A new role for Environmental Health in Folk Festivals?

The following appeared in the Sidmouth Herald on 18 July 2008. It would appear that Sunday performances at Bulverton will no longer be allowed after midnight. Instead, residents living close to Blackmore Gardens will be treated to some excellent Celtic and French music (whether they like it or not) long after the normal closing time of 11pm. This may all result from a decision by EDDC or (as is implied) UK-wide legislation may be to blame.

So you can read this two ways: either EDDC are being obstructive in not allowing the Bulverton to continue to 1am on the Sunday, or they are being helpful in allowing music and dancing in the marquee in Blackmore Gardens to continue to midnight, so getting Folk Week out of a tight spot. However, Sidmouth is not the only festival to have potential problems - councils are being given ever more powers and often seek to exercise them when there is no rational justification.

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The following explanation was included in a newsletter sent out by the organisers in mid July 2008:

Programme changes

We’ve just discovered that new Environmental Health regulations say that we must finish at midnight on Sunday, so there will be no Late Night Extra that night. Instead, there will be a ceilidh with Asha at the Bulverton Marquee from 8-12, and we’re combining Dalla’s Noze Looan with Poisson Rouge’s Fest Noz into one Celtic Dance Extravaganza at the Blackmore Gardens Marquee from 7.30-midnight. It turns out that the two bands have been looking for an opportunity to get together for months so it should be a great night! If you’ve already bought tickets for Dalla or Asha, they will get you in to either gig, or we can arrange a refund if you prefer.

There are a few other programme changes in the pipeline, mainly to the dance displays, and a couple of venue changes midweek due to licensing problems......(unspecified!!)

What actually needs to be done with the LNE at Bulverton (which remains a mere shadow of its former self) is to allow dancing to 2am but with the sound levels much reduced from (say) 12.30am or 1am and especially if the weather is hot and the fire doors need to be left open to allow dancers to breathe! A later finish would be appreciated by dancers, some of whom feel that a 1am finish is absurdly early for what used to be a highlight of the Sidmouth Festival, Also, the residents of nearby Woolbrook would hardly be able to hear anything after 1am. Unfortunately, sound engineers and bands seem incapable of understanding how to reduce sound levels. They also turn a deaf ear to all dancers who tell them that it is neither necessary nor desirable to be deafened in order to dance.

Whilst yet more regulations are unwelcome in principle, so many 'events' that are nowadays aimed at young people have such high sound levels that organisers have only themselves to blame if there is an (over) reaction on behalf of residents - which will then impact upon folk festivals.

The broader picture is that so many of the best dancers have not been to Sidmouth (and especially not from overseas) since the event was slimmed down. Also, 2008 may be a particularly poor year for dance because no marquee can be provided on Church House Lawn.

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