Sidmouth Folk Week 2010: funding is secured and the miseries awake.

2010 started with two significant developments:

However, these letters have been followed by several in support from local people - something that was sadly lacking when the much larger and better value 'international' festival was renowned across the folk world. It is all an illustration of the fact that, taken as a whole, locals seem not to appreciate that what they once had (but did not feel they controlled) was far better value than the new style and smaller FolkWeek. Allied to this is the fact that local politicians now have more say in how the event is run - and this adds to their sense of self-importance.

The funding commitment from Sidmouth Town Council was probably secured on the basis of 'give us some security or risk losing the week for good' - after all, scare tactics seemed to work last year! Also, as a parish council, STC is not subject to rate-capping by central government as are District and County Councils. This has led to their precept being massively increased in recent years - and some residents think it is about time Town Council spending was brought under control. Much of the increase has been owing to transfer of some District Council responsibilities (again on the basis of fund them yourselves or lose them from the town) but the large expenditure of 'tourism' websites etc that are nowadays duplicated by the private sector continues - a topic that needs addressing!

As for the financial burden on ratepayers, the police have stated that their presence is being decreased 'year on year' because there is so little extra work for them during the week. This hardly supports the idea that Folk Week brings trouble to the town. Indeed, calculated as a ratio of trouble per unit population in the town, the influx of folkies makes Sidmouth a much more law abiding place, as well as decidedly more pleasant and cheerful. Maybe folkies should move in on a permanent basis in order to keep crime down?

The first letter of the year decrying Folk Week was (as usual) from professional misery and local author Sheila Luxton. Her letter of 2010 was similar to that of August 2003 (and subsequently).

Some simmering resentment is understandable - incomers bring so much money to the town that they drive up house prices, thus pricing local youngsters out of the market. This happens all over the UK but is more easily noticed and (therefore) resented in parochial and in-bred communities.

Sample letters from anti-folk residents are reproduced below but are unlikely to have any lasting impact. One of their valid points is the amount of litter created - but councils who purport to control Sidmouth's streets and beaches fail to take any effective action against litter louts throughout the year - so why make a special case for FolkWeek?

Folk Festival alcohol concern

22 January 2010

MADAM - I was dismayed to see, in the Sidmouth Herald, the application by the Folk Festival for an alcohol license for Folk Week for Blackmore Gardens from 10.00 to 23.00 and also the same times for the Ham.

Is it necessary for these venues to provide alcohol? These were sites given to the general public for enjoyment.

I thought there were byelaws on these ground, which did not allow playing of loud music or food? Of course, during Folk Week, every law seems to be able to be broken.

The Folk Festival appears to be turning into another International Folk Week which is not something to recommend it, with much drunkenness etc. When it first started, I was all in favour, but now I have my doubts.

Shella Luxton
Manstone Avenue

Save money by scrapping FolkWeek

5 February 2010

John Jones is absolutely spot on when he suggests that if EDDC and the town council are serious about the requirement to save money, then the first place to start is to scrap Sidmouth FolkWeek. As Mr Jones rightly points out, why are tax payers paying for this event? Furthermore, the town council has recently committed to funding FolkWeek for the next five years, using taxpayers' money - absolutely disgraceful. As someone born and lived all of my 68 years in Sidmouth, sadly I, like most others in the town, realise, as Mr Jones intimated, that Sidmouth is effectively controlled by a handful of families using combined business and political power. These people have a false pretence of caring about Sidmouth, when in reality all they care about is lining their pockets.

Sidmouth FolkWeek does absolutely nothing to benefit ordinary residents of the town. Indeed, the majority of residents I believe are fed up every year of the problems it creates with noise, parking problems, litter and an increase in anti-social behaviour, all of which is conveniently ignored every year by councillors and business owners in the name of self-greed. It is bad enough that businesses and councillors want to impose FolkWeek on residents, without consultation, but tax payers should not be paying for it.

Mr Norman, Sidmouth.

Use the council tax wisely

Re: council tax - Sidmouth leaders hail 'wonderful' value for money budget.

Bravo to reader John Jones for suggesting that Sidmouth FolkWeek should be scrapped. The sheer audacity of councillors to proclaim last week the wonderful value for money budget they have agreed for 2010/11 is beyond belief and simply spin.

To provide 20,000 of Sidmouth taxpayers' money to pay for folk week is an insult in itself but to comprehend this by spending the money set aside for CCTV on other matters and saying this is wonderful financial recycling is treating the residents of Sidmouth as idiots.

