News article in the Sidmouth Herald of 15 October 2004.

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"Save our festival today or it will die" 

Sidmouth Town Council Chairman Tony Reed makes an appeal through the Sidmouth Herald about the future of the festival.

Now that Steve Heap and Mrs Casey's Music have ceased involvement with the Sidmouth Folk Festival and it seems certain that East Devon District Council will not be contributing financially in the future, serious local commitment has to be harnessed for there to be a resurrected and reconstructed festival in 2006 and onwards.

As the chairman of Sidmouth Town Council and a member of the steering group that is endeavouring to reinstate the Sidmouth Festival, I have been charged with the task of appealing to the local community for funding to finance the engagement of a professional fundraiser.

The task of this fundraiser will be to access sources of serious finance that is clearly required to run this important event in the future. I have recently chaired meetings at the Manor Pavilion and at Woolcombe House and was left in no doubt that it was most important Sidmouth retained the Festival. It has a very important value nationally as an artistic venue and of serious commercial value to the town and locality.

Venture capital to finance this primary initiative is anticipated being in the region of 50,000. I therefore earnestly invite you all to pledge your support in financial terms as soon as possible. l am confident it will be a sound investment in Sidmouth's future.

Notification of your support can be made to myself, Tony Reed, on (01395) 514186 or Mrs Trina Jarrett, the town clerk, on (01395) 512424.

I am also commissioning a mail-drop in early November to further encourage financial commitment. It is necessary to learn by Christmas 2004 what money is forthcoming so that the fundraiser can be appointed in the New Year. Time is of the essence, as the organisation and financial sponsorship of a successful festival in 2006 has to be under way early in 2005. Many people, both locally and from away, on learning that Sidmouth Festival might not continue showed alarm and insisted that it must continue and are coming to Sidmouth in 2005 to keep the spirit alive.

From the town council's perspective, financial support for the children's section, which has always been a popular part of the festival will still be forthcoming to keep that element alive in 2005.

To organise a full event for 2005 was not possible, but with everyone's commitment 2006 will see the Sidmouth Folk Festival restored to the calendar.

I look forward to that commitment.

I do not understand the merit of this approach. It has been clear for a long time (and has been explained in detail on this website) that the benefit of the festival to many Sidmouth traders is small, and that the real financial benefit to East Devon is also arguably much smaller than has been stated by EDDC. Some relevant calculations are on pages folk21, folk22 and folk54. Certainly a mistake was made in the past in concentrating fund raising efforts on the business people (traders) of Sidmouth. There is arguably more potential in asking the wider community - not only are many non-traders amongst the most wealthy people in Sidmouth, many can appreciate the artistic merit of the festival. Whether they would subscribe to any initiative by the town council is a matter for individual conscience.

Seeking Arts Council funding may now be a priority. It is not necessary to employ a professional fundraiser to submit a well argued case. That could be done by the artistic members of the steering group working in co-operation with some of the more able local festival supporters who have yet to be asked to help. Competent people having artistic merit and living in other areas of the UK would (no doubt) also be prepared to help - as might Steve Heap. Under his direction Sidmouth has developed into a festival of national and international importance. Arguably, it has become a 'national treasure' and should not need to be funded at a local level - and nor should it be under too much local control.

The whole approach of asking local people to give money to employ someone to contact both DCMS and the Arts Council (and commercial sponsors) seems muddled. It may be a product of desperation. Going the route of employing a consultant is a well worn path for councils who lack necessary expertise but are keen to retain control.

It is important to note that whilst Steve Heap tried many avenues to obtain third party support for the international festival he did not wish (perhaps for personal reasons, I do not know) to relinquish any artistic control - as might have been required if the event had been restructured so as to be eligible for Arts Council money. This was discussed in June 2004 at the Town meeting.

Anyone wishing to make constructive suggestions for amendment of any part of this website is, as always, welcome to contact me. Folk48.htm was amended slightly to take on board concerns that were expressed, and within hours of its first publication.

My thanks to Google for listing many of my festival and other webpages above thousands of others. Google is completely automated and easily the world's favourite search engine.

googleearthday04.gif (18613 bytes) Google : Earth Day 2004.

Comment posted on an internet discussion forum shortly after this page was first published.

I might not agree with everything Steve Wozniak thinks but we do owe him a great deal of thanks for his detailed discussion of both issues and personalities as this goes on, thanks Steve. Most of all his transparency.

If Steve Heap went through a tenth of this over the 18 years he ran Sidmouth then he deserves a gold pig. The fact that he solved these problems and ran a great festival is a tribute to the talent of the man and his organisation. And note from the SeeRed website that tickets simply to dance and attend workshops for a week are 90.00. No major concerts; (Arena/Ham); and no LNE; no Bedford concerts; Manor House Pavilion, etc. no Volunteer sessions and so on.......

Note from SeeRed author: It is too early to know what else will be running in Sidmouth 2005. At present no-one knows how it is going to turn out. One concern being expressed locally is that if thousands of people attend yet have nowhere to go in the evenings (no central campsite with singsongs, no LNE, etc) they could all be drinking in town and many of them may not be well behaved folkies who traditionally have caused no trouble (except for a considerable amount of litter). We shall see. It may not be as child friendly as in the past either. The next page is "questions and answers for 2005".

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