Sidmouth folk festival: Questions and answers for 2005. Dates for the festival are Friday 29 July to Friday 5 August.

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It is printed from Sidmouth's largest website  - updated 27 July 2005.


The following questions are a collation of those put to the author either locally in and around Sidmouth or by email. The page includes details from the latest 'official' festival newsletters and from the meeting on 11 February in Sidmouth. If you have a question relating to the structure and organisation of the 2005 festival that is not included, please contact me. To locate a particular topic, use the links below or the edit/find facility of your browser.

STOP PRESS 29 June 2005: The LNE venue is being moved to a location at Bulverton - This will change some of the bus arrangements and (perhaps) your preferred choice of campsite........ More details here.

As of 27 July the ground is wet and getting steadily wetter - but the forecast is good......

arenaBBC, buses, camping, car parking, ceilidhs, concerts, children, dances, LNE (Late Night Extra)money, parking, profits, stewards, tickets

Will there be season tickets in 2005? What will be cost of camping and festival performance tickets? What about family tickets?  You will have to buy many different tickets (all in advance or risk not getting them) and to make separate payments. The first tickets on sale were for dance and workshops. Tickets for all other events are now available see folk51a. People wanting tickets to every event may pay more in total than they did for a full season ticket under the 2004 arrangements. Page51a lists ticket types.

What arrangements are there for camping in 2005? Three sites will operate. Many people may decide to give 2005 a miss and come in 2006, if indeed there is a 2006 festival worthy of the name. Transport via bus from outlying campsites may depend on numbers attending. Stagecoach have published a festival route and prices for buses that will operate all day - see folk51a. There is some discussion here. Early plans are here. The main campsite is planned to be in use albeit using one field only (recently increased to two so I understand) - details were given in the 25 January 2005 festival newsletter which stated:

For details of the Bulverton site contact Alan White on 01202 734049 or email For details of the Salcombe Regis & Core Hill sites contact Malcolm Burrough on 01395 579564 or write c/o Thorn Golf Centre, Salcombe Regis, Sidmouth EX10 0JN.

My understanding is that the Bulverton site (like so much else at the 2005 festival) will be an independent event taking its own financial risks. Charges were published on 5 Feb 2005.

Will there be evening ceilidhs or late night extra (LNE) events in 2005? Not in the main dance venues which are planned to be in residential areas - and they are far too small anyway. A late night event was mentioned as a possibility in early plans. Some time ago it was stated that there would be a late night extra event adjacent to the Thorn Golf Campsite. Plans appeared to be firm in Jan 2005 - the newsletter stated:

Plans are for a week of Late Night Extra events at Salcombe Regis. Bands booked so far include Whapweasel, Little Johnny England, Bismarcks and Random.

This made the Salcombe Regis campsite more attractive - and diminished the viability of the Bulverton site. Evening Ceilidhs were announced for Blackmore Gardens in mid May 2005 - 8pm to 10.30pm every day. There will also be ceilidhs in the Ham some afternoons, and regularly at lunchtimes in the Anchor gardens (as usual). STOP PRESS 29 June 2005: The LNE venue is being moved to Bulverton and with workshops in the mornings and dances from 8 pm some evenings.

Will the main folk festival car park be operating in 2005? If not where do we park? Good question! Sidmouth's rugby and cricket clubs may make their usual (reputed) 15,000+ annual income from festival-goers.  The town's ordinary car parks may be full anyway so there could be problems for anyone wanting to use a car 'between venues'. Cars may need to be left at campsites. Parking for casual visitors to the town - people wanting to see just one evening event at the Ham for example - may be difficult. The large Manor Road car park to the west of the town may be the best bet. There was to be a car park for the LNE with a shuttle bus operating between this and the LNE venue itself - but that was when the LNE was at Salcombe Regis. The bus services will have to be reordered to bring people camping at Salcombe Regis to the new LNE venue!

