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Womad NZ secures $1.9 million underwrite

Womad New Zealand has secured a NZ$1.9 million (US$1.3m) underwrite from New Plymouth District Council (NPDC) in case the festival is cancelled due to Covid-19.

The news comes after NPDC last week announced it had renewed its host city deal for the New Zealand edition of the international arts festival, for another five years.

Following a meeting on Tuesday (25 May), the council has now agreed to eliminate the financial risk posed by a potential Covid-19 outbreak for the organiser by underwriting the festival.

While numerous countries have announced government-backed insurance schemes for live events, it’s a rare occurrence for one to be singled out for a safety net.

Mayor Neil Holdom, a long-time Womad supporter, had urged councillors to agree the underwrite, but warned them that, in doing so, they were effectively writing a cheque.

“The probability [of cancellation] I think is very low and the benefits very large”

Councillor Richard Handley added: “What’s the probability [of the festival being called off]? The probability I think is very low and the benefits very large. And we all know the benefits. Womad is a part of our DNA.”

Womad NZ typically brings more than 11,000 visitors to the Taranaki region each year and pumps $6 million into the local economy, according to the festival.

This year’s festival, which would’ve taken place in March, was cancelled due to Covid-19, but less than 24 hours after securing the underwrite the organisers have announced plans for the 2022 edition.

The festival will return to its home of 18 years, New Plymouth’s Brooklands Park, between 18 and 20 March 2022 with a programme spanning music, arts and dance.

Womad International director Chris Smith says they were intending to deliver an international line-up, along with a raft of new ideas and developments to celebrate the festival’s return.

Womad NZ typically pumps $6 million into the local economy

“2021 was such a difficult year around the world, but this partnership agreement has been central to the decision to bring the festival back in 2022,” says Smith.

“Womad means so much to the people of New Plymouth who welcome our artists into their community and the festival brings a significant investment into the regional economy – We simply can’t wait to be back here in March.”

Womad NZ will continue to be produced by Taft (Taranaki Arts Festival Trust) which has presented the festival in New Plymouth since 2003.

“Over the last 30 years, Taft has proven that we have the expertise to deliver world-class festivals and events that have positioned Taranaki as a tourist destination, boosted the local economy, and ensured that our people access arts and cultural experiences outside of the metropolitan areas,” says CEO of Taft, Suzanne Porter.

“Taft is incredibly grateful for the surety that NPDC has provided, ensuring that Womad NZ can still call the beautiful Bowl of Brooklands, Taranaki, its home here in New Zealand. We are delighted to be partnering with Womad International once again.”

Womad also takes place in Wiltshire, UK; Cáceres and Gran Canaria, Spain; Adelaide, Australia and Recoleta, Chile.


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