Last updated March 6, 2017 at 3:22 pm
Welcome to Australia’s Science Channel’s coverage of the World of Music Art and Dance (WOMAD), where we look for the science behind the festival.
There’s something fresh and crisp about walking through a big festival like WOMADelaide in the cool of the morning just before the crowds are let in and the day’s festivities begin. There’s a latent excitement, an expectation of fun and frantic activity in this lull before the dancing storm.
As I walk through the Botanic Park the screeches of flying foxes forces my gaze up into their roost trees as they squabble and settle down to a day’s sleep unaware of the cacophony that’s about to engulf them.
Then I pass the life-sized inflatable Stonehenge jumping castle, mostly deflated and resting flaccidly in the morning sun, the dozens of air pumps whirring into life to fill this behemoth ready for another continuous hoard of families out for some sacrilegious, paganistic fun. I was there last night, bouncing away with my son and partner, the three of us jumping around like lunatics to the sounds of the Violent Femmes on a nearby stage. Now, in the energetic hangover of another day, I pause to remember the memories created by such extraordinary events.
WOMADelaide bills itself as a music and dance festival, and there’s certainly no end of either over the long weekend in early March. But you could well ask “Where is the science” to attract the likes of RiAus and Australia’s Science Channel? It’s a fair question and the truth is that science is riddled through the whole festival. Our job is to reveal and record that science.
As Ian Scobie, WOMADelaide Director says “The essential ethos is built around the fact that we’ve got one planet, we get one life and all humanity is equal within that.” So there’s a lot of environmental science, not only on display, but also entwined in the development and planning of the whole festival. Great efforts are made toward creating the smallest possible environmental footprint for an event with tens of thousands of visitors.
There’s a dedicated stage, Planet Talks presented by the University of South Australia where all kinds of interesting discussions take place. This year I lead a discussion on ‘Why Should We Trust Scientists?’ and Robyn Williams from Radio National’s Science Show talked through ‘Off the grid game changers’ about how to be innovative in your use and acquisition of energy. David Suzuki gave a talk there and others provided a rich diversity of sciency bits and pieces to feed the mind between bands and dancing.
There are displays for a number of aspects of eco-living as well as innovative and creative products. And then of course, there is the most incredible diversity of music from all over the world and workshops for a huge variety of different musical and dance traditions.
But for me, the highlight was just soaking up the ambience. It’s exhilarating to be among so many people who have come from so many different backgrounds and they have all come together in this place just to have fun. Over the days the festival morphs into an organism, the festival goers become the corpuscles that pump through its vessels, delivering its life. There’s a tangible unity, a sense of common good in an environment where you can have a lot of fun and learn a little bit more about how to take care of our only home in the cosmos.
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