Comments and opinions from folkies on the crisis facing the Sidmouth Festival.
Type and size of festival - some comparisons
I remember when the "sound system" was run, mixed(!), and controlled by one bloke in the back of a Landrover, then when things got a bit more technical, Dennis Connibere, in his greenhouse on wheels! These days it seems to take two Artic's worth of Stage Electrics finest, a huge open ended marquee, a garden shed supported by much scaffolding, a technical crew of sound engineers, lighting technicians, huge mixing desks, light rigs that wouldn't look out of place at a Iron Maiden gig.
It is easy to criticise the festival for its size. The first complaint about it getting too big according to the historian of the festival was 1957, and there was at least one other in the early 70's published in the EFDSS magazine.
There was a similar kerfufle at Beverley a couple of years ago, A mini-festival that went back to basics worked, the highly organised festival returned the year after and included the back to basics festival.
Sidmouth has always been, and I hope will always be about folk. Music, dance, customs, from far and wide, and our own traditions.
I went to Sidmouth a few times between 1983 & 1989 when I stopped going because it was getting too big. I dread to think what it's like now.
There are lots of pleasant festivals in pleasant places a lot easier to get to than Sidmouth. We've been going every year since 1984, but I doubt if we'd keep going to Sidmouth if the festival folded.
At the same time, Steve Heap is always researching alternative locations, because he has to keep an eye on the options.
I still think the price of a ticket is excellent value, when you compare to going to the theatre, sporting events, or even one-off non-folkie concerts. Where else can I be entertained from morning 'till very late at night for around £20 a day?
I may be being rather simplistic, but has Sidders got to big for its own good? Big bands, big names, but where is the variety?, It seems that the festival is focused on bands/acts that will bring in the pounds. Yes the festival must be a viable business, but it has lost the reason for its existence?
The important thing is to ensure that some form of Sidmouth Festival continues. One that hopefully is not subject to this now regular brinkmanship, which is now causing all this uncertainty, blame and bad feeling.
Winnipeg folk festival in Canada is my idea of what Sidmouth could be like if some of its problems were sorted out. The main arena fits ten thousand (yes, ten thousand people...) who turn out to see the headlining acts, running from James Taylor type crowd pullers to Oysterband a few years back. However, they also have 'In the tradition' type concerts and sessions, songwriters circle events, and folk club-like venues. Everything's close together and they have more than enough camping space and parking.
Broadstairs - I'd love to get there some time, but the fact that it's always scheduled to follow directly on Sidmouth has always stopped me, even though it's a lot closer. I'm too folked out to do straight on, and I know a lot of other people are as well.
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