Sidmouth Folk Week 2010: funding is
secured and the miseries awake.
2010 started with two significant developments:
- news that Sidmouth Town Council had agreed to give Folk Week £5000 pa for the next five
years (thus securing some element of long term funding guarantee) and
- the re-emergence of some of the miseries of Sidmouth who write letters to the local
Sidmouth Herald blaming the festival for drunkenness and disorder in the town centre.
However, these letters have been followed by several in support from local people -
something that was sadly lacking when the much larger and better value 'international'
festival was renowned across the folk world. It is all an illustration of the fact that,
taken as a whole, locals seem not to appreciate that what they once had (but did not feel
they controlled) was far better value than the new style and smaller FolkWeek. Allied to
this is the fact that local politicians now have more say in how the event is run - and
this adds to their sense of self-importance.
The funding commitment from Sidmouth Town Council was probably secured on the basis of
'give us some security or risk losing the week for good' - after all, scare tactics seemed
to work last year! Also, as a parish council, STC is not subject to rate-capping by
central government as are District and County Councils. This has led to their precept
being massively increased in recent years - and some residents think it is about time Town
Council spending was brought under control. Much of the increase has been owing to
transfer of some District Council responsibilities (again on the basis of fund them
yourselves or lose them from the town) but the large expenditure of 'tourism' websites etc
that are nowadays duplicated by the private sector continues - a topic that needs
As for the financial burden on ratepayers, the police have stated that their presence
is being decreased 'year on year' because there is so little extra work for them during
the week. This hardly supports the idea that Folk Week brings trouble to the town. Indeed,
calculated as a ratio of trouble per unit population in the town, the influx of folkies
makes Sidmouth a much more law abiding place, as well as decidedly more pleasant and
cheerful. Maybe folkies should move in on a permanent basis in order to keep crime down?
The first letter of the year decrying Folk Week was (as usual) from professional misery
and local author Sheila Luxton. Her letter of 2010 was similar to that
of August 2003 (and subsequently).
Some simmering resentment is understandable - incomers bring so much money to the town
that they drive up house prices, thus pricing local youngsters out of the market. This
happens all over the UK but is more easily noticed and (therefore) resented in parochial
and in-bred communities.
Sample letters from anti-folk residents are reproduced below but are unlikely to have
any lasting impact. One of their valid points is the amount of litter created - but
councils who purport to control Sidmouth's streets and beaches fail to take any effective
action against litter louts throughout the year - so why make a special case for FolkWeek?
Folk Festival alcohol concern
22 January 2010
MADAM - I was dismayed to see, in the Sidmouth Herald, the application by the Folk
Festival for an alcohol license for Folk Week for Blackmore Gardens from 10.00 to 23.00
and also the same times for the Ham.
Is it necessary for these venues to provide alcohol? These were sites given to the general
public for enjoyment.
I thought there were byelaws on these ground, which did not allow playing of loud music or
food? Of course, during Folk Week, every law seems to be able to be broken.
The Folk Festival appears to be turning into another International Folk Week which is not
something to recommend it, with much drunkenness etc. When it first started, I was all in
favour, but now I have my doubts.
Save money by scrapping FolkWeek
5 February 2010
John Jones is absolutely spot on when he suggests that if EDDC and the town council are
serious about the requirement to save money, then the first place to start is to scrap
Sidmouth FolkWeek. As Mr Jones rightly points out, why are tax payers paying for this
event? Furthermore, the town council has recently committed to funding FolkWeek for the
next five years, using taxpayers' money - absolutely disgraceful. As someone born and
lived all of my 68 years in Sidmouth, sadly I, like most others in the town, realise, as
Mr Jones intimated, that Sidmouth is effectively controlled by a handful of families using
combined business and political power. These people have a false pretence of caring about
Sidmouth, when in reality all they care about is lining their pockets.
Sidmouth FolkWeek does absolutely nothing to benefit ordinary residents of the town.
Indeed, the majority of residents I believe are fed up every year of the problems it
creates with noise, parking problems, litter and an increase in anti-social behaviour, all
of which is conveniently ignored every year by councillors and business owners in the name
of self-greed. It is bad enough that businesses and councillors want to impose FolkWeek on
residents, without consultation, but tax payers should not be paying for it.
Mr Norman, Sidmouth.
Use the council tax wisely
Re: council tax - Sidmouth leaders hail 'wonderful' value for money budget.
Bravo to reader John Jones for suggesting that Sidmouth FolkWeek should be scrapped. The
sheer audacity of councillors to proclaim last week the wonderful value for money budget
they have agreed for 2010/11 is beyond belief and simply spin.
