Sidmouth Folk Festival 2005: Press Release dated 24 November 2004. Also reproduced as an article in the Sidmouth Herald of 26 November (on page 40!) and on the mudcat website. Comment

Press Release: 24 November 2004: Sidmouth Folk Week

More details of the Sidmouth Folk Week have been revealed this week after a further series of successful and positive meetings was held in the town. Future plans include a public town meeting to be held in February.

A 'steering group', nominated by people planning events in 2005, has appointed a co-ordinating team. The group includes former Festival Director John Dowell who lives in Newton Poppleford, Barry Lister from Sidford and Sidmouth hotelier Mark Seward.

Eddie Upton, Director of Folk South West, and Paul Burgess of the West Country-based ceilidh band Old Swan Band, are to be artistic advisers, whilst Sidmouth Steppers' musician Gordon Newton will be the business adviser. These three people will be available to advise the organisers of the individual events in 2005 if requested.

A 'future strategy' group has held its second all-day meeting. The group has made progress with formulating a business plan including an artistic policy and consideration of the scope of the Festival for the longer term from 2006 onwards.

It is intended that the future Festival will be a colourful showcase and celebration of the wide variety of the folk arts, both British and international. A high quality event in terms of performance, organisation and customer experience is central to the future. The Festival will be both participatory and display-based, encouraging an environment which fosters and nurtures creativity, spontaneity and innovation.

Progress has been made towards establishing a new company limited by guarantee and with registered charity status, and it is intended that this will be in place in the early part of 2005.

The future strategy group members include representatives of Folk South West, Wren Music and Great Western Morris, as well as of East Devon District Council and Sidmouth Town Council. The participants include Eddie Upton, Director of Folk South West, and Sidmouth solicitor and festival supporter Tim Shardlow.

An important feature of the current initiatives is the local involvement, and more than half the members of both the steering group and the future strategy group come from the local area. Sidmouth Town Council Chairman Tony Reed commented, 'It is great to see this co-operation and collaboration between the local community and the wider folk music and dance movement'.

Enquiries can be addressed to Tony Day, Harvest Home, 8 Underhill Crescent, Lympstone, Devon, EX8 5JF,

Sidmouth Town Council is to host a town meeting in the Manor Pavilion, Sidmouth on Friday 11 February, when plans for 2005 and the future strategy will be outlined, with the opportunity for local residents and the business community to lend their support and add their suggestions.



This leaves major questions still unanswered. It is now over 5 months since the town council held its June meeting and sought the active involvement of 'the local community'. The only involvement so far seems to be a couple of hand picked people on the 'future strategy group'.

For 2005 we are promised

"the people planning events in 2005",

a "steering group" (of people nominated by "the people planning events"), and

a "co-ordinating team" appointed by the "steering group".

So who is actually doing what and where is the overall co-ordination? This is starting to feel like death by sub-committee.

Could we know who all these people really are, and what is their expertise? Where is the overall co-ordination of money and volunteer stewards? With some events likely to produce a large return (dance tickets for example) is any consideration being given to helping other, less viable, events? 

February 2005 is probably too late to reverse some of the poor decisions such as holding dances in school and village halls. Sidmouth Festival in 2005 will inevitably be a much smaller affair than 2003/4 and as many events as possible could with benefit be concentrated in the centre of town.

Have any firm decisions been taken on providing dance marquees? What about the Ham marquee? Where will the children's events be held? These are basic structural questions that will determine the 'look and feel' of Sidmouth 2005. The information is needed for people deciding which festivals to attend in 2005. This press release tells us virtually nothing - it seems to be primarily a hurried response to my letter of 19 November.

Will anything 'worth attending' be available in the Arena apart from the concerts that are likely to attract a few folkies? Many local people who have little interest in the contemporary folk scene will attend, but who else? Will the arena be, in effect, empty except during the major concerts? If so, all the more reason to have some central focus in the town centre?

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