Tempers fray on mudcat as allegations fly back and forth about the planning of folk week 2005 - and the odd conspiracy theory too!

If nothing else these exchanges illustrate that the involvement of councillors as festival organisers will inevitably introduce 'political' issues and other agendas.

Some material of this type is best ignored.The following examples from mudcat are included as illustrations of the quality of many internet forum 'debates'. If you are not interested in reading them go to next page. But let curiosity may get the better of you! My comments are in purple.

From: GUEST, Another Festival Organiser 29 Oct 04 - 04:31 PM

Fairport Convention? Oysterband? Show of Hands? All names being mentioned repeatedly by Mr. Hughes as playing at the 2005 Sidmouth Festival... much to the delight of people like Lizzie (above).

Oh that it was true!

Sadly the agents / bookers for all the above artistes have no knowledge of their acts even being approached for Sidmouth 2005, let alone booked, indeed, they are extremely angry that Mr. Hughes is giving the false impression that they will be playing at Sidmouth next year (especially as one, possibly two, of the acts mentioned won't even be in the country at the time!).

It makes one wonder whether anyone can trust anything that Mr. Hughes says about Sidmouth 2005. Have a look at the websites for all the artistes whose names Mr. Hughes keeps mentioning. You won't find a single one stating that they are playing at Sidmouth 2005 and if you contact their agents / bookers / management / the artistes themselves you will find some very fed-up folkies who deeply dislike Mr. Hughes using their names without their permission.

Comment from SeeRed author: It is quite likely that many well-established people in the music promotion and festival organising business are resentful at seeing Stuart Hughes walk in as a 'newcomer' to the folk scene and rise to prominence as a key organiser of a prestigious event such as Sidmouth. I sent the following reply to a music promoter in response to an email that made similar points:  

Stuart Hughes has perhaps been falsely represented on this one - on both his websites he lists names of groups/artistes as possibly attending. www.sidmouthfestival.org.uk and www.sidmouthfolkweek.org.uk Only recently has he listed definite bookings (on his recent mudcat postings) www.mudcat.org . I am more annoyed with suggestions that lots of Sidmouth residents attended on 23 October at the meeting in Sidmouth. I was one of 15 or 20 people who offered to assist planning etc when we attended the crisis Town Meeting in June 2004. I have repeatedly asked EDDC and John Dowell when we could all get involved - the response has been "not yet". I asked about attending the 23 October meeting myself and was told it was only for organisers of events - in effect I was told I could not attend.

I suspect EDDC will soft pedal on the H&S issues to give Stuart an easy ride - compared with how hard they could enforce H&S for any other organiser.

At no time have any dancers I know from Sidmouth folk clubs been asked for any input. Ray Goodswen who was the dance co-ordinator for Steve Heap has set up his own dance sessions - he was not invited to be a member of the steering group and received a "belated invitation to the 23 October meeting". He couldn't attend anyway. Everything seems to have been decided by a small group of no-doubt well intentioned folk people (South West Folk, Great Western Morris etc) and Hughes, and of course EDDC lurking in the background.

From: GUEST,Stuart Hughes 29 Oct 04 - 05:19 PM

In reply to organiser of another festival, I haven't mentioned the Oyster Band and neither Fairport Convention (although third party contact has been made with their management re:possible date). Show of Hands are however confirmed and will be opening the Arena Concerts on Saturday 30th July. Strawbs are confirmed for Tuesday 2nd August and Battlefield Band Friday 5th August. The Family show on Monday 1st August also confirmed with The Wurzels. I must say I do find your comments insulting and so get your facts right before putting anymore verbal d'''''' on Mudcat.

GUEST,Lizzie.......... also in Sidmouth! 30 Oct 04 - 04:51 PM

So, Steve at See Red, See Red, See Red, See Red! How are things going then?

Have you attended the meetings yet? Or offered help? Or written lots of positive letters to the Herald which are NOT about how popular your See Red site is and how it is visited by even people from the BBC? Have you been able to help Tony Reed with trying to raise the 50,000 for a professional Fund Raiser? Maybe you're willing to knock on people's doors and ask them to donate money?

It takes an AWFUL lot to make me lose my temper as I'm normally a quiet, placid, EXTREMELY happy Show of Hands fan....BUT....Stephen See Red....YOU have managed to make SMOKE come out of my ears!

