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.
DR E HARDY
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
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