Letters in STS magazine Jan and March 2013 (issues 79 & 80) responding to my article on dance floors.

Dear Chris,

It is rare indeed that organisers choose to reply to comments made by Mr Wozniak, as he represents the sort of person that is never satisfied by our efforts, but I feel obliged to reply to the comment about the Olympiad floor at Chippenham made by him in his article in STS 78.

Mr Wozniak was quick to complain about the state of the Olympiad floor, and he is correct in reporting that I said something like 'we have to work with what we have'. This was a reflection on the fact that the Olympiad Sports Hail has a floor designed primarily for sporting activities that require a non-slip surface, which is in direct contradiction to that desired by dancers. However, on this occasion the floor was clearly worse than normal, bearing in mind that it had already been used on the previous night for a ceilidh.

Having received numerous comments and experienced the state of the floor for myself, I visited the Olympiad duty manager, and was advised that the floor had not been recently treated, but had been thoroughly washed overnight. This was the problem. I advised the staff to sweep, but not wash, the floor during the festival, and all then returned to normal.

I will of course remind the Olympiad staff not to wash the Olympiad Sports Hall floor during the forthcoming festival weekend. There would, however, be no point in making a special visit to the Olympiad in advance of the Festival weekend, as the floor will of course continue to be maintained specifically for sporting activities right up to the festival.

Please note that the majority of festival organisers and managers, Chippenham included, are unpaid volunteers, who annually do battle with an ever-changing mix of challenging problems, including venue availability, floors, health & safety issues, town redevelopment (e.g. plans for a skate park where the Big Top is normally located), etc. etc .......

Each year we have to make compromises with what is available to us. Strong castigation of our unpaid efforts does not encourage us to continue with this work.

Best regards Mike Courthold, Dance Director, Chippenham Folk Festival.

Dear Chris,

I need to respond to Mike Courthold's rebuke in STS 79.

As a scientist Mike should value free exchange of information and views, and the benefits that can result. My comments on dance floors were not all negative. I merely bestowed praise where it was due and questioned inadequacies where necessary. As a result we now all know that a wooden floor should never if possible be washed immediately prior to a dance. That had never occurred to me as a possible reason for the problem at Chippenham last year. Thus knowledge is gained and, via STS, it has been widely disseminated and at minimal cost. Even a respected science journal could do little better!

As for the perennial inadequacies at Sidmouth, it is legitimate to ask why every year the same things go wrong. This is partly because there are not enough stewards, when several people (me included) routinely have our applications turned down because we have offended the management in some way (in my case by telling the truth maybe?) And before anyone else complains about me, I did praise the new Stowford Rise venue at Sidmouth!

As an aside, if the Chippenham organisers think they have problems with a proposed skateboard park, they should come to Sidmouth. We have a proposal for acres of industrial buildings just outside Sidford, on a flood plain! Also it is proposed to knock down the historic Knowle council headquarters (site of the Arena in the old days) and replace the car parking areas and some of the parkland with housing. This has created a furore (see www.saveoursidmouth.com) but as Sidmouth is a one party state, it will probably all be nodded through after fake consultation.

Recently about ten of us from Gittisham Folk Dance Club went to a ceilidh at Bridport in Dorset. We danced to the Cottage Industry Ceilidh Band. They mainly do weddings and were not expecting a room full of experts. Once they had got used to the idea that we wanted to dance all the time and not have endless short breaks, it was worth the 60 mile round trip. A notice stuck to the wall of the church hall caught my eye 'Do NOT wash this wooden floor. It will be damaged'.

Best wishes       Stephen Wozniak

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