|SeeRed covers a
wide range of topics.
|It is written by a
retired scientist who finally decided 'enough was enough' when faced with the incompetence
and malevolence of local councils in England. Based in the seaside town of Sidmouth, the
website was first published in February 2003. 'Hits' exceeded 120,000 in the first year
with over 50,000 page views. The current 'hit' level is around 50,000 per month from
around 5000 unique visitors.
The major sections are nowadays not those of the original website over a decade ago. If I
ever get the time I may delete more of the obsolete material. In the meantime expect some
broken links as pages are reordered or renamed, especially within the folk dance sections.
The whole website is currently set to expire in November 2026 - or maybe sooner if I don't
live that long.
One of the earliest topics addressed was the abuse of authority by local councils when
implementing s.215 of the planning acts. This dated from 1998
through to around 2006. One case involving Chester City
Council is well documented.
Subsequently the website was extended to include
similarly chilling behaviour by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). My interest here
arose out of experiences in folk dance clubs. Subsequent
study of the legal aspects, undertaken early in 2016, showed how readily false allegations
of sexual abuse or sexual assault had been accepted as fact. Again, one
case amongst many is well documented. As of December 2016, the latest twist to whole
sexual abuse saga in the UK is that hundreds or maybe thousands of police officers are
also now suspected of abusing 'vulnerable' members of the public. It is suggested the
problem is much under-reported. Details are on these and many other links: Guardian,
As with the much earlier abuses of power by local council officials (many of which are
not recorded on the internet), many innocent people have been imprisoned after false
claims were accepted. There appears to be very little governmental concern about major
miscarriages of justice. Indeed, getting more people locked up seems to have become merely
one strand of meeting public sector performance targets.
|Review of Folk
Dance Festivals 2015 and 2016 - what was good and what has
This is from 2015 at Towersey. I didn't see
the same bird in 2016.
|The folk festival at Towersey began over 50 years
ago as a small village event, and centred upon a normally sleepy village.
More recently the festival became a major highlight
of the folk scene, including for ceilidh and other forms of folk dance and entertainment.
I have attended every year since 2007 - in many ways it was my favourite festival.
In 2015, and because of changes to local farming practices, Towersey had to relocate to
the Thame Showground. At about the same time, management control passed more and more from
Steve Heap to his son Joe. Steve Heap is perhaps best known as one of the directors of the
Sidmouth International Festival, in the period to 2004.
(He is mentioned 176 times in 77 pages of my website.)
The new site layout and management at Towersey have changed the 'ambience' of the
festival. It no longer feels as though it has any connection with the village. In both
2015 and 2016 a separate 'fringe' festival
was held in Towersey to raise money for local amenities. This only takes place on one day
and there is no dance element - it would be difficult to compete with the main festival.
Yet the villagers have achieved a great deal - including an impressive website.
Sidmouth also has its 'fringe' events, both in town as a central
(but unofficial) part of the event, and also as a separate
smaller and wholly unconnected festival outside the town. Again these have no social
or ceilidh dance element.
Recent changes to Towersey festival have mirrored those elsewhere, but are maybe more
extreme. The critique given here is centred upon its
recent history, and especially on dance events during 2015 and 2016.
In 2016 the unwelcome or unsatisfactory aspects included lax site security, poor site
design, overly simple ceilidh dances (with several repeated by other callers), inept dance
instruction and grossly excessive sound levels at both ceilidhs and concerts - even louder
than in 2015.
On the positive side, a few of the dance events and especially that with the relatively
new Anglo-French band Topette were very good indeed. With a few easily implemented
changes, other events at Towersey could attain a similarly high standard.
Ceilidhs at Towersey in 2012/2013 were enjoyable and featured many interesting dances,
a couple of which I still use myself. This page outlines the
changes that were imposed in 2012. However, by 2016 the music for ceilidh dances had
become absurdly loud. This is the reason why I and other dancers may no longer choose to
attend or recommend what used to be a highlight of the folk dance year.
