Comments and opinions from folkies on the crisis facing the Sidmouth Festival.
Sidmouth is special - in more ways than one
There is something special about Sidmouth, the way it brings together all kinds of elements you find in other festivals. It's a combination you just don't get elsewhere.
There are plenty of good enjoyable smaller festivals. There's only one Sidmouth.
Given the international side of Sidmouth, especially the way it's always brought dancers and musicians from the Eastern end of Europe, I wonder whether the organisers have tried to get financial backing from some EU fund? Sidmouth is a valuable balance to the way that most of our folk festivals are - innocently enough - much more geared to the traditions (and fashions) of the nation or region.
I've been going to Sidmouth since 1997 and for me it's got better each year. I buy season and camping tickets which I regard as good value for what we get over eight days. We do everything from Arena concerts, LNE, singarounds, harmony workshops, Kid's festival, Middle Bar, Singing in the Sea, open stage, - you name it, we've probably tried it, taking in the total Festival experience, official and fringe.
Would it be Sidmouth if it was somewhere else?
As for Sidmouth's supposed inaccessibility and parking problems, there's a good train service to Honiton, and a good bus service from there to Sidmouth, and taking a car to Sidmouth and expecting to drive around, leaving aside special circumstances, is a bit daft - for one thing, it messes up the drinking.
Going to Sidmouth festival when I was a teenager has had a profound effect on the rest of my life. Sidmouth is a very special place anyway (part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site), but Folk Week can, and should be, a great welcome to folk music, song, storytelling and dance.
While it is perfectly possible to organise things from a distance, and it's been done remarkably well in this case, a local continuing presence is an important element in helping people and organisations locally see the event as in some sense their event and not something they've been lumbered with by a bunch of outsiders.
It's always struck me as a bit dangerous that, in between festivals, it appears that folk music pretty well dies out in Sidmouth - in contrast to most other festivals I have come across. So far as I am aware there is no kind of local folk club.
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