Article and Letters in Sidmouth
Herald 3 & 10 September 2010
The letter from Brian Hall
reproduced below, although well written and supportive of FolkWeek, contains several
wholly incorrect assertions. For a start, the Rugby Club and Cricket Club are plainly in
it for the money (a fraction of which they return to FolkWeek) and Sidmouth's economy is
primarily dependent upon pensions and investments and salaries. Tourism plays a minor
role, albeit an important one for a small number of businesses in the town. With such a
lack of understanding of basic facts, Mr Hall would make an ideal councillor! The letter
from Joanna DeRemer, is typical of those from people who are so ignorant of the workings
of local government they seem not even to realise that we have a Town Council and DCC as
well as EDDC!
FolkWeek entertainment 'health and safety' risk
LICENSING officers at East Devon District Council are to investigate claims that
entertainment in Market Square during Sidmouth FolkWeek has proliferated to the extent
that it has become a serious health and safety risk.
Members of the council's executive board heard on Wednesday that market traders had also
noted a significant drop in takings during the daily events, which are not part of the
official FolkWeek programme.
"Entertainment is daily from noon onwards and attracts large audiences," market
trader Judith Taylor told councillors. "It should he a constant thoroughfare and also
provide parking spaces, but access to parked cars and businesses is blocked. It is
dangerous and frustrating."
Ms Taylor said the markets were being used as an unofficial amphitheatre, with crowds
blocking use of hand railings.
Notices warning people not to block the steps had been treated with "complacency or
ignored", she told the meeting.
"Who is liable if someone falls?" she asked. Councillor Chris Gibbings said Ms
Taylor had made him aware of the issue and that he would be taking it up, with licensing
Councillor Sara Randall Johnson, leader of the council and chairman of the executive
board, said: "I really appreciate you bringing this to our attention. There are
issues that could be managed."
Less whinging, more sunshine!
SIR - Oh dear! Why do you choose to highlight
Mr Johnson's whinge about FolkWeek bringing 'a real fear of crime' by 'gangs of
undesirables ......... shouting and drinking on the streets, mindless disorder, late night
music blasting out disturbing the peace of residents'? You could equally well have
highlighted the letter from visitor Mr Cosgrove, enthusing about the week's music and 'the
kindness and hospitality of Sidmouth people'.
Presumably these same Sidmouth people were the business owners Mr Johnson says are 'lost
in the name of self-greed' during an event funded by Sidmouth tax payers against our
will'? It's amazing how many residents support the FolkWeek, not only via the Town and
District Councils, but, also, voluntarily, through many local organisations: the churches
provide venues, also the Cricket Club, the Rugby Club, and others. The Trustees of the
Keith Owen Fund contributed towards the young people's activity so successfully run in
BIackmore Gardens. I imagine none of these would co-operate if they were not happy with
the ethos of FolkWeek or, again, are they just motivated by greed? Hardly!
I have only lived here for eight years, during which I have watched the demise of the
professionally-promoted International Dance and Folk Music Festival, to be seamlessly
replaced by a new, still evolving voluntary organisation striving to be as inclusive of
local residents and organisations as possible. As an interested observer (ratepayer and
taxpayer),I am always concerned that local businesses should thrive so that our lovely
town can continue to keep the variety of shops and activities that give us the range of
goods and services that we enjoy and share. We can continue to delight in the gardens,
open spaces and public facilities all year through, and know that, as residents, these are
all a function of the town we have chosen to live in with its economy wholly dependent on
the hospitality industry.
The nature of this place is created by its unique location, shoehorned into a narrow green
valley and fronted by a charming esplanade.
These have spawned a thriving community, seeking to retain the best and to hold its place
in a competitive world. As with any community there come tensions and imperfections,
witness the Letters Page! But I, for one, am always glad when the sun finally comes out,
the visitors arrive and we can be pleased that our businesses have a chance to thrive and
evolve to our mutual benefit.
Brian Hall, 4 Brownlands Close, Sidmouth
Festival 'vital to the town'
SIR - Once again, I find myself coming to the defence of Sidmouth FolkWeek as yet another
narrow-minded resident can't bear to see other people enjoying themselves.
I thought I'd put my point across earlier this year when I wrote to you saying how much we
and other local residents do enjoy the festival.
I wasn't going to answer D Johnson's email until I got talking to an 82 year old gentleman
who was deeply offended by it. He used to thoroughly enjoy FolkWeek with his wife and
family, but is now unable to attend as he is housebound due to illness.
I know quite a lot of elderly residents who miss going and I also know a more fortunate 88
year old gentleman who is still able to join in singing with other performers.
As for the financial side, during the present economic crisis, I would think the festival
is vital to prevent more shops, hotels and public houses from closure.
Annette Brown Sidmouth
Take a holiday somewhere else!
SIR - I was surprised to discover from D
Johnson's letter (Aug 20) that, as a supporter of FolkWeek, I am apparently in a minority
of Sidmouth residents.
I have to say that my research over the last few days suggests otherwise. I have asked
friends, acquaintances and anyone else who would listen what, they think of FolkWeek and
all of them, without exception, are in favour of it. Yes, it brings more people into the
town - and thus an inevitable increase in litter - but it also brings badly-needed revenue
to many businesses in the town. For some it is the difference between survival and
bankruptcy, although D Johnson categorises this as "self-greed".
As for the "gangs of undesirables", "mindless disorder" and "real
fear of local people to venture out", one can only speculate as to the horrors D
Johnson has witnessed. I personally feel safer on the streets during FolkWeek than I do
during the other 51 weeks of the year!
I was also surprised to read, in the same letter, that my council tax is used to fund
FolkWeek, so much so, that I contacted EDDC to inquire as to the level of this funding.
I was informed that EDDC makes no direct financial contribution to the Festival, nor has
it done for several years, although the council does incur indirect costs through
increased street cleaning, litter collection, etc. However, these costs would be incurred
for any event held in the town.
May I suggest that, as D Johnson evidently finds FolkWeek so objectionable, he or she
should consider taking a holiday elsewhere during the first week of August?
Joanna DeRemer 3 Woolbrook Close, Sidmouth
Perspective on the Folk Festival
SIR - In response to D Johnson's letter
regarding FolkWeek. It is for one week out of 52, when people of all ages enjoy playing,
singing and listening to music, grown men Morris Dance on the sea front with broad smiles
on their faces, the majority of shops enjoy a brisk trade and the police tell us that the
crime rate was down this year.
As Sidmouth residents, my friends and I were down in the town most days and evenings and
saw a very different Folk Festival to D Johnson's and we certainly were never in fear.
May I suggest this person stays indoors for the festival next year, with all the windows
and doors locked and ear plugs in and then the rest of us can enjoy the great atmosphere
that FolkWeek brings.
Sally Stephens via email
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