A tale from Eastbourne Folk Dance festival 2012 - a ripping yarn?

Letter printed in S&TS magazine July 2012.

Dear Chris,

I guess we would all accept that folk dancers are a strange group of people! As a part of my own publicity for this years Sidmouth FolkWeek I printed about 80 slips of paper (cut from 10 sheets of A4) advertising my webpage describing Sidmouth's new 'prestige' social dance venue (www.seered.co.uk/folk193.htm). I took these to the Eastbourne dance festival - the first in the dance calendar.

I left them on the table with all the colourful glossy leaflets advertising other festivals and events. Most of my slips of paper disappeared almost at once which I thought strange - then some reappeared. Then all disappeared and on the last day a pile of them reappeared, tom into pieces and neatly stacked in the middle of the table for me to find.

Oh dear me! The printing for 10 A4 sheets cost me 1, reduced to 50p because I complained about the print quality, so the ones torn up cost maybe 30p, hardly important when my petrol costs there and back were about 100.

I hope the person concerned is reading this and that he or she is still suitably knotted up inside at the thought that so many people read what I publish, despite that they might not all agree with it.

Yours (still slightly bemused)
Steve Wozniak

Riposte and Declamation!

Excessive sound levels at ceilidhs and other folk events - a response to Tony Garton and Kim Clark: S&TS magazine July 2012.

The calm and considered letter in STS 75 from Tony Garton about sound was really most useful. He explains clearly that whilst excessive sound levels are often a problem, they are almost never necessary if proper equipment suited to the venue has been provided. The fact that it is often not provided speaks volumes about how social and ceilidh dance is low down the list of priorities for festival organisers.

In contrast, no expense is spared on concert goers. The large 1200 seat marquee on the Ham at Sidmouth FolkWeek is probably acoustically 'difficult' but people say how wonderful it is. So perhaps competent sound crews and suitable equipment are specified and dancers get what Tony Garton describes as the 'wannabe roadies'.

Persuading people to change the habits of a lifetime can be a slow process. It is 60 years since smoking was identified as the cause of hundreds of millions of horribly premature deaths. Recently I was clearing out some old copies of articles from the BMJ (British Medical Journal) dated 1992. I used to work in environmental and energy science and lecture on related topics. It is noted that noise at work is (was?) the major cause of hearing loss in adults in the industrialised world. In the old days of metal bashing manufacturing, deafness was common enough in the railway industry, for example, to be given its own name - boilermakers' deafness.

Moving to more recent times, self inflicted damage to hearing caused by noisy social and leisure activities is entirely preventable. The 1990 Environmental Protection Act made noise a statutory nuisance like smell or smoke, and compelled local Authorities to act upon every reasonable complaint. Perhaps residents of Sidmouth might be persuaded to do so, to assist dancers who just want to dance at the Bulverton venue and not be deafened!

Where I strongly disagree with Kim Clark in his article (STS75) is that dancers should 'vote with their feet' and simply deny themselves the pleasure of dancing just because the cretins in charge can't, or won't, reduce the sound levels to what is reasonable. Why the hell should dancers slink out of dance and ceilidh venues or stuff our ears with uncomfortable earplugs (all types of which ruin the sound quality and spoil our evening)?

It is time for our complaints to be heard loud and clear. I just wish the residents of Sidmouth were not such a collection of morbidly disinterested people - it might be easier to arrange a mass protest. Slavery was not abolished overnight, women had to fight against all the odds to be treated equally and getting rid of stupidly high sound levels at dances may take a decade or more. But why should we not try?

I will quote the final conclusions of the BMJ review article - published twenty years ago and how little has changed!

'Noise damages hearing. Environmental noise probably contributes little to the overall risk of hearing loss except where loud music is concerned. Low levels of noise in the environment can, however, damage health in the wider sense of wellbeing. Noise also contributes to the dehumanising effect of our increasingly urban society'

If anyone is interested in the full article - it is in BMJ volume 304, 11 January 1992, pages 110 to 113. Ask at your local library - if you can make yourself heard above the din of people chattering into mobile phones and playing with computers!

Steve Wozniak

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