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WOMADelaide ‘reimagined’ as a sunset concert series

Festivals

WOMADelaide won’t be held in Botanic Park in 2021, with COVID-19 constraints forcing organisers to “reimagine” the music festival as a series of sunset concerts in a new Adelaide Park Lands venue.

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The four seated concerts – featuring an all-Australian line-up to be announced in coming weeks – will be presented from March 5 to 8 on the oval in King Rodney Park / Ityamai-itpina, which is bordered by Wakefield Road, East Terrace, Bartels Road and Dequetteville Terrace.

There will be one stage and limited-capacity reserved seating.

“While the sunset concerts will be a departure from the format that our audiences have come to know and love, we are working hard towards creating a joyful celebration of WOMADelaide’s 29-year history and place in Adelaide’s renowned summer festival season,” director Ian Scobie says of this morning’s announcement.

“After regular consultation with SA Health over many months, it has become clear, in light of the global pandemic, that it would not be possible to present the full festival across seven stages in Botanic Park.”

The world music festival usually attracts thousands of people to Botanic Park over the March long weekend, with a record 97,000 attending this year’s festival to hear around 50 acts from all over the world.

Last month, after the announcement that the Adelaide 500 was being scrapped, Premier Steven Marshall said all events involving large crowds would have modified programs next year, and that “tens of thousands of people wandering around the South Australian Park Lands is not going to be a reality”.

Ian Scobie: ‘Our priority is the safety of our audiences and artists.’

Scobie told InDaily yesterday that WOMADelaide organisers had looked at redesigning the Botanic Park site to meet COVID-safe guidelines but ultimately realised the level of restrictions required would have resulted in a “third-rate” festival experience.

The capacity for the sunset concerts in King Rodney Park will be 6000 reserved seats, with an empty seat between concert-goers.

One major advantage of the new site, he adds, is that all audience members will have an unobstructed view of the stage. There will also be food trucks and bars offering refreshments under the trees around the edges of the park.

“It’s got a lovely sense of enclosure about it with the trees all around,” Scobie says of the park. “I think it will be quite a magical experience for audiences…

“I think people will find it quite comfortable and I expect there will be some members of our loyal audience who will be quite pleased to sit down.”

He says two or three acts will perform each evening of the series.

Although international border closures and travel restrictions mean the line-up will comprise all Australian artists, audiences are still promised a diverse line-up with a multi-cultural flavour.

2021 will mark the 25th WOMADelaide festival (it began in 1992, but was originally a biennial event) and it will be the first not held in Botanic Park, although satellite events in other locations have been presented a number of times over its history.

“This has been a very difficult period for everybody and we felt it was important that the festival be present in some practical way to be sure it continued but also to provide that cultural activity and exchange for people,” Scobie says.

“Audiences are really keen to be able to get out and engage with work… for those of us presenting festivals, it’s our obligation to find ways to safely put on our events and festivals, even if it’s in a modified way.”

A Google Maps screenshot shows the location of King Rodney Park.

WOMADelaide is presented as part of the Adelaide Festival, which will launch its 2021 program tomorrow. The Festival has already announced its centrepiece opera ­­– UK composer Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream ­– and is planning to host a pop-up, open-air festival club by the River Torrens throughout the February 26 to March 14 event.   

More than 800 events were registered for the 2021 Adelaide Fringe by its print registration deadline earlier this month, with hubs and venues adapting to meet COVID-safe guidelines.  The Fringe program will be launched later this month.

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