Councillor Stuart Hughes sees red over proposed analysis!

One of the most popular websites for folk aficionados is operated from the USA. It is called mudcat. Part of the site comprises a discussion forum with several threads on Sidmouth. I was first alerted to its existence by a large number of 'hits' on SeeRed from people linking to it from the mudcat forum. A kindly folkie had seen SeeRed discussed on a forum operated by Google and posted a link. Since then, mudcat has been one of the places where SeeRed is discussed within cyberspace. It certainly works better than the BBC R2 discussion site - and you are allowed to post URLs!

Occasionally tempers flare - as in the example below where two EDDC councillors express their apparent irritation that analytical techniques and discussion can be applied to the organisation of folk festivals just as readily as they can be applied to other areas of commerce and politics. My response is included also. This direct link may work if you wish to view the full discussion. An earlier riposte by Stuart Hughes is here.

Subject: RE: 51st Sidmouth festival

From: GUEST,Stuart Hughes and Chris Wale Date: 21 Oct 04

What a sad state of affairs we have, no wonder Steve Heap chucked the towel in. We and other LOCAL residents and businesses wanted to see a festival continuing in Sidmouth in 2005. All we now have is Doctor Stephen Wozniak of Sidford's nature reserve knocking our efforts. Why doesn't he as a local resident stop his bickering and come and give us a hand. We have already pledged that any profits made in the Arena during 2005 (excluding Caribbean Night) will go towards the 2006 event. By helping us he will also be able to see exactly where this money is going. Come on Dr Wozniak (Steve) we await your call.


Just to confirm that the 2005 Fringe Folk Festival at the arena show ground will be purely Folk, just to dismiss any misconceptions on certain websites which includes Steve's from Sidmouth!!!!

We look forward to a great 2005 Festival that will offer acts such as Show of Hands, Worzels (sic) and the Strawbs to name but a few....

From: GUEST,Stuart Hughes and Chris Wale Date: 21 Oct 04

We do not expect to be lambasted or critized (sic) on certain websites and can someone please explain what a true folkie is. Living in Sidmouth as we do and having opened our doors to visitors who run folk clubs around the country, artistes appearing at past festivals including Dougie Mclean (sic) and Kieran Halpin I would have thought that we were true folkies. As far as the Arena is concerned if Steve Wozniak would like to take it on then just let us know, as we are not prepared to take anymore criticism. We want Sidmouth 2005 to be a success.

Post for the website: discussion forum, 22 October 2004.

My reply to Councillor Hughes is in part as published on the latest pages of my website (51 and onwards). These were prepared before I saw his comments on but we seem to be thinking along similar lines.

I remain willing to help any aspect of the main fringe festival but am unlikely to wish to get involved with Hughes et al in the arena 'goings-on' - whatever they turn out to be. There is (arguably) sufficient discussion already on my website about differences of opinion between Cllr Hughes and myself. However, if the exhortation from Cllr Hughes to 'join in' is a formal invitation to become a member of the group organising the 2005 festival, then I accept. This could be not only as a 'resident of Sidmouth' but as an active member of local folk dance clubs and attendee of the Festival. To date, insufficient local consultation has taken place - for example, no-one has asked local folk dancers if we would prefer to be 'out in the sticks' or in Blackmore Gardens. Yet a prime stated objective following the June meeting was to involve local people more!

In particular, I would be willing to help audit and publish accounts for all the fringe activities, including the arena. If a set of proper accounts is to be produced (and I think they should be for all the reasons stated on my website) some element of independent scrutiny is essential. One of the problems that has led to suspicion about the folk festival in Sidmouth (as it was run by Steve Heap) is the lack of detailed published accounts - fair enough as he ran the whole event superbly and as a business combined with many other folk interests. He had no particular reason to separate out Sidmouth in his formal accounts.

I have many times asked EDDC when the 'supportive' people of Sidmouth could become involved - and that does not mean supportive of the changes in the arena. To date we have been denied an opportunity despite a promise in June that a meeting would be held at an early stage. If we had been involved I like to think the whole festival week might have remained under the control of 'folkies' and including the arena. This is discussed on page 51 of my website (at the bottom) and was loaded some days ago.

I have asked both EDDC and the fringe organisers if I could attend the meeting on 23 October in Sidmouth and have been told it is 'only for performers/groups etc to organise who does what where and when, not for wider issues' so I am excluded. I have had no reply to an email forwarded to Tony Day by Bill Lankester. In any case, it is too late now significantly to influence what goes on in the arena which will inevitably help to define the character of the whole week.

I concur with the views expressed on the Mudcat site that a change in the character of the folk festival (international festival) could render it ineligible for Arts Council funding - and this was (is??) still a best hope for long term survival of an internationally significant event. Otherwise it may degrade into just a local 'music/fairground/carnival' event that may be of little interest to folkies or anyone else in the wider world - by that I mean outside of East Devon and its environs. The relevant discussion is in various 'answers' on the Q&A page folk51.htm. This reflects deep concern, at least in parts of the folk world.

In the view of many of the people I talk to, the festival we knew is already finished. I hope they are wrong but if it is ever to be again what it was, control must once again become vested in the hands of people who appreciate the folk arts world and are genuinely immersed in it. A renowned international event cannot successfully be maintained by amateurs (and including elected amateurs) who just happen to live in the small seaside town that was fortunate enough to have been where the festival grew and matured. The truth of this may become increasingly apparent.

Dr Stephen J Wozniak
22 October 2004

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