Sidmouth FolkWeek 2011 - comments on the dance (4): Bulverton LNEs

I started the week toying with the idea of buying only workshop tickets and a few evening dance tickets - and not bothering with the Bulverton. Maybe I should have done.

I missed the Friday night with Panjandrum (members of the old Committee band) - apparently it was quite good.

Saturday with Trinculo was packed, rowdy and a typical start to the week when everyone has plenty of energy. Many sets turned into the usual exercise in collision avoidance. The dance floor was dull but safe and remained so all week. Given the lack of expertise of so many of the dancers (and their alcohol intake) a shiny floor would have been dangerous (as it was in previous years) but the good dancers would have appreciated it.

I spent ten minutes at the Silent folkin' Disco before deciding not to bother. Other people loved it.

Monday with Nick Walden and Random was again well attended and with a new version (Nick Walden's version) of Posties Jig - so much for me having tried to instruct the set how to do it. They had to unlearn most of what I had told them and do it his way. And my notes say that most of the girls couldn't dance for toffee. Nothing new there then! It just ended far too soon and was too loud (but not excessively so). So many of the dancers could have benefited from some basic instruction in swinging, for example. I've been saying the same thing for the last three years!

Tuesday was the one night I had marked down that I must attend - excellent dance music but not well attended (so at least we had room to dance) and with Dave Hunt maybe not quite in top form. It almost became boring at times - something that an LNE should never do. It could have done with some more really good dancers. Most youngsters avoided it - the Old Swan Band is clearly not popular with teeny boppers.

Wednesday was the one night of heavy rain - and it may have affected attendance for Eliza Carthy's Motown Ceilidh Band. Loud, and not really suitable for dancing. It was well attended but somehow it was a poor dance experience. In another setting the music would have been fine.

Thursday was Glorystrokes - and anyone else with any sense avoided it too! They are well known for grossly overamplified music and it's not really danceable even with earplugs in. I asked a couple of girls the following night if they had enjoyed it. "Oh it was great" But what about the noise level? "Oh that was awful, I had my earplugs but it still did my head in".  So there you have it - noise so loud that even earplugs are inadequate and yet it was somehow 'great'. The only way to stop this sort of nonsense if maybe a raft of residents' complaints and combined with new and properly enforced legislation.

I attended Friday with Simon Care All Stars with some trepidation - as a member of Tickled Pink he has a reputation for being far too loud. But it was actually rather enjoyable - despite some remarkably silly dances from Ashley Hutchings. Good crowd of people, many good young dancers and in all one of the better evenings. I was quite surprised! It was memorable also for the 'double arches' dance where I made my two young partners do the arches twice each time through the dance instead of once - they managed very well. And then a delightful woman asked me to dance saying - "you seem to have so much energy". I told her I was actually half dead and about to expire - but it did illustrate just how unfit so many people are. Even youngsters who have not danced all day seem to need a rest between dances. What is the matter with them?

The Bulverton remains a venue largely divorced from the rest of Sidmouth FolkWeek - many people may go there to dance and nowhere else. It has never regained the atmosphere of pre-2005 - it's too small, there are not enough good dancers and under Joan Crump's influence much of the music is loud 'headbanging rock' (or whatever other description comes to mind!).

I was actually wrecked at the end of the week - adding up the duration of all the 34 dance events I attended the total was 70 hours and so I was probably on my feet actually dancing for 35+ hours spread over 7 days. The season ticket cost 160 (early bird price which non-selected stewards are allowed to purchase) or about 5 per hour of actual dancing - which sounds quite a bargain. But how much of the dance was to a good standard and therefore enjoyable and how much of it was mediocre - as in the family hours at the Blackmore and much of the time at Bulverton? Here the value for money looks less good - maybe 10 or more per hour of dancing that you could really enjoy as opposed to tolerate, always hoping (dance to dance and year to year) that things would get better! Looking back nostalgically at old SeeRed pages I see I wrote to the Sidmouth Herald in 2008 to say I attended dance events for 69 hours - so nothing changes??

I still remember the LNEs pre-2005, maybe that's why I still drive up there, in hope rather than in expectation. One strategy for future years could be to buy a day ticket and dance for 10 hours, followed by a day doing the free fringe events, followed by another day ticket. One advantage is that if you lose a day ticket it's only 34 for another one - or just forget the rest of the day and go to the beach.


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