Published comments about social dance at Sidmouth FolkWeek, March 2011.

2011 was a challenging year for the Sidmouth FolkWeek organisers as the recession really started to bite. Oxford Folk Festival was cancelled. A weekend break at Halsway Manor with Kerry Fletcher teaching European Dance also fell foul of insufficient advance ticket sales.

At Sidmouth, developments included curtailment of grants from local government (except that from Sidmouth Town Council where spending continues to rise remorselessly) and tougher trading times for some local businesses (although many may benefit from more people taking holidays at home rather than flying abroad). The vulnerability of the town to rising seas levels and other effects of climate change continued to exercise a few residents - whilst most remain wholly unconcerned.

In the shorter term, EDDC may move its offices from the Knowle, perhaps on cost grounds. This might free up the area previously used for the Folk Festival Arena concerts to some type of development. FolkWeek programming included a resolute commitment by Joan Crump, the Artistic Director, to reverse the decline in social dance.

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The major issue for social dance at Sidmouth FolkWeek remains not the quality of callers and bands but the lack of venues in which a large number of expert dancers can dance to the best of their abilities.

Of the currently available spaces within the town, only Blackmore Gardens marquee offers much scope - so it is welcome to see that it is intended to be used for more social dance events.

Presumably, in 2011, it will also benefit from a decent dance floor!

A competently laid dance floor, space in which to dance, a selection of delightful partners, fine music, inspired calling, the temperature neither to high nor  too low, food and drink to hand - our needs are surely modest!

Photo from EDS magazine Autumn 2010. Has anyone got a better one I could use please?

Letter in Set & Turn Single, issue 68, March 2011

Dear Chris

In defence of the Sidmouth organisers, I understood that the promised extra social dance venue [in All Saints Hall] had been carpeted, thus making it unsuitable for dancing. I do however take issue with the fact that day time events were held in halls with a decent wood floor whilst social dancers were told that there were no suitable venues for afternoon workshops. Couldn't the singing or concertina workshops have used the carpeted space?

Having attended Sidmouth for a very long time, I can say social dance has often been rnarginalised. How many readers remember dancing at the Bowd in the evenings in a marquee with a very, very sloping floor? I fear that support for social dancing has been lost over the last few years, along with a lot of goodwill. I will be interested to hear how Joan Crump, the Artistic Director, intends to address this.

If I want to dance Ceilidh there are plenty of opportunities at Sidmouth. Social dancers like the variety of music, styles, pace and formations. I suggest that the timetabling of evening dances needs to be looked at. Of course attendance will be thin when the Playford ball, Irish Ceilidh and a big contra dance are all on-the same night. Some would attend all three if on a separate night.

However, I am not giving up on Sidmouth and-would urge all social dancers to attend at least part of the week, otherwise we really will lose our element of the festival.

Happy dancing
Lesley Fogg

Comment from Barrie Bullimore, (Issue 68, S&TS as above)

(as part of a long interview) ......I was rather surprised to be invited to call at the Sidmouth Festival this year and hopefully I can help rebuild Sidmouth's reputation......

Comments from Joan Crump on an internet forum, 4 March 2011

......we have taken on board the difficulties with Social Dance in recent years and have gone very much for a "back to basics" programme that features some of the most popular bands and callers: Colin Hume, Mike Courtold, Lynne Render, Barrie Bullimore, Bill & Barbara Kinsman, Momentum, Meg, Molly & Bill, Folkus Pocus and the English Contra Dance Band. There will also be a new programme of afternoon tea dances in the Blackmore Marquee.

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