As we look back on 30 years of our favourite festival, there’s plenty of opportunity for nostalgia – the people, the places, the incredible performances, and the moments that have shaped us.

But how many people could say WOMADelaide has changed the course of their lives?

According to Kim Atkinson – who hasn’t missed a year of the Festival – that’s exactly what WOMADelaide has done for her daughter, Ruby Glancy.

Ruby, now 20, has just kicked off her first year of a bachelor of Global Studies at the University of Technology Sydney, and credits her formative years attending Planet Talks, indulging in multicultural food, and dancing to world music at WOMADelaide as the spark that lit her curiosity about the people and the world around her.

“Growing up in a country town, like Keith, you really don’t get much of a chance to see the world, or experience cultural diversity – that’s why our annual trip to WOMADelaide was (and still is) such an important part of my life,” Ruby says.

Ruby at 12 with Kim

Ruby (12) with her Mum Kim at WOMADelaide

“It’s the music that has always stood out for me, you just don’t hear music like that anywhere else or see it at other festivals, it’s so diverse – everyone from Irish bands, to Indigenous Australian dancers, or Canadian pop artists.

“Also the food, in Keith you don’t get exposed to different types of cuisines, so when we’d go to WOMAD as kids it was really exciting to be able to indulge in everything from Afghani and Greek, to Indian foods – it was like going to another planet.

“I also love the healing area and the Planet Talks, it’s just my favourite time of the year, I really don’t think I would be who I am today, had I not been exposed to WOMAD.”

Her mother, Kim, agrees.

“Our annual trips to WOMADelaide have really shaped who Ruby is and what she wants to do with her life – I couldn’t be prouder of the woman she’s become.”

But the family’s love for WOMADelaide started well before Ruby was a twinkle in her mother’s eye.

“I was a teacher living in the country when my old uni friends in the city invited us down for this WOMAD thing.” Kim said.

“It sounded like fun, so we went along – we had no preconceived ideas. That was 1992, the very first year of the Festival, and we’ve been going every year since.

“We’ve gone from being young 20-somethings hanging out under the Moreton Bay figs, to 50 somethings watching our 20 year old kids do the same thing. We have this amazing WOMAD family, sometimes that’s the only time we see each other.”

Ruby at 6 at Womadelaide

Ruby (6) at WOMADelaide

The same group of mates have made a tradition of their annual WOMADelaide weekends, and still attend all four days and nights together.

“We go in on a Friday night and our mate Biff sets up a tarp under one of the old Moreton Bay figs, the same tree every time, then that's our home-base for the next four days,” Kim says.

“On Friday nights we'll always get a bit dressed up to kick off the weekend, and after setting up the tarp we meet at the bar for a drink before the music starts.

“On Saturday morning a group will meet at the front gate, way too early, we line up together and as soon as the gates open we run through to get our spot – you don't need to run, but we do it anyway just for fun,” she laughs.

But for Kim, everything changed (for the better) when she found out she was pregnant at WOMAD in 2001.

“I look back on photos and think – oh my lord, I was pregnant then, and I had no idea,” Kim says.

“Naturally the dynamic changes when kids are introduced to these traditions, but WOMADelaide has seemed to grow with us, and our families.

“We’ve been through all of the phases together, the Carclew years and KidZone, the dress-ups and the face painting – then sending the kids home to babysitters at 5pm so we could stay and party all night.

“Then there were the cooking classes as the kids got a little older, and Planet Talks as they started to take an interest in discussion and debate – there’s always been music and dancing though, that’s for every age and stage.”

Ruby at 14

Ruby (14) at WOMADelaide

Ruby says that Planet Talks really had an impact on her decision to take Global Studies at university.

“Global Studies is all about politics and history, the environment and social causes, it’s basically about solving the problems of the world, which I really got a taste for attending Planet Talks every year,” she says.

“I’ve always been interested in sticking up for causes, minority groups and homeless people, and helping those who are struggling or don’t have a voice. I don’t think I would have had such an open mind or interest in debating and solving problems had I not been exposed to Planet Talks and WOMADelaide – it’s also given me a great sense of community, diversity and inclusivity.”

The “red band gang” (as they call themselves) are all about tradition, and couldn’t be happier that the next generation are following in their footsteps.

“Biff makes us all little red knitted wrist or ankle bands every year that we all wear. It’s kind of a silly tradition, but it binds us to each other and gives us all a sense of home,” Kim says. “It’s his goal to get everyone at WOMADelaide wearing his red bands.”

“It’s become such an important time of year for our families,” Ruby says. “I’d rather miss Christmas than miss WOMADelaide.”

So what have been some of the highlights for Kim and Ruby over the past 30 years, and what are they most looking forward to this year?

The Bangarra Dance Theatre absolutely blew my mind when they performed a few years back, they were spectacular, the atmosphere was electric and everyone was spellbound,” Kim says.

“I’m also a huge fan of Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Circolombia, A.B. Original, and I'm looking forward to seeing Baker Boy this year.”

Tkay Maidza was a standout for me,” Ruby says. “Just being in the mosh-pit and feeling everyone’s positive vibes, the energy was incredible.”

“The great thing about WOMADelaide is that it doesn't matter who’s playing, there’s always something on, and someone new to discover,” Kim says. “I couldn’t think of a better education for the children.”

Womad family under the tree

Ruby and Kim’s WOMADelaide Family


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