Blazing sunshine heralded in another brilliant Folk Week and once again the townsfolk and businesses of Sidmouth played host to the thousands who flocked to this family friendly celebration of all that is good about the Folk music and Dance traditions for a 59th year.
The Festival events are spread throughout the town in various easily accessible venues, plus the famous Bulverton site - a mile out of town but well served by a shuttle bus service. This area incorporates the main camp site and almost becomes a mini-Festival in its own right during the week.
With over 700 varied events, it is an almost impossible task to pen a review of the week, but suffice to say that the participants, performers and audiences all left having had a happy and fulfilling experience. There is a strong emphasis on encouraging youth, with folk related activities and workshops covering a wide range of subjects.
The artists booked this year, contained a list of not only icons of the Folk World, but also many up and coming artists who were making their first appearance.Thus for example, we were treated to performances from Maddy Prior , Wizz Jones, Martin Carthy Show of Hands and many more, plus newcomers like Lucy Pringle from Scotland and the siblings Aisling and Sean, of the Clare based, Lyons family.
The dance tradition has always been strong at Sidmouth and this year proved no exception with full programmes at both the Blackmore Gardens and The Bulverton.
On looking into one of the venues, I found the place jumping to the driving music of the band, Blackbeard’s Tea Party. The energy generated throughout the week in the dance venues, would have in my opinion, obviated the need for any controversial wind or solar power systems in the Devon area.
A comprehensive programme for Children and the older Youth group, was well received and resulted in some fine performances at the end of The Festival.
The Shooting Roots programme continues to ensure that there will be a steady stream of performers in the future.
Singarounds and Sessions are also an important part of any Festival and indeed some visitors only come for that activity. Sidmouth has no shortage of daily venues, some official, like the Traditional session in the Volunteer plus other “fringe” song and instrument gatherings. Like those in the York and Faulkner and The Anchor. Throughout the Town other pubs like The Swan were ringing to the sound of song and music not always “Folk” orientated but entertaining.
Sidmouth excels in putting on a full range of workshops covering dance voice and instruments conducted by professionals like Sandra Kerr, who has been a long term supporter of the Festival. This year, in addition to her Choir Workshops, she added a second series for women’s voices, to mark the centenary of the death of suffragette Emily Wilding Davison.
The army of Volunteers greatly assisted in the smooth running of the events and if there should be any criticism of this excellent week, it could only be that we were spoiled for choice but that is after all, a dilemma of ones own making.
Children are also well catered for in The Blackmore gardens and shopaholics can browse the craft fare and local facilities. All in all, The Sidmouth Festival provides an ideal centre for a family holiday, if that is how you like to attend a festival, or simply as a single individual seeking a safe and friendly experience.
A tribute is due to all the members of the organising team led by Festival Director, John Braithwaite, Alan Bearman,( Responsible for Marketing and Programming) and all the many assistants and volunteer teams.
Thanks are also due to the listed sponsors and to the residents of the town, who willingly cope with the Folk invasion and the inevitable disruption to their daily routine.
The selected reviews of some of the acts appearing (arranged in day order) are published on this site here.
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Sidmouth Folk Festival 2017 Review