Letter about social dancing at Sidmouth Folk Week - from Joan Crump.

Originally published in the autumn 2010 issue of English Dance and Song - the magazine of the English Folk Dance and Song Society.

This letter from Joan Crump is remarkable on several counts - local folk dance clubs around Sidmouth are not 'struggling' - they are thriving. In particular the club at Gittisham is so popular it can afford to offer live music almost every week and dancers travel 20 or 30 miles to attend, some from as far away as Dorset.

The problem for Sidmouth FolkWeek is that so few of the probably 150 to 200 folk dancers who live in and around Sidmouth (or more generally in East Devon) consider that FolkWeek is worth attending - but there has been no proper survey to find out why.

Where three dance events had been scheduled in evenings during FolkWeek in 2010 they struggled for attendees simply because so few dancers now attend Sidmouth FolkWeek. The 'feedback' form that attendees were asked to complete should have mentioned the option of a further large venue in town - even if it was known to be unaffordable at the present time.

These matters are more fully discussed in earlier webpages.

Social Dance at Sidmouth

From a Sidmouth FolkWeek perspective the social dance events, in general, worked well this year, despite the continuing issue of the lack of a good-sized venue for the social dances.

Conscious that a number of folk dance clubs are struggling, the Festival was keen that the programme should try to attract new audiences and dancers to help rejuvenate both the clubs and the Festival. The NuCeilidh initiative worked well, attracting capacity mixed audiences for the two evening dances in the Blackmore Gardens Marquee - the concept was to present more challenging dances than are normally found at ceilidhs, and bring a bit more of an overlap between the ceilidhs and social dances. There were also lunchtime dances in the Blackmore Gardens every day, as well as workshops.

However, where we'd scheduled three dances in the evening, one of them sometimes struggled - proving that, with so much going on elsewhere in the Festival, dancers were being attracted to the increased number of non-dance events!

Those attending the social dances and workshops were given a separate feedback form containing some information about the problems that the Festival faces with venues, and asking for comments on a couple of venue suggestions. If you came to Sidmouth this year, or even if you didn't, we would ask you to complete this feedback form which is available via a link on the home page of the Festival website.

Artistic Director
Social Dance Advisor

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