The following was posted on an internet site in early December 2004:

Sidmouth Rugby Club will be participating in the 2005 festival. As in the past, we will be providing daily and weekly car parking. Refreshments will be available from the kitchen throughout the week - along with showers! The club will also be hosting a series of events. We will be hiring the venue to daytime events and holding our own events most evenings. We will be offering discounted prices for weekly season ticket car parkers!  If you are interested in parking, venue hire or events please contact our hon secretary -

What acts will be appearing in the arena? A programme was to have been available by December. However, use of the arena has now been abandoned.

The following text is no longer relevant but is included to show what was once said here: - Until then it may be noted that some of the acts are hardly the type that have become associated with the Sidmouth Festival. One seasoned folk festival organiser said to me that bringing the Wurzels to Sidmouth would be like having Steptoe and Son appear at the Royal Ballet.  The website boasted in October 2004,"and for the first time ever at the Sidmouth Festival, The Wurzels". The arena organisers may not understand that there is a good reason why it will be the first time! The website (details here) may be consulted. Some acts have apparently said they will not appear in 2005 out of loyalty to Steve Heap and Mrs Caseys Music - an assertion that has been denied.

What dances/workshops are being organised? See page folk47 and 47a and 47b. The full dance programme is now available - see folk47c. This is a private venture by Ray Goodswen - who was not originally a member of the fringe steering group despite having been the festival social dance director for several years. Other (competing) ceilidhs are taking place in town. In my opinion it remains a disaster that the social dances are not being held in town centre marquees - these were a key part of bringing the 'life and soul' of the festival where it could be widely appreciated by local people. There is disquiet about the arrangements made by Ray Goodswen and these were aired at the 11 Feb meeting in Sidmouth. The emails copied to page folk47b give more details. However, it is helpful that the full social dance programme has now been made available (as of 11 June 2005). Tickets for individual events can be purchased on the door, space permitting.

Why is everyone not pulling together for the good of the festival? It is naive to expect conflict-free organisation especially as there is at present little overall control. When Steve Heap ran the festival there was a lot of behind the scenes infighting but when he made a decision you had to abide by it. Many other successful festivals also have a benevolent autocrat in charge. It may be the only way to do it - but see why it can be expensive here. If you ever hear that a sub-committee of Sidmouth town council has been formed to help organise the festival, plan to go somewhere else for the week. In the early days it seemed to be a case of participating folkies freely offering what they could and rich people not giving much. The lack of central organisation was only too clear from a press release. The social dancing was organised as a wholly separate entity because Ray Goodswen was 'quick off the mark' in 2004 and did not subsequently come on board as a part of the main organising committee - who themselves did a fantastic job under difficult circumstances.

Will there be a full programme of children's events in 2005? The town council have said they will be supporting this as usual but in the past this has been of a token kind (ie, only a little money). The Blackmore area is especially safe for children because it can be 'contained', guarded by stewards at each entrance and with no traffic nearby. It would make a fantastic difference to the 'in-town' atmosphere to have both the Blackmore marquees in place. It would cost 'peanuts' for EDDC to fund these - as I suggested to them months ago. Better still, have the one on Church House Lawn too. As of 25 January 2005 the town council have set aside 5000 to support childrens events - and a Blackmore marquee will operate. It could have been supported by some money from the social dancing. However, it is all so late in the day. LATE NEWS: Evening ceilidhs are being held in Blackmore Gardens so this venue will now be a central focus for much of the 'in-town' folk atmosphere both during the day and in the evenings.

Are profits from 2005 going towards helping 2006 and beyond? Maybe not. Promises have been made but with potentially large sums involved the only way to ensure transparency would be to have all ticketing arrangements totally under independent third party control and with the accounts for each venue (dance halls, car parks, camping, etc) open to full public scrutiny. In the past no-one has been willing even to disclose profits from the pub chains or car parking arrangements. The few figures that have appeared have leaked out. As of January 2005, this has become less of a concern now that plans for arena concerts have been abandoned. At the meeting on 11 February it was mooted that a central bank account might be in operation to receive all ticket monies. The need for transparency was highlighted.

