In Arts + Entertainment

How A World Arts Festival Generated $15 Million For Adelaide’s Economy

The music festival that opens its gates to the world.

At WOMADelaide, under the mystical, overhanging trees in Botanic Park, with dream catchers hanging from their lush green branches, shoes are strictly optional. WOMAD, as Radeladians call it, is the iconic, open-air festival that’s set in Adelaide’s enticing parklands every March. It’s an award-winning coming-together of the very best in World Music, Arts and Dance.

Part of the Adelaide Festival program, WOMAD has become an exotic highlight of Adelaide’s summer festival circuit since 1992. But it’s more than your typical festival. Rather, it’s a celebration – that happens to be great for the economy, too.

How WOMAD redefined what a music festival is

WOMAD Photo: Grant Hancock/Facebook

In 2016, WOMAD broke record attendance numbers, with 95,000 visiting the four-day festival. This generated more than 15 million dollars for the South Australian economy with nearly half (45%) of people travelled from interstate or overseas.

It’s great news for the state, but WOMAD has always never been an event that’s driven by commercial values. Organisers are mindful of the range of issues affecting people, cultures and the planet.

One of the keys to WOMAD’s success has been its sheer appeal to all ages. People go to WOMAD for different reasons.

You see kids will dancing to tribal drums, as their parents sit sprawled out on their Persian rug. Or families  enjoying a dish of traditional Turkish food, before wandering around the Global Village of markets and charity stalls. Twenty-somethings enjoying cocktails on the grass before going to Electrolounge, the late night electronic music club.

But while WOMAD awakens guests to different forms of art around the world, it celebrates its home turf with festival delights such as WoMade. The space gives hand-picked local makers exposure, the chance to connect with each other, and sell their unique jewellery, homewares, and artisan products.

Another type of art that’s celebrated is the gift of touch. The Healing Village is a magical place to be, hiding among the trees. Relax, forget about life’s stress (without the booze), and try massage, naturopathy, chiropractic support, energetic healing, readings and yoga.

There’s plenty of other things to take you outside your own ‘world’, such as the Workshops and Artists in Conversation (AIC) series – a hands-on way to gain insights into the world of artists. When the kids get tired from dancing, they’ll keep busy with immersive activities, science discoveries, dress-ups, face painting, story time and (controlled) tree climbing.

As an added bonus, WOMAD – in partnership with Greening Australia – offsets the ecological footprint of their festival, with $2 of every ticket invested in native biodiverse tree plantings. Sustainable waste management is also a key part of the organisation, with the festival’s commitment of a zero-waste-to-landfill policy.

Part of Adelaide’s festival city strategy

WOMAD Photo: Grant Hancock/Facebook

Adelaide has been called a lot of names: conservative, creative, boring, energetic. But there’s one title that you can’t deny. Arty. And the numbers don’t lie. The latest Live Performance Australia statistics reveal that South Australia once again leads the nation in festival ticket sales.

In 2016, South Australia’s festivals recorded a 24% increase in revenue. The Adelaide Festival alone generated a total box office income of $2.8 million across only 27 ticketed events. Part of what makes Adelaide’s festivals like WOMAD thrive is the community spirit and pride, along with eclectic programming and unique atmospheres, as well as the undying loyalty of Radealadains. They just get out and embrace all festivals. The city’s small size makes this easy to do.

WOMAD has become a centrepiece of Adelaide’s arts identity – and continues to build on it year after year, but in an unassuming, uniquely Adelaide kind of way. Not trying to mimic America’s Burning Man or Edinburgh’s Fringe, but to create something truly unique.

Events such as WOMAD offer a chance to feel the heartbeat of the city, in an intimate way, while experiencing cultures from around the world.

(Lead image and all images: Womad/Facebook

Published 05 March, 2018