An article on folk festival
financing, online (computer) dating and Zumba dance - published in STS magazine March
The full article analysing a couple of UK
dating websites is here.
Stephen Wozniak launches the STS dating agency!
you know, I use the internet a lot. I would like to summarise my view of what is likely to
happen to STS when it goes completely digital and online. There are essentially two
valuable aspects to STS as it is now. There is the magazine with its somehow
'unputdownable' quality and with many people reading it over coffee at breakfast just
because it lends itself so readily to lying on the kitchen table. I very much doubt it
will be as widely read when it is online because people will have to make an effort to
read it. It may become the preserve of a few internet-savvy contributors. There are many
examples of 'forums' where this happens and the only people who read most of the rubbish
generated are the people who write it. I suspect therefore that the active STS readership
As for the directory, this is far better placed online and kept up to date. Yet even here
there are question marks. STS is trying to build a 'one stop shop' for all folk dance
events, but there are already many well established and much used regional sites: devonfolk.co.uk, sadfolk.co.uk
(in Somerset and Dorset) and no doubt others. There are also other 'national' sites such
as simplywhatson and the very new Whats On websites run (in Devon) by Prestige Media where
any club can log on and add their events. Thus anyone wanting information on a dance may
need already to search many unconnected and disparate resources, and indeed needs first to
find the resources themselves. There is a striking parallel here between the fragmentation
of online folk date services and the online dating industry that I alluded to in my very
first article for STS back in early 2011.
drew attention then to the parlous state of folk dance and contrasted it to online dating.
Over the last few years I have undertaken a study of a couple of these dating sites and
this is now published - there is a link on my home page (www.seered.co.uk).
But I warn you - it's 22,000 words and you need to like numbers. There are two aspects
that should be of interest to folk dancers and indeed to hard pressed festival organisers.
We all know that folk dancing is both good exercise and an excellent way of meeting many
people in a single evening. Yet it is characterised by
failing attendances, an ageing clientele and an awful image problem. This has been
discussed half to death in STS. The UK government is becoming alarmed by inactivity and
obesity: the NHS bill alone for treating avoidable diabetes may run to hundreds of
millions of pounds annually. Should folk dance be available on the NHS?
are several hundred small dance clubs in the UK. Their collective turnover is probably
less than £2 million. We have a few good ceilidhs - maybe 10 or 15 with a combined
turnover of maybe £100,000. The exact numbers are not really important. All of these are
excellent places to meet people and indeed to get your hands on them. (Steady on! This is
a family magazine - Ed). Given however that probably 90% of the people who go to these
events go with no intention or desire to meet someone new' the money expended by the
other 1% is maybe no more than about £200,000 per year.
Now contrast this to the sums of money spent on online dating websites where annual
turnover is variously estimated at hundreds of millions of pounds in the UK and billions
of dollars worldwide. Much of this money is spent in vain partly because (as I argue in my
study) many of the sites are variously fraudulent.
Somehow, and as I first suggested two years ago, these two aspects of meeting people need
to be combined. There is demonstrably an enormous appetite for 'meeting other people' and
perhaps especially amongst the fast growing 'single again at' 50 or 60' age range. The
online dating industry continues to attract maybe 2000 times as much money from people who
'want to meet someone' as folk dancing seems to manage, and to this one can add the huge
sums paid to bespoke upmarket matching agencies; up to £50,000 per person! And this is
despite the fact that in terms of physical wellbeing it is far better to dance than to sit
hunched for hours over a computer. I therefore put it as a challenge to folk dance and
festival organisers (and to the STS readership! - Ed) - how best to link folk dance with
the huge demand for people to meet up with each other?
Finally, consider also the new craze for Zumba dance: it was recently reported in the
business press that one major company is now valued at over £300 million. Zumba is
apparently already practised in 13,000 locations across the UK and attracts 1.2 million
people. The aim is to attract 6 million. Contest this with the total number of folk
dancers in the UK; maybe 10,000 spread over 600 clubs and with fewer than 1,000 of them
really competent? Personally, I find spirited folk and ceilidh dancing far more fun than
Zumba workouts, so where is the leadership and money in promoting it?
back to top of section