Sidmouth Folk Week: Lessons for the Festival from 2007 and a check list for 2008.

Please send any further ideas both here (so that lots of people may read them over the next year on this website) or direct to the festival organisers (who may, it is to be hoped, take some notice)!

1. The festival has made good progress with the Ham venue. Fine tuning is needed. Some rules might be able to be relaxed with more stewards and internal conditions improved with more openings. And maybe don't use straw again. Achieving 100% utilisation should be an aim - with (say) a 1000 seat capacity at 12 per ticket, a 5% loss is 600, or if taken over ten concerts, 6000 for the week.

2. The marquee on Church House Lawn proved popular and should be retained. However it is prone to overheating and steps should be taken to plan for another hot summer (we should be so lucky). It is a simple matter of steward training and agreement on opening an entire end as well as large side flaps if conditions allow. On many occasions it was only half full.

3. The absence of significant numbers of high energy proficient ceilidh/social dancers should worry the organisers. Sidmouth has lost its place as a revered centre of ceilidh dancing. Instructional sessions for less experienced dancers (and intending dancers) need to be introduced. These should be based on concentrated learning and not on shallow 'fun' enjoyment. You don't get to be proficient by being encouraged to prat about.

4. The LNE has come a long way but has a way to go yet - it needs far more good dancers and extending to 2 am to become (it is to be hoped) once again something almost unique in the UK. I personally would like to see the car park retained - but whether it can pay its way is another matter.

5. The church halls proved to be of adequate size in 2007 but if significant numbers of good dancers can be persuaded to return to Sidmouth, these venues will be too small.

6. The campsite needs to be properly managed. Some attendees are saying 'never again' and this has been happening for several years. If festival numbers pick up, the campsite will need to become more 'close packed' and that means far better organisation and layout. More and competent stewards may be needed - and they need to be given a proper brief.

7. If Sidmouth Town Council wants to do something useful they should use their influence to get landowners to give the festival land and facilities at reduced rates. This happens elsewhere - some facilities are provided 'free' to Bunkfest but such are the problems of festival organisation these days that Bunkfest 2007 has been cancelled in its original format.

8. Extending the above argument a little, if landowners gave land for free for a year or two, the festival might be able to plough back some profits into 'good causes' in Sidmouth, maybe cementing the town-festival bond that is nowadays seen as so essential.

9. Stewarding needs to be more rigorously controlled - many stewards didn't show up in 2007 and this cannot be repeated. Duties at Sidmouth can appear daunting, so maybe a half stewards deal could be offered : get a half price ticket for doing 2 or 3 hours per day on average, rather than 4 or 5 hours.

10. Try and sort out the problem of traders along the Esplanade. But how many casual day trippers would notice the difference?!

11. Another job for Sidmouth Town Council if they want to drag themselves into the twenty first century: get the traffic off the Esplanade, at least in summertime.

12. The fringe events in the pubs continue much as they ever did with the new venue for the Middle Bar Singers at the Anchor proving popular. However, people who primarily attend primarily fringe events contribute little to festival finances. It is festival finances that need improving, and increasing the utilisation of existing infrastructure will be essential.


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