Letters in support of the festival - from the Sidmouth Herald of 28 May 2004 and in reply to the suggestion that festival visitors to the town were 'riff-raff'. The second letter gives some useful background on the early days of the festival when it was held in Exmouth, in the years up to 1954.

Festival visitors are polite and courteous.

I would like to express, through the pages of your paper, a polar view to that given a few weeks ago by David Blumson. It was a relief to find that his views were not shared by Councillors Stuart Hughes and Tony Reed. Nor, I am sure, would they be shared by many of Sidmouth's intrinsic residents.

Unlike Mr Blumson, I was born in Devon and have lived here for the vast majority of my life. I have been fortunate to live in Sidmouth for the last 11 years.

The Sidmouth Festival, for my children and I, is quite simply our favourite week of the year. This is a view shared by a great many of my friends who have children. It is a wonderful and diverse festival. The visitors from outside of the town, with few exceptions, I have always found to be pleasant and courteous.

Week on week, we have to put up with reading ridiculous bigoted views from the likes of Mr Blumson, who have recently moved into the town and then try to take over. As a working mother I rarely have time to indulge in sending in a response to these letters.

However, I am really incensed that someone who has chosen to move into our community feels he has the right to support the destruction of a 50-year standing tradition which is hugely enjoyed by the town's young people. I sincerely hope the Sidmouth Festival will be able to continue for many years to come. In the meantime, perhaps Mr Blumson would like to return from whence he came.

5 Lower Wheathill

Don't adopt a zero tolerance approach

I was interested in the news which made the front page of the May 21 edition of the Sidmouth Herald, pertaining to the feelings expressed by David Blumson, towards the town's international festival of folk arts.

I am sure there are many folk who wholeheartedly agree with Mr Blumson's sentiments, as those who, living in Exmouth in 1953, decided that a local folk festival would not be welcome again. Hence it moved its home to Sidmouth in 1954.

I think that the town should be very proud of its success in welcoming and facilitating - or grudgingly tolerating as the case may be - the festival for fifty years, The festival has come, from its humble but enthusiastic beginnings, forward through the years carried by Bill Rutters. The formation of all events stemming from the hard work of many of the local folk dance clubs, including Exmouth and Willand, who provided all stewards, refreshments and arranged, via exchange visits, displays through the streets and at the Arena from the United Kingdom and overseas countries. Help from the local parish and town councils enabled folk dances and ceilidhs to take place in East Devon village halls such as Tipton St John, Sidbury, Sidford and Newton Poppleford.

Since those bygone days when I was only a teenager - the 16th Festival being my first sampling - Mrs Casey Festivals headed by Steve Heap transformed the Sidmouth Festival at a point in time when volunteers from local clubs were finding it difficult to sustain it.

No matter what happens in the future years in that first week in August at Sidmouth, and regardless of the patronage that the festival in general attracts, or the extra income or kudos won by the town at hosting what, in my opinion, is the largest folk festival in the UK - I, for one, will not be doing a rain dance on Sidmouth esplanade just because I have been unable to obtain any season ticket for the first time in decades.

Rather, as an Exmothian, born here in 1953, I respect you from a distance at being able to sustain such an enormous tourist attraction for so long, when others, no doubt, have surely failed. I personally hope that Sidmouth can retain its folk festival and refrain from any shift in positions towards what in my perception, may be "zero tolerance"

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