Sidmouth Folk Festival: Safety on the Bulverton Caravan Site

I came to live in Sidmouth in 1997 - the year the festival was a wash-out. I was surprised by the lack of concern some stewards seemed to have for their own safety, and that of others. The operation of the caravan site on the main folk festival field seemed to have particular problems owing to lack of forward planning.

In 1998 I was elected to Sidmouth Town Council. In 1998 also, I was a volunteer steward on the festival camp site. I wrote a series of letters centred on caravan safety to the then festival organisers (Steve Heap and Mrs Caseys Music) and to East Devon District Council. They were copied to the town council.

The letters address technical aspects of caravanning and in particular the parking of rows of caravans on a slope above rows of tents. If you are not interested in site safety proceed directly to the next main page of the folk festival section.

This material is included simply because it may contain something of relevance to the new festival organisers (for Sidmouth), and to other festivals where caravans are parked on sloping ground. The pages were loaded into SeeRed in December 2004 - hence their position in what is largely a chronological record of events leading to the Sidmouth Festival in 2005/6.

Latest EU proposals are for regular MoT-type testing of the mechanical condition of caravans (which would certainly address some of the concerns!) and for tighter regulation of who can tow a caravan and the extra tests they may need to pass. For further details see (for example) websites devoted to camping and caravanning - asking Google for "caravan driving test law" would be a good start. The following is adapted from the messageboard of the UKCampsite website, dated October 2004.


Booming caravan sales could be tempered by draft EU laws that say owners should have compulsory lessons and undertake a practical test before they hit the road.

Experts say the plans could pour cold water on a thriving industry which last year saw more than 28,000 caravans roll off the UK production line - the biggest in Europe. The directive aims to harmonise the national laws on driving licences but the plans could threaten jobs in the sector: "These plans would make it tougher to own a caravan - hundreds of jobs could be at stake. Creating red tape for caravan owners could hit the industry hard."

Under the draft proposals drivers would undergo at least seven hours of  training with a qualified instructor and then pass a practical driving test while towing a one-tonne caravan. The EU parliament will debate the issue this month. If passed, the law would then need to be approved by a majority of national governments before entering the statute books.

The DVLA website contains information on who can tow what at present - it depends primarily on when they passed their driving test and the particular mass combination of car/caravan. In the majority of cases, caravans and small trailers towed by cars should be within the new 'category B' threshold.

Some guidance is obtainable from - and don't blame me if the link refuses to work. Note that Gross Vehicle Weight is now termed (correctly) Maximum Authorised Mass. Further details from the DVLA here. But be warned - there are a lot more paragraphs like the following examples:


In general, an additional driving test is required for each category or subcategory of entitlement. But there are certain exceptions to this where drivers have already passed one test which involves trailer entitlement for a larger or equivalent sized vehicle.

This means that passing a test for subcategory C1+E or D1+E upgrades category B entitlement to B+E.

A test pass for subcategory C1+E upgrades subcategory D1, if held, to D1+E. But a test pass for subcategory D1+E does not upgrade subcategory C1 to C1+E because the trailer size required for a subcategory D1+E test is smaller than that required for a subcategory C1+E test.

Passing a test for category C+E upgrades category B entitlement to B+E and also confers entitlement to subcategory C1 and C1+E and, if category D or subcategory D1 is held, these are upgraded to category D+E or subcategory D1+E.

A test passed for category D+E upgrades category B and subcategory D1 to category B+E and subcategory D1+E respectively. But it does not upgrade category C or subcategory C1 entitlements because the trailer size required for a category D+E test is smaller than that required for a category C+E or subcategory C1+E test.

The concern for folk festivals relates more to the necessary ("due care") degree of training of stewards who are placed in charge of (for example) a car park or caravan site. My experience of several festival sites is that accidents are made more likely by inadequate training - and especially by expecting stewards who have little or no experience or knowledge of towing caravans to be somehow 'in charge' of telling people where to drive and how to park, especially in wet or otherwise dangerous conditions. The Bulverton site at Sidmouth is probably an extreme example because it has such a steep slope.

Any comments from other festival sites are welcome!

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