Sidmouth Folk Week 2010: social dance and serious ceilidh - how long before it dies completely at Sidmouth?

Blackmore events

The week didn't start well for Michael Barraclough in Blackmore Gardens. On Saturday lunchtime and despite the promise of good dance music from Stick Shift, he was driven to exclaiming "Oh this is pathetic!" - to have only about 8 dancers on the floor half an hour after the scheduled start of the event. It got better later in the afternoon - but not by very much.

The timing was unhelpful with perhaps not all dancers having yet arrived at Sidmouth: anyone who wanted to dance would have done so in the two morning sessions in Church halls - ending at 12.45pm. This is a natural time for lunch after several hours dancing - and there was no sizeable 'reserve contingent' of dancers who had for one reason or another not attended the morning sessions and who therefore wished to dance at 1pm. The appalling dance floor was unlikely to have been a major factor - at this stage few people knew just how bad it was.

The evening Blackmore event with the Committee Band produced some excellent dancing and the venue was packed. It started late to allow for emergency floor repairs and went on for an extra 15 minutes. There were plenty of dancers around on this evening - 80 in St Teresa's (and it was far too crowded despite the hall capacity being 90) but only between 8 and 20 people were ever at Mike Courthold's evening dance. This was one of the first of many examples of there being too few social dancers at Sidmouth in 2010 - an insufficient number to fill even small venues.

The Blackmore lunchtime ceilidhs turned out to be very popular with those who did attend - simply because it was the only venue at Folk Week where there was always room to dance. Sunday with Geoff Cubitt (lunchtime and evening) and Wednesday with Mike Courthold were three (of all too few) examples of dancing as it used to be in Sidmouth, albeit on a smaller scale : there was a reasonable floor by Wednesday (a new floor surface having been laid on top of the awful boards) a superb caller and band (Bristol Players) and room to dance. The atmosphere was almost as it used to be - but AS USUAL the management and/or stewards had not got their act together to open the side flaps to allow proper ventilation and this marquee was far too hot during some dances - and even when it was only half full and on cool days. There were similar problems in 2007 at Church House Lawn.

By Friday the Blackmore was feeling like the 'good old days' at Sidmouth - and Michael Barraclough must have been relieved he had a decent audience after his earlier experience. The floor was now OK (faint praise), there was room to dance, the music was fine and (no surprise) it was too hot because not enough side flaps had been opened.

Some people have expressed the view that the Blackmore venue didn't work for 1pm dances because it was often half empty. This misses the point - provided the side flaps were opened to allow sufficient ventilation and if there were enough dancers attending at Sidmouth this venue could become very popular. The outdoor 'sitting out' area which also allows viewing of the lunchtime dancing has proved to be a bonus.

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