THE YEAR OF THE WOMAD

Have you heard of the WOMAD (that’s the World Of Music, Arts and Dance) festival? No? Well let us be your guide…

Off with their cash! Rainy weekend? Missing mud baths? It’s time for the next festival in our relentless search for new festival tech in the UK! After June’s Glasto Disasters, and its lack of decent event technology, we hit WOMAD in Charlton Park, hidden in deep and exotic Wiltshire. The early signs were not promising, as the festival wristbands were sadly analogue, with no Disney-style MagicBands in sight, which let you pay for stuff with a wave of your wrist. Why oh why do festival organisers keep leaving money on the table? If I need to worry about running out of bank notes my spending power is significantly diminished! Off with the cash and analogue wristbands, the curse of all field events!

Fear-of-going-off-grid (FOGOG) Our next worry was the power supply, as the otherwise decent WOMAD app had a site map, which was not interactive, in a font only legible if you had a microscope among your camping kit. We couldn’t see any charging points! My monster battery was left at home, so I felt the wave of ‘fear-of-going-off-grid’ (or FOGOG, as we like to call it) coming over me. However Alexander Andover, our generous host at Charlton Park and an e-comm pioneer, knows how to accommodate. Having earned his digital stripes with the first Topshop e-commerce site back in 2000, Alexander made sure that the 3 Bs of a good hi-tech event – Battery, Bandwidth and Beer – were in plentiful supply.

In fact, the charging stations were very comfy, with beanbags, coffee and newspapers (the paper version – remember those? Great to use when waiting for your phone to be charged). A lesson for retailers – if you make in-store charging stations fun and comfortable, then customers will gather around them like we gathered around WOMAD’s charging posts – socialising, sharing tips on what to see and do, and just chilling together. The charging stations were like fire pits of a bygone era, their flickering lights making us feel warm and happy that we weren’t being left unplugged from the Matrix for too long.

#FreeTheNipple Festivals are like e-commerce websites (they lack their own permanent locations), so promoting them is best via social media and email. For months before the festival, WOMAD ran a strong YouTube campaign featuring Peter Gabriel (who co-founded the event) inspiring the troops to face the mud and enjoy it. The best use of social media came from festival stalls, with our favourite coming from a breast cancer charity, who were reminding women to check their breasts. Their frame, with the title “We’re joined at the nip”, was a great pretext for a selfie but with an educational tweak. Ace.

“He’s totally ecocentric” Ecotricity was this summer’s sponsor, a green energy company that sources power from windmills and solar panels. A cute village of mini beach huts was erected in the middle of the camping site, all powered by the sun. You wouldn’t want to paint your nails with the quality of light available inside, but it was fine for general purpose living, even on the rainy Sunday with not a ray of sun for most of the day! For the retail brands that care about sustainability there are increasing options to use green energy to power their stores and offices. Although there is still a small premium for using green suppliers, brands would benefit from being transparent about the provenance (a big word this year) of their power.

You had me at 152MB Unlike other festivals, Charlton Park’s WOMAD hits you in the face with superfast broadband like a hot tornado from Arkansas. Whoosh! As much bandwidth as you can eat, as we were sharing the connection with their business park. Despite being hidden in deepest darkest Wiltshire, the Internet connection was faster than in our Soho offices (sorry WeWork, but you know it’s true). I was able to use Twitter streaming apps like Periscope and YepLive (which gives the option of having a personal profile and landscape video option). We even spotted groups of teens using Vyclone – an app that lets friends upload individual videos to make one shared story edit. Great fun but needs tons of bandwidth – we tried it during Wimbledon and failed due to restricted bandwidth, but out in the middle of the green fields it worked seamlessly. WOMAD, you had me at 152MB.