Letters in Sidmouth Herald 14 August 2015.

FolkWeek: More room for musicians needed.

We read with interest the article in the Herald on August 7, titled ‘Fears acoustic traditions on seafront will be lost’.

We too have been going to the festival for many years, travelling down from the Midlands. We have been very disappointed with the way things have gone.

There are too many stalls along the front. Many go over their marked-out spots. I saw one trader try to shift two musicians, (sitting next to a marked-out spot) saying she had paid for her pitch and was allowed to go over the marked-out area.

Last week, a spokeswoman for East Devon District Council said that there was enough space left between the trade stands for performers. She is sadly mistaken. There should be more space for musicians to play and for passers-by to stop and enjoy the music. The spokeswoman should have taken a walk to see just how little space there actually was.

While we agree that the market stalls add to the week, FolkWeek is intended to be about music and dancing, as is the case at other festivals. Amplified music is spoiling the seafront. Some music is so loud that conversation is impossible. This reduces the little space there is for acoustic musicians. This, therefore, means that there is less variety of music on the seafront.

Our other comment is about the unused deckchairs that are spread along the railings, in the hope that someone might want to sit on them. I feel this takes up further unnecessary space. Surely two or three, scattered here and there would suffice, instead of long lines of empty deckchairs against the railings. We spoke to a lot of other musicians who feel the same way as ourselves and Jan Strapp.

If something is not done to reduce the stalls on the front and to ban amplification, we will not be coming back. I believe the festival has already lost a number of talented musicians because of this, and will continue to lose more performers if the powers that be don't take note of what the people are saying.

KIM CLARK Via email

Don't kill the goose.

I have been involved with the folk festival since the early 1970s. I was arena director in the 1990s, writer of the history of the festival in 2004 and one of the people who worked hard to keep the festival going from 2005.

This personal comment does not necessarily represent the views of the current organisers. I have great sympathy for the views expressed in a recent Herald article 'Fears acoustic traditions on seafront will be lost'.

In the article, the EDDC spokeswoman is quoted as saying that The Esplanade is 'strictly monitored, that the number of traders is limited ‘to allow people to perform there’, and that ‘space is left between trade stands for the performers to entertain visitors’. I feel these statements do not reflect the reality of the situation.

On the final Friday of the festival I walked along the Esplanade, noting and photographing infringements by the traders. Boxes of merchandise were being stored on the roadway, poles to support gazebos extended onto the road, and boxes and displays were being placed well beyond the area of the pitches - in some cases in front of the permanent benches. Additional traders had set up between the licensed traders. Several traders were operating in Market Place all week - has trading been extended to this area as well?

EDDC established a pragmatic solution to the previous situation of unregulated traders on The Esplanade - traders have to apply for pitches and pay a fee. In addition to infringements of the rules, the main problem now, however, is the number of permits being issued.

The Esplanade is one of the many jewels in Sidmouth’s crown. The ability to stroll along The Esplanade, admiring the views out to sea, the distinctive architecture, the cliffs at each end, and the coastline beyond, is one of the key features of the town. It is commented upon by festival-goers, and no doubt by visitors throughout the year. It is an unspoilt and consistent attraction over the 40 or more years that I have been visiting the town.

In the past, the informal, acoustic music-making and the Morris dancers along The Esplanade have enhanced the atmosphere during the festival. In more recent years, however, the traders, some of the merchandise for sale, and the amplified music have ruined this atmosphere.

Dance groups attract audiences and need to ensure that the pavement is not completely blocked. This is very difficult, if not impossible, with the current number of traders.

It appears to be a classic case of the goose and the golden egg. EDDC seems intent on stifling the informality of this music and dance along the Esplanade through the large number of traders, the apparent inability to enforce the rules and the ignoring of the over- amplified music.

Don't kill the goose, EDDC. The number of permits issued should be severely restricted and the musicians and dancers given space once again to provide the unique atmosphere that makes Sidmouth FolkWeek special.

Wistaston, Crewe

Wake up over amplified music.

We would like to endorse the comments made by Jan Strapp in your issue of August 7.

There is little space on the Esplanade in which to perform, because of the number of street traders. We understand the number of licences for traders is controlled by EDDC. Furthermore, as FolkWeek Director John Braithwaite said there has been a proliferation of amplified music on the seafront during the festival.

It is our understanding that amplified music requires a licence from EDDC. It is our view that EDDC should enforce this rule. They did not appear to do so during FolkWeek 2015.

Last week, the spokeswoman for EDDC said that the number of stalls was monitored, but she made no comment about amplified music. My wife and I are the Amycrofters Folk Dance Band. In addition to playing music, we also sing. Mickey Mouse often accompanies us to the delight of all.

The lack of space on The Esplanade and the need for us to avoid amplified musicians means that we also may be unable to perform at FolkWeek in the future.

It is difficult when there are too many stalls, and they extend beyond their marked pitches. If amplified music drowns us out, the festival suffers.

The numbers of acoustic musicians, who help make FolkWeek the institution that it is, are being drastically reduced.

Please can FolkWeek wake up EDDC before it suffers even further.

Amycrofters Folk Dance Band

Dancers' complaints are being heard.

For once I have to congratulate EDDC - I understand they imposed a noise limit on the music in the Anchor Garden during FolkWeek.

As an avid folk and ceilidh dancer, I have complained for years about excessive sound levels at many events. The ceilidhs in the Anchor were more enjoyable this year because of the reduced sound levels. I hope the same conditions are applied in subsequent years.

Both dancers and residents would benefit from sound engineers not being allowed to ramp up the volume just because they think it's clever to do so. In my opinion, some bands utilise excessive volume as a substitute for musical ability.

I did overhear one of the sound crew complaining about the restriction, but many folk dancers agree with me that sound levels at many events are far too high.

Major folk festivals such as Towersey have also begun to order a more restrained approach. How can it be sensible for many people to feel that using earplugs is nowadays necessary at a folk dance?

Maybe, at last, complaints from dancers are being heard!

Sidford, Sidmouth.

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