Comments are welcome - these webpages will be in 'draft' form for some time. One local
dance band leader who attended Towersey with a troupe of dancers a few years ago told me
that one particular band 'sounded better from a field away'.
Other festivals are reviewed including Chippenham, Lichfield and Eastbourne.
Comments can be sent to: stevewozniak42 (AT) hotmail.com
goes back several centuries as a pastime for all social groups. Yet folk dance clubs are
in decline in the UK, despite that they could help combat both loneliness and obesity -
two of society's most pressing health issues.
Like so many 'minority interests' folk dance is beset by internecine rivalries, feuds and
vendettas - but don't let a few miserable and dull people stop you trying to have some
|Within the many
folk-dance centred pages on this website you will find my dance
diary for 2016. This is a record of just how much enjoyment, exercise and social
contact can be had from an expenditure of a few hundred pounds a year - far less than the
cost of medical care were anyone to become chronically depressed. Maybe dancing should be
available on the NHS?
Here are some highlights from my 2016 diary.
I wrote 'my year of dance' both as a record for myself and
to help encourage further uptake of a hobby that may soon be consigned to history - unlike in Ireland where local dances are still very much part of the
'living tradition'. I suggest that the present high attendance figures for folk dance
festivals and weekends-away may merely be a passing phase - characterised by a generation
of older experienced dancers enjoying their wealthy retirement. The demise of local clubs
and their ageing clientele points to a dearth of experienced English country dancers a
decade or more hence.
It is in the more lively local clubs that by far the best value dancing can be found -
assessed as cost per unit enjoyment. Sample calculations are presented to illustrate these
points. My opinion is that most small folk clubs are dull, uninspired and lifeless -
little wonder they fail to attract and keep new and/or younger members. 'Social glue' is identified as maybe one missing ingredient in many
I am also writing up experiences of running a small dance
club and weekends away at festivals - including some arguments with the less agreeable,
bossy and malevolent people that one can meet, even in the folk dance world. In due time I
may publish appropriate remedies.
In a free country we are allowed to have theatre critics,
film critics and restaurant critics. My review of folk dance
festivals is an attempt at something similar. Yet according to some festival 'Terms
and Conditions' publishing anything 'negative' about an event is enough to get you banned
for life. We shall see..... It is maybe time also we had a 'tripadvisor' guide to local
folk dance clubs as a spur to enhancing standards and raising the profile of the hobby -
I've given a few specimen comments.
Various disputes in the folk dance world remind me of
Britain in Bloom in Sidmouth almost two decades ago. For expressing different views and
for (not) tending my wild garden I was vilified in the local press over several years,
told to leave town and threatened with court action by East Devon District Council. The
arguments culminated in a BBC TV documentary 'Countryside at War' and with an extensive
interview on Radio 4. Somewhere I still have the tapes. Maybe it is time for another TV
But for now, if you are lonely, unfit or simply sitting in
front a computer feeling bored, why not try English country dancing? Dance offers probably
one of the most cost effective ways to meet people of the opposite sex - it can be far
more effective than computer dating (see next panel below) and with a cost per dance as
low as 30p.
dating is now a multi-million pound industry in the UK and spread over scores of different
websites. World-wide it is claimed to be a billion dollar industry. Many claims are made
for the effectiveness of online dating, yet there seem to have been few objective studies.
A basic statistical analysis is presented here
- it is based on the author's intermittent study of two mid-market computer dating
sites in the UK over the period 2008 to 2012. Unfortunately it has not achieved a wide
readership because the internet is so swamped with 'dating' websites and related articles
it simply doesn't get noticed. Most of the readers are people who have chanced up my
website for other reasons.
