Observations from FolkWeek - 2014 and 2015.


Blackmore Gardens - floor, ventilation and lack of proper management.

Oh dear me! When will some action be taken to improve this venue and on a sustainable basis, so that the same problems do not occur each year?

Much has been said in past years (insert links). In 2014 the floor was flat (which made a change from a few years ago) but the surface had no slip to it. After a week it was apparently hard work on the ankles. So some dancers avoided it. The usual problems of lack of stewards and failure to open side flaps were (no doubt!) still features of the venue. Some dancers complained that their feet snagged on the metal joins.

In 2015 the floor as originally provided was flat but of poor quality with a large number of staples sticking out - the result of carpets having previously been stapled down and then pulled up. Again this was not a new problem for Blackmore Gardens, but it was so bad in 2015 that after several hours of trying to remove staples (especially the bits left sticking up and ready to rip a dance shoe or spill blood from an unprotected foot) someone decided that it was simply not going to be good enough. A further top layer of flooring was brought in at short notice - how and from where I do not know!

This top layer was finally put in place after a delayed start to the Friday evening ceilidh - which featured Hekety at a moderate volume and playing very well. The evening was even more enjoyable because it was free admission - presumably because of the delayed start. I hadn't gone to town to dance, just to look around, but I quickly nipped home to change! At the end, I even told one of the band how nice it was not to have the music too loud.

Initially, the new floor was a revelation for Blackmore Gardens - the surface was excellent - it had plenty of slip and there was not a staple in sight. Things were looking good until a few of the square floor panels started to move away from each other. Also, ridges formed between panels in quite a few places. Floor squares that walk were a feature of the appalling temporary floor in the West End venue at Chippenham earlier in the year. In order to obtain a larger dance floor, a temporary floor had been laid on top of carpet, and (unsurprisingly) the squares started to move as soon as they were danced on. The surface was also like treacle and dancers talked (and complained) about little else.

Several dancers produced their cans of talcum powder and it was used liberally in places despite an exhortation from Mike Courthold not to do so “because we'll have to pay to clean it off”. There were several accidents, one potentially serious involving a substantial bump to the head as a woman fell over. The floor was knocked back into shape using sledgehammers and blocks of wood as buffers. But the problem kept occurring simply owing the asymmetrical nature of the underlying tufted carpet.

At Sidmouth in 2015, the Blackmore floor soon became a liability owing to the number of ridges where panels had dropped relative to one or more neighbouring panels. These sharp edges caught dance shoes very effectively - such a sudden jarring can produce a shock up one's spine - and there were many complaints. Gareth Kiddier promised that the floor would be sorted in the next release (one of his software jokes…).

But for all its faults, it was easily the best floor that has been laid in the Blackmore Gardens for years. This was fortunate because the venue was packed every morning for some of the best dance events that have been seen in Sidmouth since the glory days of the International festival, when standards of social dance were so high because of the sheer number of expert dancers including many from overseas. The floor contributed to the success of Blackmore Gardens in 2015 - many dancers would not have survived for so long on a dull floor.

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