5 things about WOMADelaide for 2025

Even the most well-established festivals welcome newcomers every year. For those considering WOMADelaide next year, here are some things you may like to know.
Four people stand in a forest wearing long black coats. The three women also wear tall black hats, the man a tall white one.

WOMADelaide has been running in the Festival State for over 30 years, but for some inexplicable reason this writer had never attended until this year. Nor had I gone to the original UK-based WOMAD, despite living there for the first 20 years or so of its existence. And while it’s clear that just like such stalwarts of the music festival calendar as Byron Bay Bluesfest (28 March to 1 April 2024), Port Fairy Folk Festival (which ran concurrently with WOMADelaide in 2024) and Woodford Folk Festival there are diehard devotees who turn up every year, it’s equally apparent that there remain countless interested parties who have also never actually taken the leap and bought a ticket.

Read: WOMADelaide 2024 – more than music

If this is you and you’ve been held back for whatever reason, but are really, genuinely considering getting your act together and going along next year, here are a few things that it may be useful for you to know – or even act as that final friendly persuasion to assist with your decision-making.

And here’s a caveat – it’s going to be hard to not sound like this is a piece of sponsored content, but honestly it is absolutely from the heart. Yes, for full transparency this writer did receive a media ticket to the event, but that was the icing on the cake. We’d already organised the trip long before that eventuated.

Caring and sharing

WOMADelaide is hands-down the most relaxed and cheerful large-scale event you can imagine. Apparently over 98,000 people attended over the 8-11 March long weekend this year and I didn’t witness one raised voice, one single drunk and disorderly person or even a lone queue jumper. Yes, it was pushing 40 degrees Celsius on most of the days, but high temperatures can lead to hot tempers too. Not at WOMADelaide.

The chilled vibe was perhaps best encapsulated for this writer during a brief (one-sided) exchange between a couple of women sitting in front of us who were preparing to go for a wander/visit another stage. ‘Shall we take our stuff with us?’ ‘Oh, wait, what am I talking about? It’s WOMADelaide…’ and off they went empty-handed and leaving their belongings behind.

Awesome organisation

Talk about smooth and seamless, WOMADelaide had it down pat. As a newbie I can’t tell you if the app is always this easy to navigate and so utterly brilliant, but my goodness. With around 100 musical acts and theatrical performances mostly playing at multiple times and in multiple locations it would have been so incredibly easy to get, not only overwhelmed, but utterly bamboozled as to where you had to be and when.

The app didn’t just collate all the acts that you ticked and then give you alerts as to when they were on, but it also let you know when there were clashes or, most importantly, if your favoured acts may have been only giving a single performance. It genuinely was one of the most user friendly apps I’ve ever come across. My friends and I discussed in depth how in awe of it we were. Probably a little bit too much to be honest…

Picking up tickets/wristbands? Easy. Windows for those with lost or damaged wristbands? Also easy. We had a friend who lost hers at the pool one morning and hadn’t taken a photo of the QR code (as recommended). But she hunted out her original email and, bang, done.

On a red and orange spotlit stage a man with a bald head and patterned shirt cradles a mic and sings passionately.
Son of world music royalty and Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, Seun Kuti. Image: Supplied.

Tidy towns

The cyber experience was just the tip of it, the actual physical experience was something else. Bins everywhere – carefully split into organic waste, landfill and recycling. Then there were the blue bins where all cups were deposited, cleaned and reused. Over three days I didn’t see a single overflowing bin (and I looked). There was a veritable army of volunteers and helpers emptying, cleaning and keeping the place pristine. And here’s the real kicker… the toilets. I didn’t go often but when I did there was always paper and soap. Another small battalion in charge over there. I had to commend them on their work. Really, I’m that person I’m afraid. But they seemed very happy to have their excellent work recognised and lauded.

Family friendly

This one is almost a no-brainer, but children were absolutely part of the tapestry at WOMADelaide. Under three they were free, but each adult ticket holder could get two complimentary tickets for children aged between three and 12. Extra ones were just $10 a day or $25 for the festival. There were babes in arms all over the place and so many of them wearing ear protectors.

Location, location, location

With Adelaide’s Botanic Gardens as the venue, it meant there was room for everything, and places to play. Near the food stalls there were tables and chairs in abundance – so not once did we find ourselves hanging around waiting for a table to be vacated. In front of the stages it was low deck/beach chairs as far as the eye could see (or simply rugs for those younger or with fewer back issues). And with soaring temperatures the amount of shade available was just glorious. Above and beyond that though were the overhead sprinklers located strategically for overheating festival-goers to stand beneath and get sprayed.

Thank you for the music

Oh yes, nearly forgot that bit. The WOMADelaide experience was such a fabulous one all round, it was almost as if the music was merely the cherry on the top. And to be honest there were few acts that really thrilled this writer, but that probably had much to do with unfamiliarity and … did I mention the near 40-degree conditions? But the roll-out and the logistics were an absolute swan gliding on a river affair.

Clearly there were wildly paddling feet beneath the surface, but from the audience’s perspective, it was as smooth as silk. Simple schedules were displayed on screens, every act we saw came on promptly, and the scheduling was such that set-ups on one stage coincided with performances on another in the vicinity, so rarely did you suffer competing sets blasting you from front, back and beyond.

While much time was spent lying back and letting the various musical genres wash over us, there were standout sets from local star Jen Cloher, who later shared that her regular sauna habits had definitely prepared her physically for the experience, the tub-thumping and big brass sounding Budos Band, the octogenarian Gilberto Gil who made his reportedly farewell appearance an all round family affair, and the brilliant DakhaBrakha. Our ArtsHub reviewer gave their Hamer Hall gig five stars, and quite frankly it’d be hard to argue with that.

Still not convinced? Well, how about this for getting home/back to your accommodation at the end of the day? There are huge bicycle racks at the gates, Adelaide also has electric scooters for hire and the queue for taxis was just as orderly and swiftly moving as those for the vegetarian food stalls… Our only final thought was ‘why did we wait so long to go?’

WOMADelaide 2024 took place in Adelaide Botanic Gardens from 8 to 11 March 2024. To subscribe to the newsletter and for information for 2025.

Madeleine Swain is ArtsHub’s managing editor. Originally from England where she trained as an actor, she has over 25 years’ experience as a writer, editor and film reviewer in print, television, radio and online. She is also currently Vice Chair of JOY Media.