Sidmouth FolkWeek 2011 - is power and knowledge becoming concentrated in too few people?

Since becoming Director of FolkWeek, John Braithwaite has taken an arguably authoritarian line with both its finances and personnel. Some people accuse him of being 'controlling', yet this was probably what was needed. If such a large festival is to survive it has to have firm leadership and it has to be commercially viable - or at least it has to be subsidised on a continuing basis to an extent that makes it a viable proposition. Obtaining a substantial degree of support from local Sidmouth traders was essential. Much of the work here was done by Councillor Tony Reed - credit where it is due. Sidmouth Town Council were also coerced into making a long term funding commitment.

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This summary is apparently out of date, but was still on line as of August 2011

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John Braithwaite

Chairman of Entity Group Ltd.

Director of Sidmouth FolkWeek.

For a man who has come to wield such influence over FolkWeek, relatively little is commonly known about John Braithwaite.

It can easily be determined that until recently he was the Chairman of Entity, an IT consulting company based in the Kent Science Park near Sittingbourne. He sold the company some years ago and was persuaded to stay on as Chairman.

He has a long history as a Morris dancer (with Oyster Morris) and was a compere at the Arena in the 'good old days' of the International Sidmouth Festival - which he apparently attended for 30+ years.

It is clear that he is an intelligent, accomplished and probably very wealthy man - so why treat minnows like the Lemonade Lady in such a disparaging fashion? If Sidmouth 2012 is a smaller affair because of the Olympics, if some regular traders stay away, then maybe she might be welcomed back?

Some clue as to Entity's core values can be gleaned from their website. The promise is one of ruthless efficiency - Clients will be told what is good for them even if they don't want to hear it. This is no doubt a strength in the field of IT consultancy: witness the huge waste of money on the NHS computerisation scheme.

At Entity "we act with professional integrity and always aim for frankness to the point of brutal honesty, even when customers are reluctant to hear."

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The future starts here?

The Kent Science Park is a high tech environment and home to companies working in many fields of science.

Some companies do not list their details on the KSP website, maybe because they are engaged in 'contentious areas' such as animal testing.

For a scientist, it must be an exciting place to work, despite the fact that it is composed of dozens of individual commercial companies, rather than being a single research complex. There are 12,000 employees in total.

The whole 55 acre site is surrounded by about a mile of tall security fencing, all topped with razor wire.

The entire perimeter is under CCTV surveillance.


kentscienceparkvideopage.jpg (19960 bytes) The average IQ of employees may be around 150, but they only get 9/10 for spelling......There is a fascinating collection of videos here.
kentscienceparkvideopage2.jpg (26035 bytes) This is one of many videos that gives an insight into the excitement of working within the Science Park.
kentsciencecarentrance.jpg (119174 bytes) If visiting the Kent Science Park, "you are advised to allow at least ten minutes to pass through security".

Driving down Broad Oak Road was as close as the Google Streetview camera car managed to get.

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The pedestrian entrance to Kent Science Park - all controlled by hi-tech ID systems - maybe RFI tags or do they scan your irises or fingerprints before allowing you in or out?

The Sidmouth FolkWeek campsite was never this secure, not even under Steve Heap.

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Photo from Facebook

Much more is known about the other key controlling influences on FolkWeek, Derek Schofield and Joan Crump.

Derek Schofield has a long history of involvement with both the Sidmouth Festival and with EFDSS where he is currently editor of its magazine. The two have been 'partners' for some time - a fact mentioned on and widely known. On Facebook, Joan Crump states that she is from Atlantic City NJ (USA) - which probably explains quite a bit about her 'can do' attitude.

Joan Crump has such a visible public profile that much can be discovered in a few clicks of a mouse. It is probably true to say that the 2011 festival could not have happened without both Derek Schofield and Joan Crump - they ran the website and booked all the artists. Yet it was a very fragile arrangement - what if one or both of them pulled out?

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