Sidmouth gave us another wonderful eight days. I think it’s a combination of factors that come together to make this a uniquely delightful festival.
The town itself has a great deal to do with it. Whether it’s festival time or not, it’s well worth a visit. The town nestles in a valley between two towering headlands on the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. Fine Regency buildings line the prom; there’s a lovely two-mile long parkland called The Byes through which the River Sid runs on its way to the sea; there are attractive parks and a town centre filled with independent shops.
During Folk Week the whole town is given over to music and visitors are attracted from all over the world. There are venues everywhere: in the marquees that appear in the open spaces, in the theatre, the church halls, the hotels, the school, the sailing club, the Arts Centre and the pubs. Pub car parks accommodate ceilidhs.
This year the programme listed 870 organised events. The basic format is workshops in the morning and performances from lunchtime until 1.00 a.m.
The workshops covered singing, playing instruments, dance and story-telling.
The quality of the organised concerts is remarkable. For me the highlights of this year’s ‘big’ concerts were the emotional appearance of Nic Jones, the hugely enjoyable Show of Hands, Maddy Prior and the refreshingly different Spooky Men’s Chorale.
If you haven’t seen the SMC in action, and you get the chance to go during their current UK tour, I highly recommend that you grab the opportunity.
Bankers should avoid Show of Hands concerts. With over 1000 people bawling out the words to ‘Arrogance, Ignorance and Greed’ lynch-mob frenzy gets close.
There were lots of gems scattered between the ‘big’ events, (I managed to catch Jim Causley three times), but one of the joys of such a huge, varied programme was strolling into a gig by someone I didn’t know and being blown away. The Stream of Sound youth choir put on just such a performance.
Simply wandering between events on the organised programme is a delight. Inside (and outside) the pubs, in the parks, along the prom and on the beach musicians get together to compare instruments, chat about their experiences and jam. I went into The Bedford to find an organised gig in their function room and each of their three bars occupied by groups of musicians chatting and jamming – fiddles in one, banjos in another and melodeons in the third.
2014 sees the 60th anniversary of Sidmouth Folk Week and the organisers are promising ‘something really special’. It starts on Friday 1st August. We’ve already booked our accommodation. Come and join in the fun!