To provide £20,000 of Sidmouth taxpayers' money to pay for folk week is an insult in
itself but to comprehend this by spending the money set aside for CCTV on other matters
and saying this is wonderful financial recycling is treating the residents of Sidmouth as
I want my council tax to be spent on essential services and on important provisions such
as CCTV to make us all safer, not on a FolkWeek the majority of residents simply do not
want. One final thought - if I wanted to hold a week-long party at my house inviting a
bunch of hippies, with late night music, keeping thousands of people awake, with cars
parked all over town,and litter left everywhere, would the council encourage me and give
me money to do this? The answer, of course, is no, so taxpayers should not be paying for
Mr Russell, Sidmouth.
FolkWeek does benefit some.
Note from SeeRed author: This is a
sensible letter, the contents of which follow closely earlier
analysis and letters many years ago.
12 February 2010
In reply to the letter from John Jones, I have every sympathy with him as a taxpayer that
£20,000 of our money is going to be used to prop up FolkWeek, when that money could be
used better elsewhere. I can imagine that many Sidmothians hate this week of the year and
will stay away from coming into town because of the crowds. However, I would also like to
point out that, for hotels and other accommodation providers, it is not a money making
machine contrary to public belief. As a guesthouse proprietor myself, I do not make any
more money during this week than I would in other summer months although a couple of
others who do, indeed, charge a premium for this week.
For some businesses in town, Folk Week is one of their worst weeks of the year because
Folkies are not here to shop, unlike regular holidaymakers. Those that do benefit
extremely well are the public houses, eating outlets, supermarkets, rugby club, cricket
club and the camp sites.
Name and address supplied.
Quote from Sidmouth Herald:
"Name and address can be withheld only in circumstances when publication could put
the sender at risk of reprisal"
Folk Week - so much to enjoy.
19 February 2010.
Mr Norman's quote "Sidmouth FolkWeek does absolutely nothing to benefit ordinary
residents of the town" is pure folkism, akin with racism, ageism, sizeism and sexism.
How dare he presume that his prejudice is shared by everyone else.
I too am a pure Sidmothian (another subject!), having been born in Sidmouth and both
parents born in Sidmouth as well.
I more or less used to ignore FolkWeek (being a heavy metal fan - another nuisance!) until
24 years ago. Having given birth to our first child, our social life disappeared, having
no baby sitters. FolkWeek arrived so we went out, taking our daughter with us.
There was so much to enjoy - the raising of the flags, the processions, the foreign
dancers in their beautiful costumes and lots and lots of live music.
Since then we have tried every year to book our holidays for FolkWeek and we've never been
disappointed. Every year we go back to work and say we've had a marvellous time.
We pay to go to some events but a lot of the local pubs provide free entertainment. It's a
very cheap holiday - no travel or hotel expenses. We leave the car at home and walk.
When we've gone on holiday elsewhere, we knew nobody. Here we bump into old friends every
day - lots of school friends who've moved away come back for FolkWeek, as well as friends
who share our passion for music.
Well done John R Jones. I suggest the other John Jones, Mr Norman and Mr Russell pack
their bags and go to Benidorm!
More support for FolkWeek
26 February 2010
Sir - I wholeheartedly agree with Mrs Brown's comments defending Folk Week. I too was born
and bred in Sidmouth, and can recall many happy experiences of the Festival when growing
I moved back to Sidmouth three years ago and am delighted that the Festival is still going
strong and is now way past its 50th anniversary.
Mrs Brown and I are among the apparent minority of residents (according to Mr Russell) who
enjoy and appreciate the Festival.
I also know many other residents who attend events and concerts, purchase season tickets
and take the week off work to make the most of the atmosphere in town.
Even my 74 year old father-in-law braved the 'hippies' and enjoyed four concerts last
year! I personally am extremely grateful of the chance to have top class internationally
renowned music on my doorstep, when otherwise I would have to travel to Exeter or further
afield to attend such concerts.
The argument that a large influx of visitors to the town during the week sees a rise in
crime rates is ludicrous, as the vast majority of festival-goers are just here to enjoy
the week and not cause trouble.
If Mr Russell were to go out into town on any Friday or Saturday night, he might be
surprised to see a small minority of inebriated locals picking fights with anyone who they
consider to be 'outsiders'. I guess in some ways he shares this intolerant 'small-town'
attitude, which saddens me greatly.
This summer I will again be enjoying the Festival with friends and family.
Perhaps instead of going away for the week or locking themselves in their houses, Mr
Russell et al should take themselves and their antiquated attitudes along to a concert and
make the most of having a bit of culture on their doorstep.
Mrs E Harbour
back to top of section