ABU DHABI // Organisers of the Womad festival chartered a plane to ensure 100 of the performers and backstage crew arrived safely in time for the three-day world music event, which starts tomorrow tonight. The plane took off from Marseille in the south of France this afternoon with many of the acts including Babylon Circus, Rachid Taha and Le Trio Joubran on board. It was due to arrive tomorrow morning. Chris Smith, the director of Womad, arrived on one of the last flights from London before the volcanic ash cloud from Iceland grounded all planes over Europe. Speaking at a press conference today he said the effort made by the artists due to play in Abu Dhabi had been "amazing". Femi Kuti, the Nigerian musician scheduled to headline the first night of the festival tonight had to cancel a concert in Germany to reach Abu Dhabi on time, said Mr Smith. The other acts had to travel hundreds of miles overland to reach Marseille in order to make today's flight. "It has been a difficult few days to say the least," said Mr Smith. "We have been making frantic phonecalls at all hours trying to make sure people get here. "At one point I had a call from Babylon Circus saying they wouldn't make it because their car had broken down between Paris and Marseille. But then they managed to get another vehicle." The only act that had not been confirmed at yesterday's conference was London based Transglobal Underground. They had seats on an Etihad flight to leave the UK capital today but whether they will be victim to the large backlog of passengers waiting to get on flights was not clear. Abdullah Al Ameri, the director of arts and culture at Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage said the decision to charter a plane was unavoidable. "It was the only solution," he said. "Almost 60% of the acts were travelling from Europe -mainly England and France - and we had to get them here. "Marseille was the most central point for everyone and we could guarantee a flight would be able to take off." Mr al Ameri added that it was cheaper for Adach to pay for a whole plane than over 100 individual plane tickets. After admitting that last year's festival had been one of the best Womad had ever presented, Mr Smith added that he hoped this year would be as good. "The artists we have coming are of the highest calibre and we are incredibly excited about the future of the festival." email@example.com
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