She's been in charge of the festival for more than 10 years, but Suzanne Porter still gets a kick out of seeing Womad virgins.

"Most people who come for the first time are blown away," she says. "There's so much going on that we find people get very consumed by it.

"There are not enough hours in the day to do it all."

The festival's 12th event kicks off at the Bowl of Brooklands in New Plymouth this Friday with a line-up that grabs a passport and lands in as many countries as possible.


It includes UK ska act The Specials, Mali singer Inna Modja, New Orleans' Hot 8 Brass Band and Jamaican performer Brushy One String, as well as Kiwi acts Marlon Williams, Sons of Zion and Baynk.

With 70 per cent of Womad's 12,000-plus audience arriving from out of town, Porter, the Taranaki Arts Festival Trust chief executive, advises first-timers to plan their festival experience well in advance.

"Take a deep breath, look at the website, grab your festival programme and spend 15 minutes taking a good look," she says.

But she also warns to leave time to experience other facets of the festival's massive site: the Taste the World food stalls on offer, the festival's all-new spoken word stage, the Te Paepae workshops, or if you have kids, the dedicated children's area.

She advises to leave room for exploring, and prepare to be surprised.

"Follow your nose a bit. It's a matter of, 'What is that noise? What is that sound?' and going and discovering something you'd never ever hear and being blown away by it," she says.

"There'll be an unknown on site ... they'll be peaking at the time they're touring and word will go out that that's the group you have to see.

"Every year there's one of those."

She calls organising the festival "pretty full on ... we basically build a town for a weekend" and rarely gets the chance to relax and take in the acts during the festival's three days.

But she says she loves it so much she often can't wait for the next one.

"At the end of it you think, 'We've done another amazing thing for Taranaki. All these people have come, they've loved it, they've come away with this incredible vibe about this place and what we do here'," she says.

"What makes you want to keep doing festivals is if you do them well people love them and want to come back. They're incredible positive things to deliver."

Who: Suzanne Porter
What: Womad Festival
Where: Bowl of Brooklands, New Plymouth
When: Tomorrow to Sunday
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