Sidmouth Folk Week 2008 - The campsite - mud glorious mud - and two nasty accidents.

Forward planning paid off here - all the infrastructure for the entire festival was assembled and in place well before the festival began. The hard work was able to be undertaken during good weather - Folk Week itself started with heavy rain and it was midweek before there was any improvement. It started badly on the campsite too, with a potentially serious accident - a trailer tent was demolished by a runaway car, the owner of which (no comment about women drivers!) had forgotten to put her handbrake on but she apparently knew it hardly worked anyway. Yet she still parked her car out of gear and pointing downhill.

Sooner or later there is going to be a serious accident on the Bulverton site - it has long been predicted with the state of many older caravans - not to mention incompetent owners - and this may give the organisers problems with future liability insurance. Following the incident early during the week in 2008, car drivers were instructed to park sideways on to the slope, but this is unnecessary if you know what you are doing and your car is working properly. It is never advised to park caravans in this way - they should point down the line of greatest slope. Many car handbrakes operate on discs nowadays and can hold when hot but not when they cool down - so leaving a car in gear (or in P if it is an automatic) is always a good idea.

Shortly after the festival ended there was a similar accident at Ladrum Bay - a large static caravan park and campsite near Sidmouth. The following story from the Sidmouth Herald of 29 August 2008 says it all: note that once again a faulty handbrake was suspected.

runawaycar.jpg (255000 bytes)

By midweek, the lower parts of the campsite were many inches of 'mud glorious mud'. The only positive aspect of the weather was that it was warm and with periods of respite from the rain. The on-site showers were 'a mess' according to several people, with some running too hot and not able to be adjusted. The Sidmouth campsite continues to be one of the more challenging festival venues - and one of most potentially dangerous. On the plus side, the fairy lights were back and looking like the old days.

The second serious accident involved a pedestrian walking back to the campsite at night. He was (so I was told) blind drunk. The absence of warning notices about 'pedestrians in road' that were so effective in slowing down drivers during the Steve Heap years may have been a factor also. As has become commonplace in the UK (and is widely derided in the UK motoring press) the police over-reaction included closing the road for a substantial time. Pedestrians were forced to take a long detour to get back to the campsite. All the more worrying was the standard of bus driving as reported to me by attendees at Towersey - one couple said they used the Sidmouth Festival bus and were greatly alarmed by the speed at which it was driven 'hurtling around' the narrow lanes.

At Sidmouth, tractors were used on the Bulverton campsite to tow off stranded vehicles including one that had broken down. The AA refuse to attend on 'private ground': the vehicle has to be on the public highway. So a tractor was used to tow it onto the road where the AA could attend to it - but stewards were not allowed to signal to passing traffic to slow down. They are (so I was told and I can almost believe it) allowed to stand passively in the middle of the road and hope that drivers will see them and stop - but they must not make any signal. This is similar to the known laws on rattling collecting tins in public. You are allowed to stand quietly in the spot designated by the local licensing officer (50,000 pa and a copper bottomed pension?) and looking as plaintive as you wish but you are not allowed to rattle a tin - this would be incitement to give - and is illegal.

Routinely of course, the police protect their fiefdom by prosecuting anyone who 'takes the law into their own hands' even in cases where the majority of the population (who the police are supposed to represent) would applaud such action and where it is clearly in the public interest. Two of many hundreds of reported cases of abuse of authority are illustrated below. So on the matter of health and safety of folkies, it would appear to be no thanks at all to Devon and Cornwall Police or to the massed ranks of morons in Whitehall and beyond or (of course) to the trough nuzzlers of the Westminster Village who collectively dream up legalised nonsense. Of course they all issue glossy self-congratulatory brochures saying how well they are serving the community - one example is shown below

(scan in police doc)

insert press cutting(s)

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