How can I volunteer to be a steward - and what are the benefits? See the official website There remains a lack of central organisation. Ideally, all H&S matters and insurance would be handled centrally for the whole festival and all stewards would be available to help with any event. There have been some (perhaps malicious) rumours on the internet. Stewards may get some free tickets but as there are unlikely to be any 'season' tickets in 2005 there may be no 'festival pass' arrangements. Some people have apparently been told there will be no concession tickets. Latest information is available from 01202 734049. As of 29 June the following appeared on the official website - probably as a response to few volunteers coming forward to work for nothing:

Most of the event organisers, including the Ham and late Night Extra, the Bedford, the Manor Pavilion and the lastminute ceilidhs, have now agreed to give free admission to stewards. Camping facilities are available for stewards.

If you would like to apply to become a steward please fill out and return the form. For further details please contact us:

Telephone 01202 734049

What are the chances of recreating the scale and splendour of Sidmouth 2004? Probably slim. Some people have said "let it die gracefully and remember it for what it was" rather than try forlornly to resurrect a doomed ideal. I don't agree with this but it will certainly be difficult ever to get back to the scale and international range of the 2004 festival. Much will depend on whether another key organiser can be found - someone with a genuine appreciation of folk arts. Steve Heap might come back under different administrative arrangements, but I doubt EDDC or Sidmouth Town Council would agree. Councillors have stated they want more control over what happens in 'their town'.

Does Sidmouth really want an international standard folk arts festival? Good question. Many residents don't want anything to disturb their ordered lives. If 2005 is deemed a success there may be pressure for future festivals to be more a mixture of 'pop and rock' concerts with some fairground type entertainment and a few Morris dancers thrown in. The audience may become predominantly local and the Sidmouth International Festival will need to look for a new home -  or die completely. This would align with the stated aim of making local people feel they had more 'ownership' of 'their' festival. It would also represent an opportunity for another festival site elsewhere in the UK (or in Europe) to expand to become the new Sidmouth. Recently there have been moves for a 'new Sidmouth' both at Eastleigh and in Wales. More discussion here and here.

Councillor Hughes has control of the arena in 2005. Does this mean he has control in 2006 and subsequently? Not necessarily, see the wording used by the Executive Board of EDDC. He only gained control in 2005 because (in my opinion) the steering group made a strategic blunder. As on 30 December 2004 use of the arena has been abandoned. Since that time Cllr Hughes has been very quiet.

Why is the SeeRed website so critical of Councillor Hughes? There is a long history to Councillor Hughes in Sidmouth. Many original pages of SeeRed mention this man and his various deeds. The traffic lights saga at Sidford arguably exposed him as a coward. Local press comment on this has continued for over 5 years. People have not forgotten. This is not the place to pursue these matters further. Hughes is an opportunist. His actions may result in Sidmouth Festival week being debased, rather than ensuring its continuation as an internationally renowned artistic event. More on pages folk56 , folk58 and folk59. It is interesting to note that the latest Sidmouth Folk Week information is on yet another website address, and that the two set up by Councillor Hughes have disappeared.

Why don't you get more involved in helping to organise the festival? I have not been permitted to do so. It may now be too late to impose some proper central organisation. I have said all along that this was required. I have been in contact with EDDC ever since June 2004 to ask when 'supportive' local people could become properly involved. Some of us could cheerfully have written cheques for tens of thousands of pounds to save the festival as it was - providing seed-corn funding for a properly organised festival in 2005. There are scores of millionaires in Sidmouth - and not many amongst the traders in the town.

Despite everything that was said at the town meeting no-one ever invited proper involvement of supportive local people in the crucial stages of decision making. I was told I could not attend the 23 October meeting. By the time it became public knowledge what had been happening behind the scenes, it was too late. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. We should have demanded to be on the steering group from the outset. Critically, we assumed councillors and officials were acting in good faith. More on page folk56. A critical letter was published in November 2004 and led to a hurried (and uninformative) press release a week later. A public meeting was held on 11 February 2005 in Sidmouth - probably too late to influence major decisions.

Will the BBC be showing further highlights from 2004? Ask them to!

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