Sidmouth Folk Week 2009: Article and letters in Sidmouth Herald 21 August
Read between the lines (as usual) and
you'll get the general idea - everybody loves the festival, it all went wonderfully well,
it's all a solid local partnership and the future is assured - so long as the public money
keeps coming in. Just let's hope they are right!
The point is well made about sell-outs at main venues. Many years ago, one of
Sidmouth's more intelligent and long serving town councillors, Kim Smith, observed that
when Sidmouth is full it is full. This was in the context of one of the many and perennial
arguments about providing more parking in an already congested town centre in order to
entice yet more shoppers into the town.
So when John Braithwaite said in the FolkWeek newsletter on 7 August - "don't
forget to bring another family or friend with you next year" we must assume he knows
where he would put all these extra people? On the campsite? In the sold out venues? In the
Arena up at the Knowle? Now that really would be a return to the International Festival!
For those of us with long memories, the last night processions of the old festival
really were spectacular. They lasted for hours. But I guess you have to start somewhere.
An amazing amount has indeed been accomplished in only a few years but too much may depend
on the continuing efforts of too few people.
FolkWeek 'bigger and better than ever'
BIGGER audiences, tangible town support and a truly vibrant atmosphere was how John
Braithwaite, chairman of Sidmouth FolkWeek Productions Ltd, summed up this year's
festival. He said: "This was a watershed year for Sidmouth FolkWeek, but in so many
ways proved a resounding success.
"For perhaps the first time, the town was in true partnership with the festival,
giving its backing in a very tangible way. "The festival attracted many more
visitors, bringing bigger audiences and sell-outs at the main venues.
"The atmosphere was truly vibrant and responses to some of the evening and late night
bands overwhelming. "All this, despite the recession and a few spots of rain!"
It takes more than a year to plan each festival and three weeks to build. This year's new
management team implemented innovative changes. There were positive responses to the new
HUB area at the Ham and Port Royal end of the Esplanade. "It can now be taken to its
next stage of development'" said John. Blackmore Gardens has become the new in-town
festival centre, boasting new features and an excellent atmosphere as crowds flocked there
to take part in Young Sidmouth, go to the dances and displays, browse the music fair or
The Bulverton venue was at its best this year, with great bands and the Festival Clubhouse
dances, including a highly popular Silent Disco, which is likely to become a must for
future festivals. "We also welcomed the return of international acts to Sidmouth,
with musicians and dancers from Bulgaria, Italy, French Canada and Australia," said
"The closing torchlight procession was truly spectacular, led by a 15 feet high model
of The Fiddler, the festival's traditional emblem, with figures and designs produced in
festival workshops, funded by a grant from the Sid Vale Association's Keith Owen fund.
"With the county, town and festival beginning to work in a solid partnership, the
foundations have been laid for this unique event to grow from strength to strength,"
said John, who thanked the hundreds of volunteers and local supporters of FolkWeek, which
brings much-needed financial support to the local economy.
Locals should embrace the fun
MADAM - Having just enjoyed my thirty-eighth annual visit to Sidmouth, I should like to
say a big 'thank you' to all the happy and smiling local residents and business owners who
make Folk Week participants feel very welcome.
However, a minority of townsfolk still seem unable to enjoy the one week of fun. The two
gentlemen I passed on Friday morning (August 7) in Heydons Lane, who were rejoicing that
the next day would be wonderful because, "All the Gypsies will be gone!", should
try attending some of the arranged events and, hopefully, become able to appreciate the
vast array of talent that the festival gathers. In particular, had these gentlemen been in
the audience for Friday's "Workshop Showcase
concert in the Methodist Church, they would have heard a range of orchestras and
choirs . For example, Sandra Kerr's choir, developed during the week's sessions, proved
that almost one hundred and forty amateur enthusiasts of all ages had come together to
learn songs from various genres and the performance was marvellous. (N.B.Most singers
appeared to be upright citizens, some certainly of retirement age - but, anyway, why would
being referred to as Gypsies offend us?! There was a very interesting presentation of
Gypsy/Romany music and songs earlier in the week.)
Thank you again, though, to the majority of local Sidmouth "folk" (!) who do put
up with extra crowds and a bit of disruption to share your lovely town for one special
IREEN BEST (MRS) 12 Cumberland Avenue Willow Park Guildford Surrey
MADAM - I have recently moved to live in
Sidmouth from Liverpool and I just had to write to say how much I enjoyed my first
FolkWeek. It was really enjoyable, with all the lovely music and dancing. The costumes
were really colourful and the people going up and down the High Street in the Sailor Ship
was fabulous, and all the buskers. It was a really good week and one I'll never forget.
Thanks to all of those who took part. I look forward to next year.
BARBARA LEPER A new Sidmouth resident 6 Salcombe Road Sidmouth
Well done folk team
MADAM - I wish to thank the people of Sidmouth for all their kindness during FolkWeek. I
would also like to compliment the FolkWeek organisers on an excellent Festival.
I was particularly impressed by the Axford 5 concert and workshop. These consisted of folk
songs collected in the village of Axford, Hampshire, presented by Craig Morgan Robson and
the Askew sisters. Congratulation to everyone concerned.
Richard Cosgrave 96 Greenside Eastfield Northampton
from disabled visitor
MADAM - May I use your paper to thank the people of Sidmouth for another wonderful folk
festival holiday. I've been visiting for about a decade and hope for many more visits. Now
disabled, the consideration and helpfulness of locals, fellow visitors and the truly
wonderful stewards were deeply appreciated (especially the two off-duty gentlemen who
helped put up my tent in pouring rain). The dancing collection ladies at the anchor will
be remembered too!
I should however warn that the campsite is really unsuitable for disabled access.
Be well friends and see you next year
AMANDA PHILLIPS 30 Hillrise Walton-on-Thames Surrey
trade fair on the seafront
MADAM - Having just returned from Folk Week, I must inform you of our reaction to the
renewed presence of far too many traders on the sea front which have completely
transformed the folk atmosphere.
Their numbers have considerably increased since last year; as a result they have taken
over the promenade making it almost totally inaccessible in the prominent areas for groups
and individuals to perform there.
In addition, their clutter prevented handicapped people from enjoying the entertainment,
who previously revelled in the happy atmosphere of the music and dance. We witnessed angry
incidents between holidaymakers happily singing along being harassed by traders who
accused them of interfering with their trade.
A number of town shop owners are also livid at their presence for obvious reasons. It is
time, therefore, for the town council to take stock of what they want the week to be,
because last week showed that it has become another tacky trade fair on the seafront, as
opposed to the Folk event for which it became famous.
The opportunity afforded to young musicians has been lost, along with that of many other
performers. If the existing policy persists, albeit for financial reasons, it is totally
misguided as it will destroy the whole character of the week, resulting in amateur
performers, plus those who previously enjoyed the informal music making, staying away in
future and that would be a great pity. The event has a great history and is now likely to
be thrown away unless radical steps are now taken to rectify it.
FERGUS AND MARY LYONS 15 Alexandra Road Clifton Bristol
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