Sidmouth Folk Week 2010: General impressions.
Overall, 2010 must be counted as one of FolkWeek's best years - if the organisers didn't make money this year, they probably never can - at least, not without getting rid of the Bulverton marquee.
The weather in the run-up week was good, which made site preparation and marquee erection as easy as it is ever going to be. FolkWeek itself had only one period of heavy rain midweek - the rest of the time it was too cool for many people to be sunbathing or in the sea (which would have served to increase casual ticket sales) yet not hot enough to make dancing unbearable. Campers had to suffer dust storms - somewhat of a change from 2009. A few had difficulty knocking their tent pegs into the hard ground. So it was as good as it gets.
The Ham marquee had been redesigned to give a smaller enclosed bar area and a covered sitting out area - which provided protection from both sun and rain. This all seemed to work very well and it is difficult to think of further improvements. I have heard nothing but praise for the major concert events but the pre-festival evening with John Shuttleworth was poorly attended - only about a quarter of seats were taken. Many other events including Bagpuss (which I admit I had never heard of) were said to be brilliant. The festival choir was similarly well received - but then it always is. The evening Show of Hands concert in the Ham sold out well before the day but in the event a few seats were available for latecomers, some other Ham events were either sold out or nearly so. In all, the organisers could not have hoped for a better festival.
The 'Hub' area by the fishing boats and near to the Ham seemed to work well. Removing traffic from this area for a week showed what could be done with the entire Esplanade - but this would require a Town Council with vision. Maybe in another 25 years time? I saw only one H&S problem - electrical cables for amplifiers used at the Hub dangling from domestic 13A sockets and trapped under a piece of plywood and across areas where festival attendees were walking. And I didn't see a ELCB either.
The seafront (Esplanade) was too dominated by traders selling 'tat' - one girl I know complained she bought a silk skirt there and it dropped to pieces - so be warned. The casual musicians who used to be so much a part of the festival seemed either to have vanished later in the week or been crowded out - there were certainly many of them at the weekend. It just didn't have much of a festival atmosphere at any of the times I walked along - it was just so dominated by traders stalls. But some local people seem to like it that way and EDDC make money from the licences.
If the traders along the seafront were happy, some of those in the Craft Tent on Kennaway House Lawn (previously Church House Lawn) certainly were not. Many want to be back in the Blackmore Gardens nearer to the centre of Folk Week. Some are considering whether to return to Sidmouth next year. This was the subject of part of the Sidmouth Herald's coverage of the festival on 6 August.
One major suggestion for next year that might suit both Craft Tent traders and social dancers would be to reinstate Kennaway House Lawn as a major social dance venue or indeed to make it the Children's area and have two dance marquees and the craft tent in Blackmore Gardens! This would be radical but unless something is done to halt the decline in social dance, it may cease to exist at Sidmouth Festival in only a few more years. However, the festival organisers say that Kennaway House "is no longer available for social dance as the surface is not flat" - photos and discussion are here. Blackmore Gardens is obviously not big enough for all the people who want to be there! Of course, there is always the Knowle Arena.......
One woman apparently asked at the Box Office what the headline act was at the Arena - in 2010!
The logic of a location such as Kennaway House is that it is best as a venue for events that people would seek out - Children's events and major dance events, for example. It may not be best suited to a Craft tent where so much relies on 'passing trade'.
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