Sidmouth Festival 2005: Newsletter of 25 January 2005

A major press release/newsletter had been promised for mid January 2005. In the event, it was a newsletter mostly full of what we knew already but on yet another new look website!

Camping arrangements appear more confused than ever with three sites on offer and none likely to be even half full!  For details see the main Q&A page.

There was no mention of a marquee in Blackmore Gardens for the childrens events as well as most of the dancing - but the Town Council have recently agreed 5000 to support childrens events - and I understand that Blackmore Gardens is now being considered - rather late in the day? I have lost count of the number of times I have tried to emphasise to the organisers that with (probably) such a small festival taking place in 2005 it is of paramount importance that as many events as possible are located around the town centre - which is after all a large part of what has helped to define the 'Sidmouth Experience' I made the same point (several times over?) in a conversation with the Town Clerk of Sidmouth, again on 25 January.

Returning to the newsletter, it is stretching credibiity a bit far for the organisers to claim that the festival will be 'centred on the town and the seafront' when the major part (or all) of the dancing may be effectively out of the town centre.

Also, local folkies can hardly believe the business model that is the basis for 2005 - each event is apparently 'independent' and must take its own risks. So if by July (say) one or more of the campsites no longer looks viable it could be dropped, and with no obvious way of replacing it if (as seems unlikely) the others are full. Events in the arena have already been abandoned. With so much uncertainty, few advance tickets may be sold and this will put further pressure on amateur organisers.

The 14 January issue of the Sidmouth Herald contained no news of the Festival but plenty of opinions about the proposals by EDDC to close many of the public toilets in and around the town to save money. This, you may recall, is the same Council that knew it was likely to run into financial difficulties as early as two years ago yet proceeded with a 100,000 revamp of the entrance foyer of its prestigeous HQ building. Only now it is being suggested that the Council vacates the building for cheaper accommodation - to save money.

Some local folk dancers are expressing resentment (bordering on anger in a few cases) that the dancing does not make use of local callers or groups - and that it is billed as the Sidmouth Independent Dance Festival. Also, with plans apparently being made for ceilidhs at alternative 'in town' and 'out of town' venues, these may conflict with the dances that many local people have already paid for. Also, as explained elsewhere there has been no news about where the money from the dances will be going - a newsletter that spoke in wishful terms can be found here. Some local folkies are refusing to buy these 90 tickets - a few rushed to buy them when they were first announced and are now beginning to regret their eagerness.

Perhaps not surprisingly, news is trickling out of how other festivals plan to take over from Sidmouth. Here is one posting from the mudcat website in mid-January 2005.

The Eastleigh website still has last year's guestlist. I've made enquiries and been told this year's festival will be very different and will have a direct appeal to those of us who would normally have been in Sidmouth.

Friends in the folk scene around Southampton/Eastleigh tell me the full line-up will be announced in February and will include Bellowhead; The Peatbog Faeries; Lunasa; T and LaTouche (ex-Edward II) and many similar acts.

The people who organised the excellent 'Shooting Roots' workshops in Sidmouth are also supposed to be involved.

I look forward to seeing the Eastleigh website when it is updated as it already sounds a very interesting alternative to Sidmouth.


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