Observations from FolkWeek - 2014 and 2015.


Blackmore Gardens - get it right next year?

An inconvenient truth for 2015.

Dancers and other attendees at Sidmouth have become used to using the ‘deluxe’ toilets and washrooms of the Blackmore Gardens St John’s Ambulance building. So it was inconvenient to say the least to find the entire building closed up for FolkWeek. Apparently the decision was based on lack of staff or volunteer availability. The chemical WCs situated behind a screen in Blackmore Gardens were widely reported as ‘revolting’ and ‘disgusting’. The refurbished Market Square WCs were OK, but I was told the ladies was flooded out at one stage.

The Bulverton venue has for some years had 'half decent’ WCs in purpose built portakabins so for 2016, we hope the St John’s Ambulance facilities will again be available!

Blackmore Gardens - either get it right or change the management!

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For how much longer do we have to tolerate the present management of Blackmore Gardens?

For many years there have been two principal problems - the floor and the ventilation. The floor is outside the control of the stewards on duty and in charge: they can only work with what they are given.

But the ventilation (or lack of it) is a perennial problem that needs only good management and a few minor alterations - all of which has been suggested on this website and elsewhere several times, and including to people like Paddy Allen(?) the steward often in charge.

Lack of concern for the welfare of patrons is not confined to Blackmore Gardens - as a separate issue, the current design of the Ham marquee is arguably inappropriate and in a very hot year someone may die from heatstroke - more of that in another section.

The common feature is that senior FolkWeek management simply don’t listen. In 2015 the same old tired excuses were used for why the side flaps of the Blackmore Gardens marquee couldn’t be opened. These varied depending on the steward. One said the flaps couldn’t be opened at all. So I showed him how. He then proceeded to open a flap all the way to the ground - exposing belongings to possible easy theft from outside. This was soon corrected by another steward. So obviously there is inadequate pre-festival training of stewards - they should be schooled in the most important parts of the job at each venue. At Blackmore Gardens the priorities are ventilation and ventilation - when they are not busy telling people that the floor cannot be mended.

Another steward told me that the clear plastic curtains on the left of the venue, leading to the sitting out area, could not be opened except across doorways, because people might trip over chairs and fall down a small step. When it got hot, (even with an outdoor temperature of 18C) these curtains were drawn aside, presumably by a steward who had received different instructions or maybe none at all. Fortunately the daytime air temperature rarely exceeded 20C and there was usually a breeze, if it had been a calm day at 25 or 30C the marquee could have been unusable without full cross ventilation. So it needs to be designed for such conditions and appropriate training needs to be given.

Design modifications have been suggested in past years and ignored. In 2015 I listed complaints about the floor and addressed them to Paddy Allen (?) the steward in charge. His first comment was that I could complain as much as I liked so long as I didn’t expect anything to be done. In 2014 (or maybe it was 2013) he had tried to give me a short lecture on whether I would prefer to leave the venue if it was not to my liking rather than to complain about it.

But in 2015 having listened to what had gone wrong at Chippenham with a floor made of square panels, he did arrange for repairs (and an extension). This just proved that complaining and explaining how to fix at least some of the problems can work some of the time. But the ingrained attitude ‘you can complain all you like but don’t expect anything to be done’ which has been so characteristic of Blackmore Gardens over the years needs to change.

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