The annual friendly invasion of all things folk music orientated in this Devon seaside town, was once again an unqualified and popular success. With the exception of a wet Monday (“Into each life a little rain must fall”), the days were generally blessed with fine weather and a party spirit. The many day trippers who thronged the promenade over the week-end were royally entertained by browsing the adjacent stalls, or watching the performances of the Morris sides and busking musicians. Likewise, in the Blackmore Gardens, the official Festival craft site was equally busy on the Peacock Lawn. It is in this walled park that most children's entertainments and the dance marquee are situated. On a visit to this venue, I noted over 120 dancers on the floor, dancing to the music of a the Danish band “Rule of Three”, with Carol, an American guest caller, guiding them along, further emphasising the International appeal of this Festival.
Sidmouth is probably the ideal venue for a week- long Festival of this type. A popular seaside holiday town along Devon's Jurassic Coast, with its many regional attractions, it has a plentiful supply of local businesses willing to be involved in providing food , drink and accommodation at levels to suit all tastes. Many of the town's bars and pubs encourage regular and impromptu music sessions throughout the week, and the standard of street busking is high. All the venues are within easy walking distance in the town, with the exception of the popular Bulverton late night Ceilidh venue with adjacent updated camp site, which is served by a regular bus.
A proliferation of Folk Festivals at this time of the year makes it increasingly difficult for organisers to guarantee a commercial success, and some have fallen by the wayside. However, the Festival Director John Braithwaite, Artistic Director Alan Bearman, and their teams are to be congratulated in creating such a diversity of entertainment, with over 700 events taking place throughout the week.
In the Festival guest line-up, I detected a canny approach to the booking of the stars of the Folk World - all excellent in their own established ways. However it was a pleasure to hear and see the rise of a new order of young performer, many having graduated from various centres of musical excellence but now after some years` apprenticeship capable of performing on a larger stage. In the words of Dylan “The order is rapidly changing”,
It is impossible for a single reviewer to cover more than a relatively small percentage of the extensive Sidmouth programme, but an attempt has been made to convey a flavour of the Festival. The programme featured many well- known artists e.g. Show of Hands, Martin Simpson, Seth Lakeman, The Young Uns, Robin Dransfield , Kerr and Fagan etc. who are not covered in this Review due to constraints of time. All contributed to make this a wonderful celebration of the best of song and dance from the UK and around the World.
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