Report in the Sidmouth Herald, 25 June 2004 about the Middle Bar Singers of the Anchor pub. But would many people really return every year if the main festival was to be abandoned?


Whatever happens regarding future folk music festivals in Sidmouth, one group of supporters has vowed to keep on returning. The Middle Bar Singers from the Anchor Inn, Market Square, who come from around the country, have pledged to carry on singing regardless. They have gathered in the downstairs bar at the Anchor each lunchtime and evening during festival week since 1980, in what is claimed to be the biggest "fringe" event of any folk festival.

As well as singing and having a good time, the Middle Bar Singers have raised more than 10,000 for festival funds over the years and for the past two have collected several hundred pounds for Sidmouth Lifeboat with a Sea Songs and Shanties evening. Exmouth man, Tony Day, has been singing in the Middle Bar since it began.

He told the Herald: "Obviously we're all very sad that the festival's future is so uncertain, but a lot of us are in touch on the internet and have agreed that we'll have our own festival in the Anchor, whatever else happens." The singers have already held a weekend reunion each winter for a number of years. Tony said: "About 50 of us meet every February from as far afield as Cornwall, Scotland and Kent.

"Even more will still want to come every August, and we'll do what we can to sup- port any folk music festival that continues in the town." It may be the golden anniversary of Sidmouth International Festival, but the Middle Bar Singers will celebrate their own silver jubilee by sporting a proud 25 on their distinctive yellow T-shirts.

Tony added: "It's going to be the best ever and we're going to make sure it's not our last."

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