From the outset, the WOMAD name has reflected the festival’s idea; to be embracing but non-definitive, inspiring and outward looking; and more than anything, enthusiastic about a world that has no boundaries in its ability to communicate through music and movement.

WOMAD was founded in 1980 by English rock musician Peter Gabriel, with Thomas Brooman, Bob Hooton, Mark Kidel, Stephen Pritchard, Martin Elbourne and Jonathan Arthur.Original designers Steve Byrne and Valerie Hawthorn. The first WOMAD festival was in Shepton Mallet, UK in 1982. The audience saw Peter Gabriel, Don Cherry, The Beat, Drummers of Burundi, Echo & The Bunnymen, Imrat Khan, Prince Nico Mbarga, Simple Minds, Suns of Arqa, The Chieftains and Ekome amongst others performing.

Gabriel and his company, which had funded WOMAD, faced financial ruin from high costs of the festival in its very first year, worsened by the lack of suitable transport to the venue (Shepton Mallet Showground) and a lack of publicity. At the suggestion of Tony Smith, the manager of Gabriel and Genesis, he and the remaining members of Genesis agreed to play together for a single show under the name ‘Six of the Best’ at Milton Keynes. The show rescued the company and made it possible for further WOMAD events to take place.

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