If you have a personal ISSUE with Stuart Hughes, then take it up with him PERSONALLY, right away from Mudcat!! Right away from The Sidmouth Festival!

I think that to risk damaging this wonderful Festival with a personal vendetta is Absolutely Deplorable! If all you are hoping for in 2005 is that The Sidmouth Folk Festival falls flat on its' face then you should not be in the Folk World at all IMO!! You should be ashamed of yourself!

All I see on this thread is people being told to visit See Red...Page 32, See Red Page 46, See Red...See Red... OVER and OVER again and THEN I have to read yet ANOTHER of your letters in the Herald boasting about how many 'hits' your site has had!

Now I thought, perhaps naively, as I am the first to admit that I am 'nice but dim!' that the Folk World was a warm, friendly, incrediibly helpful community, full of vastly talented and kind people! That image is being horribly damaged on this thread! When I sit in The Arena in 2005 I would love to see people enjoying themselves and not a Civil War breaking out!

There are a lot of people who are going to be working REALLY hard next year to make 2005 work! Don't make it EVEN harder!

Why don't you change Seered to SeeGood! It will be much better for your blood pressure and mine! And FAR FAR BETTER for The Sidmouth Folk Festival 2005!! Once again, in Dougie MacLean's words...All Together, All As One!!

And I'll leave you with a quote from Disney's BAMBI........from Thumper the Rabbit!...."If you can't say ANYTHING NICE then don't say ANYTHING AT ALL!

Lizzie (Ooh! I'm just soooooo..........!!!!!!!!!)

Comment by SeeRed author. This person - Lizzie Cornish (if that is her real name) posts a wide variety of scribble on many internet discussion boards - and amounting to literally hundreds of posts. For examples, try the BBC Radio2 "Folk and Acoustic" forum. Some of her more recent posts were quickly removed by the BBC 'censors' or moderators. The process is apparently called being 'modded out". However, kindly folkies who frequent the BBC board sent copies to me. Further comment here would be superfluous.

From: GUEST,Stuart Hughes 30 Oct 04 - 07:53 PM

As the person who appears to be the one under attack for trying may I say that I am not the person who does anything half baked. I can assure those who it seems just want to keep knocking that the Arena events programme will be of a very high standard. I am also not involved as a Councillor and so STOP referring to me as Cllr Hughes. I am involved with Chris Wale as the organisers of Sidmouth Carnival.....lETS ASK THESE KNOCKERS:- HAVE YOU EVER TRIED PUTTING A CARNIVAL PROCESSION TOGETHER?.....HAVE YOU EVER PUT ON A CARIBBEAN NIGHT EVENT?.......HAVE YOU EVER BUILT A CARNIVAL FLOAT?....WELL WE HAVE. In fact I and Chris have organised a total of TWENTY SIX processions in Sidmouth, THIRTEEN CARIBBEAN NIGHTS and have been involved in building TWELVE CARNIVAL FLOATS. All these events require the knowledge and expertise of Health and Safety and a host of other areas of legislation with which I am now well on top of. SO IF YOUR NOT AWARE OF THE FACTS KEEP YOUR MOUTHS SHUT OR CALL ME. Both Chris and myself are running just one small piece of the 2005 Sidmouth Folk Festival, but we are willing to offer the experience we have gained over the years to those running other events....THIS IS CALLED TEAM WORK and we are TEAM PLAYERS. Finally there has been a lot of play on EDDC withdrawing the 60,000. EDDC hasn't ever put anything towards the Caribbean Night which has seen its costs spiral over the years. This year it cost 35,000 to stage and we covered it making a small profit. The Carnivals cost 5,000 to stage once again without any EDDC input. So you can't rely on EDDC funding their budgets are being squeezed by the Labour Government so if you want to knock someone Tony Blair's the man.

Comment from SeeRed author: another example of Stuart Hughes remaining calm under pressure?

From: GUEST,Another Sidmouth resident 31 Oct 04 - 08:07 AM

Oh dear Stuart. Please don't start knocking Tony Blair on this website. We don't need you bringing your political beliefs into the debate on our Festival. All we want is constructive debate about how we retain a Festival that is loved by many. There is no place for politics in this. You do your cause a disservice by suggesting that Tony Blair and the Labour Government are somehow to blame for your Council withdrawing funding for the Sidmouth Festival. I know you well Stuart, I'm sure that in your councillor role you would not have engineered a situation where your Council withdrew funding from the Festival, causing Steve Heap to quit, leaving the field clear for you to step in, knight-in-shining armour, to save the day. You wouldn't do that would you Stuart. Of course you wouldn't.

