Sidmouth Festival 2005: Priorities in the Press - 21 Jan 2005.

As noted on the last page, a major press release concerning the festival was expected in mid January 2005. In the event, a newsletter containing little that was new was issued on a 'new look' website.

The perceived priorities of the town were laid bare in the Herald of 21 January, both in extensive condemnation of the proposal by EDDC to close most public toilets (or hand control and funding responsibilities to town and parish councils) and in the election addresses of would-be councillors.

Remarkably, the entire letters page as well as the front page headlines were devoted to one subject - the proposed closure of public toilets to save EDDC money. Various suggestions were made for cutting costs at EDDC, including making staff pay for workplace parking.

More seriously, and following the death of one of Sidmouth's longest serving and most respected town and district councillors (Bernard Clarke, who was a true friend of the Festival) candidates for seats on both the town council and EDDC were given space to set out their interests and promises in 'election addresses'. These covered over half a page of the Herald yet the future of the Festival was not mentioned once. To several local folkies, this was confirmation of what they had long suspected - that no-one in Sidmouth society actually cares. It is simply not seen as an issue whether one of Europe's largest and best known music and dance festivals lives or dies. I did not stand for election this time around - I knew there were several likely candidates who lived closer to the ward and that the 'anti-entrenched-party' vote would already probably be split several ways.

Coincidentally, on 21 January also, a friend lent me the notes that accompany the twin CD "Celebration of music recorded at the Sidmouth International Festival". Here are some words from the man who researched and compiled the 35 tracks. A more extensive appreciation of this CD set will appear on SeeRed later (especially if they send me a complimentary boxed set....).

"Beginning in 1963, invitations were issued to dance teams from abroad, gradually giving the Festival an international dimension.... Sidmouth soon entered the folk calendar.... Today, the Festival is a major part of the local tourist economy and a vital part of the town's international image.... Here's to Sidmouth Festival on its fiftieth birthday, long may it continue."  David Suff,  May 2004

The CD set is published by Gottdiscs Ltd and It promises: "A superb collection of high quality, rare archive recordings from the world famous Sidmouth Festival. A unique portrait of the Sidmouth Festival as it celebrates its fiftieth anniversary. All (except one track) are previously unreleased."

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