Sidmouth is a lovely town with many attractive Regency buildings, beautiful open spaces and a charming town centre full of independent shops. Down the eastern side of town the River Sid runs to the sea through a long ribbon of mature woodland called The Byes. Along the sea front is a traditional prom. It’s a rather refined, sedate little town.
Each year in the first week of August everything changes when Sidmouth Folk Week hits town. Those narrow streets and open spaces are suddenly thronged with tens of thousands of people, many of them with one or more instruments strapped to them; of the others a large number sport painted faces and wear the bizarre costumes of Morris dancing sides from all over the country.
2014 was the 60th Sidmouth Folk Week. When it started back in 1955 it was a Morris dancing festival organised by the English Folk Dance and Song Society that held an annual festival in Stratford-upon-Avon and wanted a second in the Southwest. In the early years the event was held in Connaught Gardens on the western edge of town and most of the residents were probably unaware that it was taking place. Now the whole town throbs with music. Even the residents of Sidmouth Parish Churchyard are probably aware that something is going on. Continue reading