||It is argued that the
industry is inefficient in delivering a service to some types of subscribers owing in part
to profiles being spread across a wide range of often unconnected websites. It is shown
that whilst dating websites may claim to have 80,000 to 90,000 members, the number that
are both active and able to contact other members may be less than 10% of the headline
Some of the problems experienced by users are outlined. New charging structures such as
pay-as-you-go are proposed which, together with use of simplified but equally
effective matching models, should enable a more cost efficient service to be delivered to
a much increased number of users. It is argued that present day sites are characterised by
dishonest presentation of data, restrictive fee structures and models for matching people
to one another that are both overly complex and largely useless. As of 2016, little has
changed, except that many 'app' based services are available for smartphones.
|Despots in local
government: public servants would become our masters.
ago, local government was an inefficient and overstaffed mess - but at least 'public
servants' knew their place and many tried to do a decent job of work. Nowadays, local
government is characterised by spin, glossy brochures, excessive 'management' salaries and
pay-offs and an increasingly high-handed approach to dealing with the public.
particular concern are social services departments who utilise the slightest and often
imagined excuse to take children away from their parents and place them into 'care'.
Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary (as of March 2012) said that 'there are 'far too
many experts' involved in producing expensive reports for low grade and often neurotic and
self-serving council officials - who then use them within the ultra secretive family
courts system to remove children from their families. The parents are forbidden even to
talk to any advisor. It seems to be a largely unrecognised problem, addressed over many
years by the campaigning journalist Christopher Booker in The Sunday Telegraph newspaper
and by John
From waste collection, through child protection, car
parking and planning, local officials now see themselves as masters rather than servants.
Misuse of delegated authority is a widespread problem, with lazy elected councillors often
being unaware what officials are doing.
Either local councils need stripping of
many of their powers, or new arrangements are needed to ensure that abuse of
authority is curtailed. One option might be to make local officials responsible for
legal costs - just as they can now be held personally responsible for Health and Safety
In recent years the Crown
Prosecution Service has been heavily criticised for decisions to prosecute in cases
where the evidence was completely (and obviously) without foundation.
remains famous for its 'folk festival' - once one of the largest, most colourful and
peaceful music and dance festivals in Europe. What does the future hold? New in 2010/11
and updated for 2016 - a Newcomers' Guide to FolkWeek.
years Sidmouth hosted its International Festival of Folk Arts amidst the scenery of East
Devon. Families travelled from across the UK for their annual 'spiritual renewal'. 2004
was the last year for this amazing spectacle.
Read the full story here of how FolkWeek arose from the ruins of the
International Festival. 2005 was a very small affair yet 2006 was a great success. And so was 2007! For
2008 the organisers cut costs to try to shore up the finances. 2009
was rather wet at times. 2010 was a perfect year for weather -
but not for social dancers. 2011 was a challenging year - the
recession was supposed to be hitting disposable income, yet many
folk festivals were a sell-out. And Sidmouth's 'fringe' event
became more popular. 2015 saw a real revival of social dance with some hugely popular
contra workshops by American caller Tom Hines. 2016 was also an excellent year for social
years ago, after personal experience with modern Sunvic central heating motorised valves,
I took a few to pieces to establish exactly why they had failed prematurely.
|Little did I foresee
that the ensuing webpages would become one of the most widely
read sections of SeeRed. Of course, most
householders are fearful of taking their central heating system to pieces - they rely on
often inexperienced 'heating engineers'.
It is particularly disappointing that many years after these webpages were first
published, Sunvic were apparently still telling customers that they knew of no failures of
these products - yet because of the inherently questionable design, many or maybe most may
fail within a few years. Some householder experiences are here and including where these actuators are sold as
part of expensive Worcester Bosch space and water heating systems. More recently (2011),
Sunvic appeared to withdrawing these products from the market. Later, new part numbers
appeared - but the internal components seem much the same - and they still fail, sometimes
after only 18 months.
Planning and Conservation Areas.
a tree not a tree? When it is both in a supposedly protected Conservation
Area and in the way of proposed development?
If you know of similar documented cases, please let me know. Here is an example from Cumbria. The local MP is reported as
having said it is a case of "wanton vandalism" by a property developer. In July
2011 the same developer (now apparently running a different company) applied for
permission to build houses on the site - who says crime doesn't pay?
Planning and Flood Plains.
