The annual Womad Cáceres festival, held in the capital of the western Spanish region of Extremadura near Portugal, has been canceled.
Organizers withdrew from the event because the consortium that helped finance the four-day festival told Womad it wanted “control of artistic criteria”, says Dania Dévora, director of Womad Spain and Portugal. “That is simply not negotiable,” she says. “If we allowed that, it simply wouldn’t be Womad any more. The Womad [artistic] philosophy has international prestige”.
The consortium — comprising Extremadura regional council, Cáceres city council, Cáceres provincial council, and the Caja de Extremadura savings bank — says festival arrangements were “improvable”, but no agreement could be reached. An alternative music festival is being arranged for the dates “with major artists”, says consortium director Isidro Timón. He denies the consortium wanted “artistic control”.
Womad Cáceres has been held every May since 1992, and last year attracted some 120,000 people to the ancient city.
Womad (World of Music, Arts and Dance) was founded by veteran U.K. musician Peter Gabriel in 1982, and has held more than 160 festivals in 27 countries.
The other regular Spanish Womad festival is held in November in Las Palmas, the capital of Gran Canaria island in the Canary Islands. A Womad Madrid was held in 2005, but Dévora says there are no plans to return to the Spanish capital.
Womad Cáceres has already been removed from the Womad Web site, womad.org, which says the next European Womad festival will be at Charlton Park in the U.K. in July, following March festivals in Australia and New Zealand.
“We told the consortium that we would not be where we were not welcome,” says Dévora. “Local newspapers say that 90% of the local population is indignant with the consortium’s demands – apparently they now plan to stage a festival of regional Extremadura music.”
Timón agrees that Cáceres inhabitants are indignant, “but with Womad for not considering our proposals. And the festival will have world music, not just local acts.”
Extremadura is one of the poorest of Spain’s 17 regions, but is famous for having been the birthplace of many of the Spanish “conquistadores” that colonized Latin America in the 16th century.
Womad Spain and Portugal said in a note that the “painful” decision to quit Cáceres was not Womad’s choice, but caused by “the clear desire of the consortium to take possession of the running of the festival. The local institutions have lost the confidence of this festival under Womad’s management, and we have no option but to respect that posture”.
The consortium on Jan. 10 sent Womad a letter referring to “a series of modifications of the format and content” of this year’s festival. Womad said this was “totally unacceptable”.
Timón says one of the changes was to center the event over a weekend, instead of on Thursday and Friday during the Wednesday-Saturday festival. “It is clear Cáceres wants a May festival, it had become part of our early summer. We need it – Cáceres and its region is poor.”