'WORLD MUSIC' FESTIVAL FOR BALLYMONEY?
THE organisers of a proposed 'world music' festival which aims to bring several thousand fans to the Leslie Hill estate on the outskirts of Ballymoney say when the event gets a definite go-ahead they will be happy to meet with local people to outline their plans.
The plan is to open up the grounds of the estate for a WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance) festival, similar to several events which have ran successfully in a number of countries around the world.
The event is billed as a family-type festival with people of all ages invited to come along and stay in tent villages in the grounds of Leslie Hill where as well as the music they can experience a smorgasbord of international cuisine, arts and crafts.
A main stage will be erected near the main house at Leslie Hill aiming to capture the natural amphitheatre of the open-air setting.
The organisers have yet to name any big 'headline' act for the event but at other festivals artists like Robert Plant has made an appearance.
It is understood the spacious setting of Leslie Hill and its distance from large areas of housing will minimise the impact any noise will have during the festival but the organisers are keen to stress that they will use modern technology to limit the impact of noise.
It is envisaged the event will be held over three days this summer on either a Thursday/Friday/Saturday format or Friday/Saturday/Sunday and if there is a Sunday element, the organisers say there will be no stage music until the afternoon.
The organisers say that is deliberate so as to rule out any possible noise impact on people attending traditional Sunday morning church services.
And they say parking for people coming to the festival will be inside Leslie Hill so as to limit the impact on roads around the site like Balnamore Road and Macfin Road.
The organisers also say because it is a family event they do not get the same sort of problems sometimes encountered with dance and rock concerts.
WOMAD Festival Director Chris Smith told the Times on Monday morning that out of 40,000 people who attended one of their festivals in England last year there were only four reports of crime and one of those was for "the theft of a packet of Hobnobs".
Also speaking to the Times was Robert Gibson, a co-director of Leslie Hill Productions.
Robert said: "If were to put on a rock festival I think we would have found a lot of concern but what we are doing is a very different sort of thing.
"World music is about diverse world music coming together. People do clean up after themselves and litter is put in bins. It is not a noisy dirty rock festival, it is much more gentle."
Chris Smith said: "It is a family event and is a music festival for all the family with children welcome. It is about artists and an exchange of cultures. There will also be arts and crafts, food tasting, on-site bars and a 'healing' area. It will have a 'one world' theme."
He said free tickets will be given out for young children and he said: "If you come along with your wife and children it tends to self-police itself."
Robert Gibson said: "WOMAD is not rowdy rock. It is not a rave. The ethos of the Leslie Hill Open Farm is family and the ethos of the Festival will be family orientated."
Leslie Hill Productions was set up by John Leslie and Robert Gibson. John Leslie is a friend of U2 band member Adam Clayton and although Bono is believed to be big into the 'one world' theme adopted by WOMAD it is not likely the band members will be present.
The organisers of WOMAD said U2 will be playing in America during one of their proposed Leslie Hill festival dates.
Internationally-renowned artist Peter Gabriel is involved with WOMAD and it remains to be seen if he visits the Ballymoney Festival.
The organisers say the festival is a huge cash undertaking and they are working with public funders to help bolster the financial side of things.
Funding is crucial and all parts of the cash jigsaw will not be known until possibly the end of March or the beginning of April by which time an announcement on the festival is expected.
When the green light is given the organisers say they are prepared to meet with local people who may have concerns about the event.
Robert Gibson told the Times they believe there is the capacity at Leslie Hill for up to 10,000 people.
Although this is the first WOMAD event in Ireland they are unsure what numbers will be attracted but they are keen to make it an annual event.
The timing of the event has also been looked at.
One possibility is the last weekend of July but it could be in June as the WOMAD festivals like their artistes to work with local school children who are encouraged to attend workshops and participate in a parade in the festival grounds.
Robert said Ballymoney councillors have already outlined support for the event and he hopes the Festival will give a huge financial boost to the whole area.
Although many festival goers will stay at camp sites it is anticipated there would be a boost for local guesthouses and hotels across north Antrim and beyond and with possibly thousands travelling through Ballymoney to the event there would be a spin-off for local businesses too.
Peter Gabriel, one of WOMAD's co-founders, explains on their website: "Pure enthusiasm for music from around the world led us to the idea of WOMAD in 1980 and thus to the first WOMAD festival in 1982. The festivals have always been wonderful and unique occasions and have succeeded in introducing an international audience to many talented artists.
"Equally important, the festivals have also allowed many different audiences to gain an insight into cultures other than their own through the enjoyment of music. Music is a universal language, it draws people together and proves, as well as anything, the stupidity of racism."
The type of artists who attended a WOMAD Festival in England last year included:
* Ethiopian music.
* Music from the grasslands of north western China.
* A Ska group from Jamaica.
* An aboriginal singer from Australia.
* Hungarian group.
* Colombian group.
* The Creole Choir of Cuba.
* Dennis Bovell Dub Band - reggae producer with Barbadian links.
* Western Sahara music.
* Madagascar music.
* Soul musician Solomon Burke from the USA.
* English folk music's 'young radical' Jim Moray.
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Weather for Ballymoney
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 4 C to 9 C
Wind Speed: 17 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 4 C to 7 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North