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Thomas Brooman - My Festival Romance

Thomas Brooman - My Festival Romance

Thomas Brooman - My Festival Romance

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The music business is good for the telling of this tale.

Well done to Thomas Brooman on getting his thoughts on the WOMAD festival experience down in writing. Brooman was the leading figure behind the WOMAD festivals’ international success, running from 1982 to date. At one point WOMAD - an international festival celebrating the world's many forms of music, arts and dance - ran to ten festivals per annum. That’s no mean achievement.

His perspectives on the rigours, realities and roller-coaster rides of festival organisation make for a real good read. It offers rare insights and intriguing perspectives from the vantage point of the man with whom ‘the buck stops’.

My Festival RomanceStarting out on the festival trail as a 15 year old in 1969, the author can take some credit for leaving an indelible mark on the world of music festivals. One of the more interesting features of the tale is the phenomenal commitment to the WOMAD enterprise of Genesis’ front man Peter Gabriel. Whilst many stars of the music world are pre-occupied with their own status, Gabriel displayed an admirable selflessness and commitment to the promotion of what’s now labelled ‘world music’.

The book is enhanced via various inputs, including anecdotes on liquidation and associated financial disasters, chastening drug tales, bad behaviour from sources as diverse as New Age travellers and Siouxsie and her Banshees, and a sample of reflections on the festival experience from Brooman’s mates.

The musical ‘glitterati’ also get a look in, as Brooman regales us with tales of his interactions with luminaries such as Nina Simeone, Bob Geldof, Van Morrison, Shane McGowan, Johnny Cash, Midge Ure, Thomas Mapfumo, Pete Townshend, Robert Plant, Al Green, Ginger Baker and Lenny Kravitz. He even bumps into comedian Billy Connolly in the course of his cross-continent excursions! 

Notably, the author also offers some philosophical perspectives with a practical edge. For example, these include the observation that fame is often more a liability than an asset in life. He also warns that the music business – including band and festival work - is no gravy train. He had worked at it for over a decade before he ‘was ever paid a penny’.

Like many pursuits, festivals and the music business are ultimately all about people and relationships. Hence, Brooman’s experience and advice are noteworthy, concluding that you should 'trust in others’, but you should ‘cut the deck and cut it again whenever you sit down to play’. Sad but wise words from one who should know!

Oh! It should also be mentioned he’s open enough to tell the reader that he was eventually sacked by WOMAD – albeit leaving us guessing as to why! Likewise, he’s also big enough to tell us that his first marriage failed – albeit leaving us to guess as to the impact of the music-festival business thereon. 

Concluding on an upbeat note, the author tells us about the day he met the Queen of England to receive his ‘Commander of the British Empire’ award at Buckingham Palace for his services to music. Now I do recollect that reggae legend Peter Tosh had something to say about that carry on! Anyway, ‘whatever floats your boat’ – and the music business is better for the telling of this tale. Thanks Thomas. Go read.

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