Sidmouth Folk Festival 2005 - is it
really all about money?
Many people planning to attend the fringe
festival in 2005 believe that it is being held not only to keep the "spirit of
Sidmouth" alive but to provide financial support for 2006 and beyond. This ideal
seems unlikely to be realised, despite that many guest callers (etc) have offered to work
for little or nothing.
The following analysis of Sidmouth 2005 will be updated as data becomes available. An
analysis of the International Festival was produced for EDDC during 2004 but has still not
been published, despite assurances given at the public meeting in
Basic financial information on running the International Festival is
available. An outline of possible gross profits from the arena
is also available but these figures are necessarily sketchy - net profits will depend
heavily on how much of the supporting infrastructure, volunteer labour, health and safety
personnel etc are provided 'free of charge'. Some visiting artistes/groups are rumoured to
be willing to appear free of charge in 2005 to help keep Sidmouth 'alive'. This is in
itself a compelling reason for both local people and fringe organisers to be transparent
about their profits. Some dance callers and bands are willing to 'donate' their services -
Initially, it was envisaged that the 2005 fringe festival
might be little more than a few musicians along the seafront, pub sessions and ceilidhs,
some singing with the Festival Choir, social dances, and maybe some impromptu dancing on
the Ham or in the Knowle arena. It is now growing into a potential money spinner - but
where will the profits go?
The major potential for profit is in the arena - there could be a gross income of up to £500,000 but
£250,000 is more likely as a realisable maximum. Special considerations apply to how the
accounts for the arena should be presented and made available for scrutiny because the
events are being organised by a senior councillor. It is not enough merely to state on his
website that "any profits will be devoted to supporting 2006". All income and
outgoings should be properly audited and published.
In late December 2004 the idea of holding concerts at the arena was abandoned.
The reason given was that 'the financial risks were too great' but in reality too much
money might have had to be found 'up-front' by organisers who did not possess industry
credibility. It would have been difficult not to make a profit from a few well attended
concerts, but no-one is sure how many people will come to Sidmouth in 2005 - let alone how
many will stay all week.
The Sidfolk dance and workshop sessions being
organised by Ray Goodswen have an easily calculated maximum gross income - tickets are £90 each (for the week) and it has been stated that
only 300 will be sold. Some day tickets are also available. A total of £30,000 may
therefore be realisable - far less than could be taken by one sell-out arena concert. The
tickets are being sold nine months in advance giving interest payments of around £1500.
The events seem to be an 'independent' venture. Sidfolk is stated to be:
"established as a trading
subsidiary of my (Ray Goodswen's) business for ease of establishing banking facilities and
so that it could trade as a separate entity but also so that my business would fund the
initial costs involved in getting the venture off the ground."
"all I am doing is going back to
where we started and holding a dance festival in Sidmouth in the first week in
As of January 2005 I was still
trying to convince the the festival steering committee how much better it would be to move
the dancing into the town centre and to use some of the money to pay for a marquee in
Blackmore Gardens. The whole organisation from June 2004 to January 2005 has been
bedevilled by the notion of every event having to be a self supporting venture. A pooling
of resources could have produced a much better business model.
Email exchanges of March 2005 with Ray Goodswen are on folk47b
During full International Festival weeks, many cars remain on the main campsite field. The
large field near to the arena used for casual parking is utilised both by folkies and by
day visitors. The smaller in-town car parks operated by Sidmouth rugby and cricket clubs
have reputedly made £15,000+ annually whilst giving nothing back to the festival. This
was discussed at the town meeting. More recently I have been told
that the Rugby club do give something back.
These private car parks are likely to be fully in use during 2005 and there remains a
question of provision for evening arena concert visitors if the main field is not to be
utilised. A daily charge there of (say) £4 per car might yield up to £4000 or £24,000
for the week. It is important to recognise that these incomes are not made 'by the town'
for the benefit of taxpayers but by a few groups or landowners. This point has been
discussed on an earlier page.
The main festival campsite fields are owned by a Mr Baker who lives in Bickwell Valley (on
the 'favoured' western side of Sidmouth). Given that 2005 is to help the festival keep
alive he might have offered the fields free of charge to the interim organisers. I do not
know if this happened - but it would have been a nice gesture.
Camping for 2005 was originally planned to be on at least two smaller sites. Tickets are now available. Profits may go entirely to the owners of
the fields, or some may be given as a gesture of goodwill towards the festival. Another
way of doing this would simply be to make only a modest charge for camping. The main
(Bulverton) site is being brought back into (limited) use. The owner of the Salcombe Regis
site may be taking something of a financial gamble organising the LNE venue.
Late Night Extra (LNE)
No details available yet - tickets not on sale until May 2005. See the 'official' leaflet and website
for intended bands, etc. As of February 2005 the organisers are not guaranteeing that each
or any of the bands mentioned will be playing. The final programme is unlikely before May
2005. May be subject to change when numbers attending become clearer.
Funding arrangements are apparently assured via Gordon Newton who is a key player in the
Rochester festival that apparently attracts 300,000 people over three days! The 50 m by 25
m Ham marquee in Sidmouth is intended for concerts (seating 800+) and possibly some
dancing and other events. Any profits will go towards helping Sidmouth 2006.
Overall therefore, the gross income from
even a fringe festival could have been around £300,000 including successful arena events.
This contrasts with the figure of £750,000 which is the known
cost of running a full International Festival and which (in good years) was recovered in
total income. The International Festival included many 'non profit making' sidelines which
added immensely to the artistic quality and overall appeal of the week. Many will be
absent from 2005 - although the proposed programme is growing.
However, it seems clear that sufficient funds should be realisable to pay for a decent
level of infrastructure - including marquees in town for the dancing instead of relegating
it to outlying residential areas where it will be inconvenient, add nothing to the town
centre ambience and (maybe) will be unwelcome because of the local car parking and noise
problems. The organiser(s) have been encouraged to think again!
What has been sadly lacking is central organisation - and maybe a willingness to share
profits for the common good.
How much of all the profits
will really be going to support 2006 and beyond?
Who (if anyone) will be accounting
for all the various income streams?
Where will net profits be held
pending any decision to stage a full International Festival in 2006?
The meeting of 11 February provided a few answers!
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