Late Night Extra at the Bulverton marquee - Sidmouth FolkWeek 2012 - ceilidh dancers short changed again? A comment on mudcat - and a reply from one of the festival organisers that fails to address the central issue. And a few observations from the LNEs of 2012.
The Bulverton marquee has long been a 'white elephant' of FolkWeek - an expensive venue that sits unused for much of the time. The organisers rent out space to food and drink concessions, and (of course) these people become unhappy if trade is poor, as it would be if everyone was busy dancing.
Hence (possibly) the reason why in 2012 the start of the 'high energy, loud dance' session aimed at youngsters was pushed back to 7pm with the suggestion that 7 to 8pm would be a good time to eat and drink! This session was also extended to 10.30pm - which previously was the start of the LNE. As a consequence the Late Night Extra (LNE), which historically was a highlight of the ceilidh dance scene in the UK, was rescheduled to start at 11am - giving serious ceilidh dancers very little actual dance time.
The following initial discussion first appeared on the mudcat folk forum.
Subject: RE: If You're Coming to Sidmouth...
From: Steve in Sidmouth - PM
Date: 31 Jul 12 - 08:05 AM
Just looked at the LNE dance programme - they emphasise that the LNE has been extended to 1.15am but it now starts half and hour later.
In 2010 we got three hours of LNE (10.30 to 1.30am) with (say) a half hour break so call it 2.5 hours of dance time.
In 2011 it was scaled back to 10.30 to 1.00am, less the floor spot gave 2 hours of dance time.
This year we get short changed again : 11pm to 1.15am less half and hour brings it down to 1.75 hours of dance time.
So in two years we have lost 0.75 hours out of the 2010 figure of 2.5 hours or 30%.
Major evening ceilidhs generally run from 8 to midnight with a half hour spot, thus you get 3.5 hours of dance time for typically £9.
Sidmouth LNE now gives exactly half this for £13 - so it's cost per hour is almost 3 times larger. This is like comparing £26 with £9.
Subject: RE: If You're Coming to Sidmouth...
From: John Golightly - PM
Date: 01 Aug 12 - 02:07 AM
Some surprising comments from Steve-in-Sidmouth, in that a dancer of his calibre chooses to use 'dance time' as a measure of what the LNE is all about! I'd always considered it a much broader experience (listening, socialising etc).
As for the arithmetic - anyone who has been involved in organising an event like this knows that there are set (planned) times...
a) when the band 'finishes' for the first time
b) by which the final encore needs to have finished
c) by which the sound level needs to come right down
d) at which the sound desk is switched off
e) for last orders at the bar
f) when the bar must close
g) last public to leave venue
h) last staff to leave venue...
Somewhere in amongst that lot will be the advertised finish time.
Some of these times coincide with each other, others don't. Some are set in stone, some fuzzy.
Time will tell. I suggest any 2012 LNE-goers re-read Steve's post in 12 day's time or so, & then make their own minds up in the light of experience...
Strange as it may seem to some festival organisers, some people do go to ceilidh dances to dance. If I wish to chat, drink, or socialise I can do that anywhere in town at any time and free of charge.
In the event, the LNEs or 2012 were the mixture as before but with some of the music (if you could call it that) being as loud as that in previous years. One evening - featuring Spiers and Boden (event 693) was packed to capacity but with most attendees not dancing. The music was excellent.
Events starting at 7pm seemed to be a poor idea - few if any people who know they will be up to past midnight dancing or drinking wish to start their evening as early as 7pm. On the one evening I went to the Bulverton for 7pm, for the Euro Dance party (event 245 on the Saturday), the marquee was deserted until about 7.30pm, when music started with about six couples dancing. Stewards said they never expected anything to start before 7.30 at the earliest. Indeed, the large number of stewards on duty seemed to have little or nothing to do - one was smoking on duty and playing at being a circus clown at the same time. I almost told him he could be more use removing some of the many staples that were one of the less endearing features of the lifeless dance floor.
The Euro Dance started with about 10 couples (in a space that could take 150 easily) and even after 8.30pm when more had arrived, it was remarkable how many of the women (and maybe men) couldn't dance. The music was excellent but (for any beginners) difficult to follow. I spent most of my time trying to teach various women how to do simple French dances and the rest of the evening trying to follow some of the music even when (on rare occasions) I found a partner who could dance. It got better later, but as an advert for an early 7pm start it was a disaster.
I can recall thinking that the organisers should have paid me for all the time I spent teaching women how to do simple dances. Even the small Euro Bal night in the Methodist Church Hall on the last Friday (event 858) was more successful - the floor was better and the dancers were more accomplished.
As has happened before, the Bulverton promises so much - it is one of the largest venues, it could have a decent dance floor and it could attract hundreds of good dancers. Yet most of the time it manages only to be a venue for poor quality knock-about dancing with music that is so loud that many people (including some youngsters) simply stay away. And in 2012 it had a particularly lifeless dance floor. Critically for both cost effectiveness of the venue itself and the viability of the food outlet, the attendance outside of 'peak' late night hours remains low. All of this is in stark contrast to the image of the venue that might be gleaned from photos taken in peak hours (see subsequent webpage).
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