As part of Expressions Media’s Headliners at WOMADelaide young journalist program, Upside News had the chance to interview Simon Hackett of the Hackett Foundation.

As a non-profit organisation, WOMADelaide’s continued growth depends on philanthropy to support the success, diversity and creativity excellence of the festival.

Once such supporter is Simon Hackett who spoke with aspiring journalist Bert Rich about the place WOMADelaide has within Adelaide’s culture.

“I think it has an enormously positive place within Adelaide’s culture; the sheer inclusiveness of it and the tendency to bring in artists and talent from all over the world. One of the challenges I think Australian society has had over the last few decades is, it’s always been a very multicultural society, but it struggles with what that means in the modern world; WOMAD forces people to remember that diversity’s a good thing. Here, we are celebrating it,” he says.

Hackett, who is friendly with WOMAD founder Peter Gabriel was part of the singer’s musical beginnings, in a sense.

“I’ve met him a few times in the studio,” Simon says. “I was actually part of a team that put his studio, in Box, on the internet in the 80s.”

Credited with being one of the first people in the country who pioneered internet ideas and functions, Simon told Bert, he passed on his knowledge to the legendary musician.

“Through this path, I wound up with the opportunity to spend a few weeks in Box, in Peter Gabriel’s studio, getting his studio hooked on to the internet; that was a labour of love. It was just awesome; but for me it produced an initial connection to ‘Real World Studios’, Peter’s studio, which in a way became the foundation of WOMAD.

“WOMAD was his idea and then it ended up in Adelaide, which is just a fabulous – a bit of good fortune. This for me deepened the connection in the sense that he was doing something great for the world. Initially ‘Real World Studios/Records’ was about bringing artists to the world stage who didn’t have an audience and these opportunities to find one. WOMAD is this in reality and it has just been the start of a beautiful friendship for me.”

The Hackett Foundation, as well as supporting WOMADelaide and the opportunities it brings for artists around the world, also helps those close to home, particularly those affected by bushfires.

“We’ve done a couple of things. We’ve supported an entity called ‘Airborne Research Australia’ who do aerial survey flights of Kangaroo Island and other regions and monitor recovery rates. My thought is to find areas of that don’t look damaged, but are. The foundation supports another entity called ‘SAVEM’ who sent volunteer vets in the first few weeks of the fires to make decisions about those sick and injured animals.”

While contributing so much locally and on an international scale, Simon Hackett is looking forward to the weekend ahead, despite the late scratching of Ziggy Marley.

“That’s just one artist out of 600. One of the joys of this event is enjoying those headline artists but also walking up to a random stage and being blown away by some artist you’ve never heard of. It’s just a smorgasbord; it is beautiful for that,” he says.

By Bert Rich