester power was high! Yes, some families enjoy funfair rides at festivals, but some of the noisy rides were right outside the women’s space and evening fire circle. These could have been calm, thoughtful spaces I would have loved to explore more with my daughters but you couldn’t escape the bright noisy rides.
We enjoyed heaps of workshops over the weekend and even popped into the rather special festival spa shown in the last two pics of the gallery. An absolute little haven in the middle of the festival. Beautifully kitted out with all the treatments, classes and luxuries you could desire.
If the spa was out of your budget you could still enjoy plenty of daily yoga classes in the arboretum which we got up early for each day. Other free classes across the weekend included Brazillian, African and hip hop dance, samba, ukelele, poetry, and mastering playing the spoons!
Our youngest really enjoyed the World Of Physics and the discovery zone. Many of the talks were way beyond our brain capacity but the area was full of inspiring scientists and things to blow your mind. There was even a Cosmodrome Planitarium you could enter to immerse yourself in full av experiences.
Taste The World offered regular cooking demos and kids cookery classes in the morning. These were really popular and may benefit from age recommendations or split groups for little ones or older children wanting to gain some more advanced world cooking skills.
One of the largest most varied kids fields at any festival, it’s easy to see what some parents we chatted to found it hard to escape. We loved the giant puppets and their story from across the globe. There were great aerial workshops, endless craft activities, performances, a kids cafe and games and pop-up shows all day.
Everyone had a fantastic weekend at WOMAD. It really is an ideal festival for families looking for a large-scale safe experience. It’s exceptionally well organised with excellent facilities offering a worldly experience you won’t find anywhere else. The guests are respectful and multigenerational which gives it a real nurturing family vibe.
We will continue to recommend WOMAD as one of the best UK festivals for families and it will always be a happy place in our hearts which I hope I can return to with my grandchildren one day.
See our Womad factsheet for more information on the festival.