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New deal secures WOMADelaide’s future

Festivals

A licence extension has guaranteed WOMADelaide’s future until 2024, with renewed State Government funding also enabling confirmation of two big shows for next year – including a French aerial spectacular featuring “flying" angels.

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South Australia has an exclusive arrangement with WOMAD UK to stage the event in Australia, and has secured a five-year extension on the current licence which was due to expire in 2019.

In addition, WOMADelaide said “renewed and increased” State Government support provided through Events SA would enable to festival to significantly develop and expand its programming.

WOMADelaide director Ian Scobie said this morning he was thrilled with the arrangement, which would facilitate longer-term growth plans.

“It’s not just bands on stage, it’s looking at deepening the programming and providing key events that can also appeal to an audience that haven’t attended before … they are like doorway or opening events to bring in a new audience to the festival,” he told InDaily.

Scobie said the financial details of the arrangement with the State Government were regarded as commercial-in-confidence.

However, he said it enabled WOMADelaide to confirm the presentation of two “large-scale, landmark productions” at the 2018 festival: French aerial show Place des Anges and the Indian music production The Manganiyar Seduction.

Featuring a 32-strong cast and crew from France’s Compagnie Gratte Ciel,  Place des Anges will be presented nightly as darkness falls in Botanic Park, with flying “angels” dancing across the sky and descending into the crowd.

It has previously been shown only in urban environments, and Scobie said that at WOMADelaide the cables on which the angels “fly” will be strung between cranes hidden behind the trees.

“I saw it in France and it’s the sort of show that touches the inner child in everyone … on one level it’s a very simple idea of angels flying, but is also very endearing and heartwarming.”

The Manganiyar Seduction, by the creator of 2017 WOMADelaide show Manganiyar Classroom, is a 60-minute performance featuring 43 musicians playing within a multi-level, purpose-built “jewel box” stage with 36 windows. It will be presented after dark each night of the festival.

The Manganiyar Seduction.

Scobie said as a result of the new agreement, festival organisers were already in talks for another large-scale event for 2019.

Premier Jay Weatherill hailed the contract extension as a “genuine coup for the state”, and said the Government’s continued sponsorship would enable WOMADelaide to secure “exclusive headline artists, major outdoor art installations and visual performance events over the coming years”.

In a statement, WOMAD’s founder, musician Peter Gabriel, paid tribute to WOMADelaide’s “unique style” and loyal audience.

“Over the past 25 years, WOMADelaide has not only evolved into a great Australian event, but also a great WOMAD event,” Gabriel said in a statement.

“WOMAD festivals have always flourished in beautiful surroundings, and the location in Adelaide next to the Botanic Gardens is still one of my favourites.”

WOMADelaide celebrated its 25th anniversary this year, with almost 90,000 people gathering in Botanic Park to hear more than 400 artists.

It is an integral part of Adelaide’s annual Mad March festival season, but Scobie said the extent to which aspects of the event – such as the Planet Talks program – had been copied elsewhere showed the potential for competition and therefore the need for ongoing innovation.

The first line-up of acts for the 2018 event – to be held from March 9-12 – was announced last month and includes ‘Queen of the sitar’ Anoushka Shankar, Mali desert blues group Tinariwen, US saxophonist Kamasi Washington, and Australian acts The Avalanches and Dan Sultan. This week, US group Thievery Corporation was added to the list, with more acts to be revealed in the next two months.

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