Flood Plain planning policies not applied? When well connected people want to build on the
When the wealthy owner
of Sidmouth's Nissan dealership creates a new commercial car park
by dumping hundreds of tons of rubble in a sensitive area and local councils and the
Environment Agency effectively look the other way?
Or indeed when Erewash Borough Council apparently behaved
in an appalling and unprofessional manner? Householders and insurance companies have been
left to deal with the consequences of what appears to be blatant indifference to local
This is all old material but as of 2015 - and after the floods of recent years - how much
has really changed?
you still buying lottery tickets? Why is there so little analysis of how all the money is
||An old section of SeeRed analysed how £120
million of lottery money was spent on computers in libraries. Arguably, the project
should have cost far less. The then Minister, Tessa Jowell MP, refused to answer
my questions perhaps because she couldn't think of any plausible answers. After all,
this was the Blair babe who didn't even know about her own mortgage! She was later tasked
with persuading us that the London Olympics were to be competently managed.
Since publication of SeeRed the number
of gushing press releases about the P.N. scheme fell markedly. No connection, of course!
In Dec 2004 I was invited to send views to the DCMS
In subsequent years, UK public libraries began a steady decline. Many became more like
noisy 'internet cafes' than places where proper study could be undertaken. In effect,
libraries were dumbed down to incorporate a 'social inclusiveness' agenda. Cutbacks have
now led to reductions in staff - most competent librarians have been replaced by casual
part-time staff - who are much less expensive to employ.
surveillance society - the early years.
people have little idea of the extent to which their privacy has already been compromised.
Governments will soon be able to build a contact profile for every citizen - as well as
being able to plot their every move - an appalling prospect in many countries. The
technology is already being developed and tested. The now obsolete privacy section of this website outlined a few topics that
were of interest in 2003/4. These were smart cards, CCTV, encrypted
emails and rfid tagging of anything from cars to clothes. This section is now years out of
date - it predates the Snowdon era for example. Yet it offers a glimpse of the early years
of the privacy debate. This was a time during which many new threats, especially the
widespread use of rfid tagging, first began to be appreciated.
|In the new age
of e-government, people who ask awkward questions may simply be deleted!
of a dispute with Devon County Council, as a part of which DCC blocked my e-mail address
for several years. They also prevented staff at DCC HQ and in libraries reading this
website by making links "unavailable". Later, normal service was resumed. It was
all a manifestation of the culture of fear that continues to dominate DCC and many other
public sector bodies, especially the NHS.The dispute itself is in abeyance - I have more
to do at present.
|The Britain in
Bloom campaign has been criticised for wasting public money on boring displays of garish
flowers. In 2005, it spilled over into abusive comments about the
SeeRed author by Sidmouth Town Council!
decades the Britain in Bloom campaign has been synonymous with
garish arrangements of environmentally useless plants. Councillors waste hundreds of
thousands of pounds of public money to create ever more outlandish displays.
Few Sidmouth residents take part. Maybe soon we can
put an end to the cult of chequebook gardening? In 2008, Sidmouth in Bloom even had a
competition for the most environmentally friendly garden - and
what a mess they made of the judging criteria!
Serious gardeners (and even one or two
government ministers) recognise we need to divert effort to growing more fruit and
vegetables at home - it may be ten years before the 'bloomers' awake to such a sensible
in Europe and India.
UK, libraries have borne the brunt of public internet access. Bureaucracy abounds, and
official policy is to provide little or no privacy despite draft Council of Europe guidelines. Things are
different elsewhere. For example, in India, access is rarely a problem because private
enterprise cafes thrive - as indeed they do in Germany.
|Camping on a
small site on the outskirts of Sidmouth
popular during various FolkWeek events, a small
camp site is available for motor-homes or small caravans. Further details on this page. Details are also available via the campinmygarden website.
This is a large site with discrete
sections. If you get lost, please return here and start again.
Contact email address:
stevewozniak42 (AT) hotmail.com - and remember to replace (AT) by @
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