Sidmouth FolkWeek 2013 - infrastructure issues - temperatures, dance floors and campsites.

One factor that may affect many UK festivals is the greater frequency of extreme weather events. In 2012 Sidmouth narrowly avoided a complete washout. In July 2012 there was severe flooding across Devon - and worse was to come in November 2012, and later in December 2012 also.

If the rain of July 2012 has come a few weeks later, the Bulverton campsite, the festival car park and the Ham areas might have been unusable.

In July 2013 there was a heat wave with parched lawns and temperatures as high as 28C. Fortunately, FolkWeek 2013 was characterised by a stiff breeze (often from the north) and outdoor air temperatures that rarely exceeded 20C. Even so, there were reports of overheated venues.

Given that extreme weather seems likely to be here to stay, it will be more important to address issues that may give problems in these conditions. Some of these - such as failure properly to ventilate the Blackmore Gardens dance marquee - are perennial. They need addressing via competent organisation and training of stewards before someone dies of heat-stroke. Others are a matter of venue design.

THE BULVERTON CAMPSITE - rumours of relocation.

Both during and following the highly successful festival of 2013 there were rumours both within the folk community and elsewhere in Sidmouth that both the campsite (and with it the late-night Bulverton marquee) may be moved to new locations in 2014. Some rumours are based on fields being sold for housing. However, it is other fields, not the ones that have for many years been used by the festival that have either been bought by Persimmon Homes or that they have negotiated an option to purchase.

One objective is apparently that the festival wishes to tempt people away from third party campsites and make increased use of a larger 'official' site. However, some of the areas being considered (out towards Salcombe Regis) might introduce further difficulties of transport and danger along narrow roads. It is also desired to increase usage of the 'late night' marquee - this would be moved to the new campsite location also.

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The three fields used by FolkWeek for many years.
These are not (as yet?) being considered for housing.

Rumours centre upon one or more of the fields in question no longer being available to FolkWeek owing to supposed planning applications for housing. The field where the Bulverton marquee is located (to the south of the two camping fields) would afford splendid views for prestige housing, as would the higher areas of the two camping fields.

Elsewhere around Sidmouth, large areas of land have been developed despite being in the AONB. Currently (as of mid 2013) 12 acres outside of Sidford has been the subject of planning applications for an industrial/commercial park.

Further, more detailed planning applications are expected at Sidford. The pressure for this development comes from Fords of Sidmouth who own land and businesses in the town - and from (so it is rumoured) John Cave - a gentleman farmer who owns many acres of land around Sidford and including at Sidbury where Hugo Swire MP rents his constituency house on the Cave estate.

As with so many planning matters where millions of pounds may be at stake, the important discussions may be undertaken behind closed doors and over port or sherry well in advance of any crucial planning committee meetings. This webpage dates from 1999. Nothing much changes - in 2013 we have SIN and its coverage of EDDC. And of course local Tory councillor Graham Brown.

John Cave is rumoured to need cash - the odd five million maybe - so selling 12 acres could be opportune. Previously Hugo Swire has said he is 'dead against' a modest cycle path between Sidbury and Sidford because it would 'join up' the two separate communities. But 12 acres of commercial development in the same area and in the AONB seems to be fine by Hugo and his landlord.

As of September 2013 the rumours of fields being sold for development had reached at least some members of SOS (Save our Sidmouth) independently of the rumours circulating amongst FolkWeek attendees. Another twist is that FolkWeek management have been rumoured to be seeking an alternative campsite because of H&S issues at the Bulverton venue including (in 2012) a large tanker lorry having slid sideways into a tent as it was attempting to drive up the muddy slope away from the WCs. Negotiations are rumoured to include a move to Westpoint - a large showground site between Sidmouth and Exeter. This seems to happen every couple of years! You couldn't hold FolkWeek at Westpoint - it would be 10 miles from Sidmouth.

Nevertheless, a flatter site would be welcome for camping, and if the Bulverton marquee (suitably renamed) could be located more conveniently for central Sidmouth and/or the new campsite then it might be able to be used to greater effect during FolkWeek. At the Bulverton location, it is well utilised only for the late night events.

These rumours were confirmed in October 2013 when the Sidmouth Herald published a front page story about possible relocation of the campsite.

More details are here.


THE HAM MARQUEE - fit for purpose in a heat wave?

calculations to be added

BLACKMORE GARDENS MARQUEE - perennial problems owing to poor organisation and inadequate numbers of stewards.


ALL SAINTS HALL - little things can make a difference!


STOWFORD RISE - as near to perfection as possible - but in the wrong place?


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