There I was, sitting on the grass minding my own business, when all of a sudden two middle-aged men started shaking their bums in front of me.
Normally that would ruin my day, but that didn’t happen this time. Sure, it made me feel a bit ill and I had to stand up to finish my samoosa but I figured it was the kind of thing I had to expect when I chose to attend this year’s WOMAD festival.
And to tell you the truth, it could have been a lot worse; at least these geezers didn’t have dreadlocks, unlike many of the other white men at the open air event. There was even one guy whose own hair was thinning so much that you could still see a bald patch through the extensions.
Yeah, I’m being mean but what I’m hoping to establish is that I can also be quite narrow minded and petty sometimes… which is why I decided I should take my own advice and step out of my comfort zone. So as soon as I had sent last week’s column about facing our fears I set off with my girlfriend to camp with 40,000 people in a field in southern England and listen to live music for 12 hours a day for four days.
Facing my fears? Stepping out of my comfort zone? I think the main purpose of camping is to get away from crowds and while I like music I also like the sounds of nature… and silence. I don’t even listen to music while I’m driving, so basically, I was setting myself up for a panic attack.
What happened was I learned that many of my assumptions were wrong and I gained a healthy respect for the cross-section of British society that attended the festival. I also had a really good time.
In the campground we were jammed so closely together that most of the guy ropes from one tent crossed the guy ropes from the tents all around. That made for very little privacy so we heard a lot of snoring… and other things. But those conditions seemed to bring out the best in people and they were amazingly quiet and careful as they high-stepped their way to and from their tents, even late at night after they’d had a few drinks.
There seemed to be plenty of portable loos but there were often long waits for the showers, but no one seemed to mind. As a matter of fact I heard very little complaining from any of the festival-goers during the entire four days, and according to the security guards they never have serious behaviour problems at Womad.
That is not what I expected. I thought people were going to get pissed out of their minds and be tripping over our tents and making loads of noise right up to sunrise.
As for the music; it’s hard to complain about a line up that included Salif Keita, Bassekou Kouyate, Fat Freddy’s Drop and Yousou N’Dour. When it got to be too much, however, I just stopped listening. Instead I paid attention to how the crowd was behaving and I got a lot of pleasure out of seeing other people having a great time.
The experience may have even opened my mind… a little.