Comment by SeeRed author: Even by the standards of Sidmouth politics, the last suggestion is absurd. Hughes would have had little say in the overall EDDC decisions to cut services. It is more likely he simply knew in advance what was likely to happen so was able to plan a 'take-over bid', at least of the part of the event that helped provide the infrastructure for his Caribbean night. Steve Heap served his 'notice to quit' before the final announcement of a withdrawal of the EDDC grant - but he too may have known about it well before it was officially announced in September 2004. In any case, EDDC offered the arena free of charge to the core steering group (as it was constituted at the time) but they said they had no use for it. Hughes merely jumped gleefully into the vacuum that had been created.

From: GUEST,Local Sidmouth festival fan 31 Oct 04 - 07:32 PM

Of course local councils should support festivals that generate substantial income for the local economy. Many do. The problem here in Sidmouth is that you have one councillor (Stuart Hughes) who is determined to stage the whole festival himself. The only way he can do that is be removing the present festival organiser Steve Heap and the only way he can do that is by getting his (Stuart Hughes') council to stop funding the festival. is it any wonder that genuine festival-goers are suspicious of Stuart Hughes and his cohorts especially when we see Stuart going round Sidmouth asking people to log onto this board and write in to defend him.

Comment from SeeRed author: This is about as silly as it gets - if only because Hughes would not be capable of running an entire festival. He knows probably even less about the folk scene than I do. The reasons Steve Heap withdrew are well documented on this website - this person should try reading some history. Certainly, the fact that a prominent councillor is now a key person in the festival organisation means that politics and sniping will inevitably continue to intrude - but they need to be kept in perspective.

From: GUEST,Stuart Hughes Date: 08 Nov 04 - 06:46 PM

Would Guest local Sidmouth fan, care to ring Steve Heap and ask him what kind of working relationship we had and indeed we still have. Steve has in fact offered any assistance he can to both myself and Chris Wale with the Arena. So get your facts right before posting any more tripe which is liablous (sic) on Mudcat Cafe. Or put it in writing to me with your name and address so that I can commence legal proceedings. There are many of us that want to see a festival in Sidmouth in 2005.

Comment from SeeRed author: yet another example of Stuart Hughes remaining calm under pressure? The best responses to such drivel are either to laugh or simply ignore it.

From: GUEST,Another GUEST 09 Nov 04 - 04:59 PM

Well said Laura and GUEST who would rather remain nameless (as indeed do I).

One point to GUEST. He or she is half right in saying Mrs Casey withdrew because of the financial risk if the weather is poor.

Speak to Steve Heap and Mrs Casey as I have done and you will also find they withdrew because they were being messed-around by East Devon District Council who were making impossible demands on site issues, staffing issues, licensing issues and insurance issues.

Those issues will surely still have to be faced by whoever attempts to stage events in 2005. As the financial situation will be even worse without the 60,000 Council funds then surely even those of us who want Sidmouth to continue have to ask whether all the heady optimism from Lizzie & Co. will be enough to overcome the real and practical difficulties in staging events without Council funding and with a whole load of expensive licensing demands to fulfil.

Sorry to be a tad negative but "them's me views".

Comment from SeeRed author: This is an interesting comment from someone who says he/she has spoken to Steve Heap. The views expressed align with the historical record - but in addition Steve Heap was being 'messed about' by Sidmouth Town Council, albeit in a more petty way. It is possible that EDDC decided some time ago (because of looming budget problems) to be as obstructive as possible in order to make Steve Heap pull out, thus avoiding the embarrassment of being seen unilaterally to have 'pulled the plug' on such a renowned event.

More likely, EDDC 'jobsworth' officials were merely taking to extremes the 'over cautious' attitude that has seen many councils, schools and hospitals take fright at the prospect of being sued for anything and everything. All festivals are having to cope with increased H&S demands - and Steve Heap's volunteers were generally trained to high standards and did their jobs well.

This contributor (and several others) need to read folk44.htm and other pages explaining the financial position. A festival of sorts can easily run in Sidmouth - but a truly spectacular international festival has many more costs to cover. It needed a high and sustained level of arena ticket sales to keep the whole show afloat. A lesser festival has no such requirement.

next page

back to top of section

back to home page