Sidmouth Folk Week 2009: Ham seating and venue - some major changes for 2009.

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Sidmouth FolkWeek's Ham Marquee has developed in the last two years into one of the most impressive on the folk festival circuit - if you ignore the water that gently laps at the edges after a day or so of heavy rain.

Following the introduction of tiered seating, there was another major improvement in 2009 - the addition of a large bar and waiting area to the south. The whole marquee came from a different company - and it showed!

However, the bar area was grossly under-utilised and (if a feature of the site in 2010) could serve many additional purposes including ticket collection.

The seats used in the Ham are a vast improvement on earlier years. The tiered rear rows have been particularly well received. Total seating capacity is 1050.

The overall size of the marquee in 2009 was 25m by 50m with the actual seating areas occupying 25m by 29m (including walkways). The glazed bar area to the south had a raised floor of 10m by 25m - larger than either of the main dance floors (Blackmore and Bulverton) - and it was flat too!

Now that could give serious ceilidh dancers a few ideas.....

Img_3987.jpg (74656 bytes) The impressive but under utilised bar area on the end of the Ham marquee.

Walkways were placed to help prevent mud being transported into the venue. These worked very well.

The Task Force of volunteers and contractors had their hands full coping with the mud and associated problems - but as always they managed, sometimes despite protests from Health and Safety staff.

Img_3988.jpg (99458 bytes) Part of the 'new look' HUB area of the festival - the outdoor and undercover eating areas were popular.

A number of 'festival' food outlets served customers - those in town centre shops did a good trade as well.

'Speciality' food outlets are what many people expect from a festival - witness the choice of exotic foods available at many events. Sidmouth is gradually learning that not everyone wants to buy sandwiches or chips in town - although those on offer in some shops were very good!

Img_3989.jpg (66012 bytes) The bar area on the end of the Ham marquee could have been used for much more - the merchandise stalls seemed not to attract much attention and sales may have been disappointing. In terms of profit per unit area of sales floor it must have been a disaster!

In a recession, buying event  tickets may be enough of a trial - extra and largely unnecessary expenditure on T shirts and the like may be unrealistic.

Img_3986.jpg (91414 bytes) One of the attractions on the Ham - The Museum of British Folklore.

Unfortunately it was one of the parts of the festival I didn't get to explore.

To 'do' Sidmouth FolkWeek would take about a month - so maybe it should run for a fortnight with the second week being a 'winding down' experience!

Img_3985.jpg (98748 bytes) For use in sunny weather - outdoor sitting areas adjacent to Chez Nous - one of the main food outlets.

In conditions such as this you could almost forget the mud on the campsite (especially if you was going home to a nice warm bed!).

There remains only one central question - in a life that is so short, and with all the world to admire, can you afford NOT to do the Sidmouth festival, at least once?

Img_3992.jpg (81017 bytes) Inside the Ham marquee - with water lapping at the edges of the venue, sheet or board walkways had to be provided.

These were the same types as worked so well in Blackmore Gardens.

This main footway can be seen clearly in the last but one photograph on this webpage.

Img_3990.jpg (83052 bytes) The tiered seating - an idea of Leo Beirne the Festival Director, these have proved a great success - but at a price of course.
Img_3991.jpg (72924 bytes) The main seating area.

There was some paddling into place on the wettest days, but after that you could sit comfortably.

These 'fixed' seats were probably easier to evacuate in a fire than the older 'lashed together' type used in previous years - not that a fire was likely with all this water around.

But then there was all the alcohol - highly inflammable...

fire in tent.jpg (87851 bytes)

Fire risks are ever present - even in a tent - but can be minimised by good design and planning. Selection of materials is crucial.

One of the problems here was apparently the highly flammable upholstery in chairs - no doubt packed together at high density.

The venue apparently did not meet local regulations.

Img_3993.jpg (78255 bytes) Light panels in the roof added to the feel of the Ham marquee venue - but not during the evening concerts!

A few folk festival concert venues are larger but none are within a few moments walk of the sea at Sidmouth - and a leisurely stroll back to an expensive hotel, for those able to afford such luxuries!

marquee maker.jpg (42142 bytes) Vorsprung durch technik - as they say in Germany.

Trust the Germans - first on the beach and they make probably the best marquees in the world too.

read all about them

and see the picture below!



ham electrics1.jpg (80587 bytes) The Ham area requires a lot of electrical power - nowadays supplied directly from the mains. So no more diesel generators chugging away in the background!

It is a good idea to tape electrical connectors above ground level - even though they are supposed to be waterproof.

ham electrics2.jpg (203254 bytes) Maybe not such a good idea!

A join in one of the major power feeds has been positioned directly below a water point.

One of the water couplings could have ruptured or been torn away, soaking the whole area.

ham2 14 august.jpg (73142 bytes) After a week of heavy usage, surface damage to the Ham was limited to a few denuded areas. These would be expected soon to recover.

The area of grass that was covered by the wooden floor of the Ham bar had turned yellow - but took only a day to regain some green.

ham3 14 august.jpg (60448 bytes) Gone for another year, unfortunately.

There are many people in Sidmouth who prefer it this way.

roder_start_nacht_2006.jpg (47431 bytes)

Maybe in a few years' time at Sidmouth?

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