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

Bulverton dance marquee

The Bulverton dance floor in 2010 was so small as to be absurd - it was so packed as to be dangerous at times. A friend of mine was badly trampled - fortunately she suffered just a large bruise. The venue had undergone yet another redesign - aimed at making it more intimate by combining all functions within one marquee (and saving money on the infrastructure, no doubt). Proper dancing was sometimes impossible - it was an exercise in collision avoidance and squeezing through any available space. The floor itself had a uniform surface but it had no life to it. The friction was far too high and it was hard work even at a ceilidh. It would have been appalling as a surface for Irish set. Why can't organisers get this right? Is there some mystery to providing a dance floor that is suitable for experienced dancers? Some festivals have floors that are so slippery as to be lethal, others (such as Bulverton at Sidmouth in 2010) are just dull and wholly uninspiring.

The first half of the ceilidh on the last night could have been quite an enjoyable experience because so many people were in town watching the fireworks - but it was spoiled (as usual) by Tickled Pink being far too loud. People were leaving because of the sound level - and so did I when it became impossibly packed and the sound level seemed to be cranked up even higher. Why the residents of Sidmouth should any longer tolerate such a ridiculous level of noise when most of the dancers don't want it either remains a mystery. Maybe the artistic director of Folk Week could tell us - when she is not busy extolling the success of her precious silent ceilidh event. Indeed Joan Crump wrote an interview with Tickled Pink in the EFDSS magazine for Autumn 2010 - and it is clear that this band revel in their notoriety. I'll copy some bits and do a link when I have time.

Indeed, it remains an interesting question why the considerable costs of the Bulverton venue have to be borne by all adult season ticket holders when so few (?) make much use of it. This is discussed elsewhere: a fairer solution might be to have three types of season tickets - a basic and lower priced season ticket (not including Ham evening concerts or any evening events at Bulverton). This could be supplemented (as now) by a Ham Evening Season and/or (if desired) by a Bulverton Evening Season. This would be easy enough to accommodate within the existing basic ticket structure and might serve to address the issue that so many people do not attend Sidmouth because they simply feel a season ticket is too expensive.

The contrary view is that the Bulverton is so much a part of the festival especially for the people who choose to stay on the official campsite that it's removal would seriously compromise the whole 'Sidmouth experience'. Against that, the people who want it should maybe pay for it - yet this very argument could be used in respect of social dance if the festival ever again provides large marquees somewhere in town - and with these maybe being subsidised by the season tickets of people who don't do social dance. But the Bulverton will remain one of the most expensive venues to construct. It remains under-utilised simply because of its location.

As always, no ticket structure will satisfy everyone but my own view is that a Ham season and a Bulverton season would prove a workable and popular scheme if combined with a much less costly 'basic' season ticket - one that would admit to everywhere except the Ham and the Bulverton after 8pm.

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