Sidmouth Folk Week offers a cornucopia of all that's good in the world of Folk Music, Dance & Song

Sidmouth Folk Week 2012 review

published: Wed 22nd Aug 2012

around the town (in the pubs)

Friday 3rd to Friday 10th August 2012
Sidmouth, Devon, EX10 8XR, England MAP
£248 for all-in-one adult ticket
daily capacity: 25000
last updated: Mon 16th Jul 2012

Located in one of the most attractive of seaside towns in England, The Festival Committee once again served up a cornucopia of all that is good in the world of Folk Music, Dance and Song.

This is The Festival which truly serves up Traditional family fare, whilst eschewing the gimmicks included within some Festival programmes.

around the festival site (Bulverton Dances)
A number of venues are in use here, most within easy walking distance of the town. The main exception is the Bulverton Marquee, which is located between the Festival Car Park and the main Campsite. This houses evening concerts, Late Night Extra Ceilidh and morning dance workshops. The Bulverton sites are well served with a regular, sensibly priced, shuttle bus service, running into the wee small hours.

With around 75 'participative activities' scheduled throughout the week, it would have been be impossible not to find something to enjoy, or at which to improve techniques. These ranged from dance workshops to those concentrating on a variety of instruments, singing methods and percussion.

There were also some specialised talks on a variety of other folk genres, for example, Swedish Tunes with Vicky Swan, Zimbabwean Traditions with Chartwell Dutiro, and Eastern European fiddle tunes with Lebedek.

around the town (in the pubs)
For those not wishing, or unable to take advantage of the sensibly priced full week ticket, an active fringe programme of impromptu music and song sessions was available throughout the Town, in various pub and hotel locations. Mention must be made of the sterling work of Kitty Vernon and Tim Edwards, who have run the morning session for many years, now located in the Royal York and Faulkner Hotel. A second, evening session was also held there and hosted by Rosy Daisley.

These, and other sessions were free, but the collection tins passed around all help to support the Festival. Concerts and other main events were individually priced, or available to Day, Weekend or Week Ticket holders.

The midday session held in the Volunteer pub is recognised as an official venue and was hosted, as ever, by George Frampton with assistance from regular attendees.

Here gather the aficionados of The Tradition, with regular contributions from invited Festival guests. This has become a 'standing room only' popular two and a half hours of mainly acapella singing with occasional band interludes.

around the festival site (craft and music 2)
The Blackmore Gardens are the centre for almost continuous dance activity and also hosts the Music Fair Venue, housing a number of stands including CDs and the products of many of the well established makers of fine instruments.

If an idle moment should occur, there are opportunities to visit the Craft Fair Marquee and the many stalls ranged along the promenade. The 'prom' is traditionally the location for the displays by visiting Morris sides, as well as street entertainers, and musicians of all ages and styles.

The Bedford Hotel on the sea-front is an official concert venue and sponsor, but the main bar areas and other rooms housed enthusiastic crowds of musicians and singers, who never seem to tire of making music. Likewise, the Swan pub in York Street appeared almost to be hosting its own mini-festival throughout the week.

around the festival site (Morris Teams 2)
The conclusion must be that The Sidmouth Folk Week continues to be one of the most enjoyable events on the calendar and The Festival Director, John Braithewaite and his team are to be congratulated, including the 400 volunteers who help to keep the Festival running smoothly.

This year, the new Festival Arts Director, Alan Bearman, has constructed a programme which had balanced the content, by contracting well known and established artists with a sprinkling of new talent.

Thus, on stage, throughout the week, in various guises, were the Carthy family with a welcome return of Norma, plus Archie Fisher, Dick Gaughan, Pete Coe etc. From Scotland were Bothy Ballad singers Joe Aitken and Geordie Murison, and from Ireland a strong group including the Voice Squad, Len Graham, Jack Lynch and Jerry O' Reilly. The younger 'Celtic' element were represented by Ewan McLennan, Rura, and the award winning Rua MacMillan trio, and Alistair Roberts.

The Big Chris Barber Band
Two pre-Festival events were of particular note. On the Thursday a showcase concert featuring the remarkable Chris Barber, and band - a special treat for those of a certain age, with memories of the 50's Trad.Jazz era.

On Friday, an enthralled audience were treated to a reading of 'War Horse' by the author, Michael Morpurgo, with support from John Tams and Barry Coope.

A Festival of this duration is, as always, dependent on Grants, Sponsorship and Donations. In this respect, Sidmouth Town Council has re-affirmed its significant long term commitment, recognising the importance of the Festival to the town and its traders.

around the festival site (Shakespeares Storybook Workshop)
Additional support has been received from Devon County Council, East Devon District Council and Sid Vale Association.

Creative Scotland and Halsway Manor have also played a part in supporting various artists and in the latter case, programmes for young musicians. A full list of local sponsors will be published in the Sidmouth Herald.

Given a programme of such diversity and duration, a review of every performance during the week would be impractical and apologies are made to those many artists who are not mentioned on this occasion, but who have all played their part in enhancing the reputation of this unique Festival.

The selected reviews of some of the acts appearing (arranged in day order) are published on this site here.
review by: Hector Gilchrist

photos by: Eve Mathews

Friday 3rd to Friday 10th August 2012
Sidmouth, Devon, EX10 8XR, England MAP
£248 for all-in-one adult ticket
daily capacity: 25000
last updated: Mon 16th Jul 2012


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