'Festival in the Desert' now on my To Do list

Perhaps it was just a co-incidence of festivals.

On Saturday morning I was lying in my tent listening to Radio 4's Excess Baggage. It was particularly interesting because Sandy Toksvig was talking with her four guests about music festivals worldwide.....and here I was, camped in a field in Dorset with 3/4000 others, at the Larmertree Festival, which is mostly world music.

One of her guests, Simon Broughton, contributor to the Rough Guide to World Music and editor of the magazine Songlines, (subject: world music), started talking about the 'Festival in the Desert' - a Tuareg festival held out in the sahara not far from Timbuktoo in Mali. In recent years it has become quite well known outside the country thanks to broadcasters and writers like Simon Broughton and Andy Kershaw, but only a handful of international travellers actually make their way to this remote spot.

It sounded - go to the EB site and look for the podcast clip for that edition on 14/07/07. (There's no permalink so I won't link to it directly here) - fabulously exotic and attractive... but then after a windswept and rainy night in a tent in a muddy field, anything would!

After another day & night of good music (and rain) I was talking with the two middle-aged couples in the next door tent about Larmertree and festivals in general. I mentioned the R4 programme and the Festival in the Desert.

"Oh yes" they said, "We went a couple of years ago. It IS fabulous."

It turns out they made their way there having read about it in the Guardian, and found themselves in company Ex-Led Zeppeliner, Robert Plant, who gave a performance under the stars (Stairway to Heaven?) with some local musicians.

"Magic", said Nigel, a solicitor from East Devon. "...if not a little surreal!"

...And the sand underfoot, they agreed, is exactly as Simon Broughton described it - "like hourglass sand".

I'm hooked. I'll have to find a commission and go!


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