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12 March 2019

WOMAD week gets underway

As the monumental WOMAD site set-up enters its second week Michaela Blackman is already running through the pack down in her head.

It’s Taranaki Anniversary Day and she’s onsite from the wee hours of the morning, clad in high-vis, with a walkie talkie constantly murmuring away on her shoulder.

“This week I’m organising the pack out, so everyone is ramping up to the festival and I’m thinking about how we are going to get the trucks in to get everything out again,” she says.

She’s been working on the site management and logistics of WOMAD since early October - organising, planning, redesigning and calculating. It’s her second year as WOMAD’s site manager, but she’s no stranger to the game of events management. She’s been in the thick of it for 15 years after moving on from a long and varied history at places like BBC Radio and TVNZ.

“I’m kind of a gun for hire,” she says. “I‘ve worked all sorts of events in various capacities; sporting and music.

“But here, the biggest challenge for this site is its beauty, because it’s a public park. We have to be really careful how we handle the park, and we can’t break the park.”

Despite the intermittent rain Taranaki has had in the last week the WOMAD site set-up is on time and everything is lined up for a great three days of festival fun.

The flags are starting to fly, the WOMAD letters are in, the lights are going up on the TSB Bowl Stage, and the Todd Energy Brooklands Stage begins its transformation on Tuesday.

WOMAD NZ Event Director and Programme Manager Emere Wano says she is really pleased with how the build up to the festival is going.

And while the site is rising at Brooklands Park, WOMAD artists are starting their journey to Taranaki, she says.

International band Las Cafeteras will arrive in Taranaki on Tuesday to take part in WOMAD’s Community Programme, which is run in partnership with Todd Energy, TSB Community Trust and NPDC.

“The other artists are still in Australia for WOMAdelaide at the moment and on Tuesday they’ll leave Adelaide and fly out to Auckland,” Wano says.

“We will have a party of about 150 artists who will come through from Adelaide. We have one of our team over there at the moment sending us pictures and information, and dealing with any questions we might have.”

Once in New Zealand the artists are greeted by an Artist Liaison team, who take care of them while they are in Aotearoa.

“A lot of people don’t realise we have an Auckland based Artist Liaison team who never come down. Their job is in Auckland - they receive all the artists, get them settled, and get them here.

“Quarantine is another big one for us with the types of artists we are dealing with. A lot of them have unique natural costumes and instruments so we have to make sure those get through customs.”

The artists are then coached down to Taranaki on Wednesday and once here they check into their hotels, unpack their bags and then head to a welcome BBQ with the WOMAD team.

“It’s an informal BBQ for the artists to welcome them to New Plymouth, and it’s a great relaxed vibe,” Wano says.

“The minders meet their artists for the first time, and a lot of our crew who have been talking to the artists for a long time finally get to meet them face-to-face.

“Then on the Thursday is the pōwhiri and all of the delegations get welcomed onto Owae Marae. And then in the afternoon it’s the free NPDC Pop Up Festival at Puke Ariki Landing. So it’s a big week.”

  • WOMAD is an award-winning three-day music and dance festival, held in many countries throughout the globe. WOMAD NZ is on from March 15 to 17 at the stunning TSB Bowl of Brooklands in New Plymouth. For more information visit www.womad.co.nz

CAPTION: Michaela Blackman and Emere Wano are gearing up for WOMAD 2019 at Brooklands Park in New Plymouth. SUPPLIED