I want my council tax to be spent on essential services and on important provisions such as CCTV to make us all safer, not on a FolkWeek the majority of residents simply do not want. One final thought - if I wanted to hold a week-long party at my house inviting a bunch of hippies, with late night music, keeping thousands of people awake, with cars parked all over town,and litter left everywhere, would the council encourage me and give me money to do this? The answer, of course, is no, so taxpayers should not be paying for FolkWeek.

Mr Russell, Sidmouth.  

FolkWeek does benefit some.

Note from SeeRed author: This is a sensible letter, the contents of which follow closely earlier analysis and letters many years ago.

12 February 2010

In reply to the letter from John Jones, I have every sympathy with him as a taxpayer that 20,000 of our money is going to be used to prop up FolkWeek, when that money could be used better elsewhere. I can imagine that many Sidmothians hate this week of the year and will stay away from coming into town because of the crowds. However, I would also like to point out that, for hotels and other accommodation providers, it is not a money making machine contrary to public belief. As a guesthouse proprietor myself, I do not make any more money during this week than I would in other summer months although a couple of others who do, indeed, charge a premium for this week.

For some businesses in town, Folk Week is one of their worst weeks of the year because Folkies are not here to shop, unlike regular holidaymakers. Those that do benefit extremely well are the public houses, eating outlets, supermarkets, rugby club, cricket club and the camp sites.

Name and address supplied.

Quote from Sidmouth Herald: "Name and address can be withheld only in circumstances when publication could put the sender at risk of reprisal"

Folk Week - so much to enjoy.

19 February 2010.

Mr Norman's quote "Sidmouth FolkWeek does absolutely nothing to benefit ordinary residents of the town" is pure folkism, akin with racism, ageism, sizeism and sexism. How dare he presume that his prejudice is shared by everyone else.

I too am a pure Sidmothian (another subject!), having been born in Sidmouth and both parents born in Sidmouth as well.

I more or less used to ignore FolkWeek (being a heavy metal fan - another nuisance!) until 24 years ago. Having given birth to our first child, our social life disappeared, having no baby sitters. FolkWeek arrived so we went out, taking our daughter with us.

There was so much to enjoy - the raising of the flags, the processions, the foreign dancers in their beautiful costumes and lots and lots of live music.

Since then we have tried every year to book our holidays for FolkWeek and we've never been disappointed. Every year we go back to work and say we've had a marvellous time.

We pay to go to some events but a lot of the local pubs provide free entertainment. It's a very cheap holiday - no travel or hotel expenses. We leave the car at home and walk.

When we've gone on holiday elsewhere, we knew nobody. Here we bump into old friends every day - lots of school friends who've moved away come back for FolkWeek, as well as friends who share our passion for music.

Well done John R Jones. I suggest the other John Jones, Mr Norman and Mr Russell pack their bags and go to Benidorm!

Mrs Brown

More support for FolkWeek

26 February 2010

Sir - I wholeheartedly agree with Mrs Brown's comments defending Folk Week. I too was born and bred in Sidmouth, and can recall many happy experiences of the Festival when growing up.

I moved back to Sidmouth three years ago and am delighted that the Festival is still going strong and is now way past its 50th anniversary.

Mrs Brown and I are among the apparent minority of residents (according to Mr Russell) who enjoy and appreciate the Festival.

I also know many other residents who attend events and concerts, purchase season tickets and take the week off work to make the most of the atmosphere in town.

Even my 74 year old father-in-law braved the 'hippies' and enjoyed four concerts last year! I personally am extremely grateful of the chance to have top class internationally renowned music on my doorstep, when otherwise I would have to travel to Exeter or further afield to attend such concerts.

The argument that a large influx of visitors to the town during the week sees a rise in crime rates is ludicrous, as the vast majority of festival-goers are just here to enjoy the week and not cause trouble.

If Mr Russell were to go out into town on any Friday or Saturday night, he might be surprised to see a small minority of inebriated locals picking fights with anyone who they consider to be 'outsiders'. I guess in some ways he shares this intolerant 'small-town' attitude, which saddens me greatly.

This summer I will again be enjoying the Festival with friends and family.

Perhaps instead of going away for the week or locking themselves in their houses, Mr Russell et al should take themselves and their antiquated attitudes along to a concert and make the most of having a bit of culture on their doorstep.

Mrs E Harbour

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