A film about the history of Sidmouth Folk Festival has gone down a storm in the town, to the delight of its producer.

A Small Quiet English Town had its red-carpet premiere at the Radway Cinema earlier this month, attended by many of the key festival figures who appear in the movie.

Sidmouth Herald: Guests outside the cinema at the premiere

There were also two public screenings, both of which packed the cinema to capacity.

Producer Paul Tully said: “We believe we outsold the Barbie movie in terms of seat numbers at the Radway Cinema.”

Paul has been working on the documentary film with his wife Ali since 2014. They sifted through hundreds of hours of archive footage depicting the festival since its inception in 1955, and filmed interviews with organisers and performers, past and present.

Sidmouth Herald: Producer Paul Tully with film poster

The film includes some fascinating insights into the event’s early years. It was founded by the English Folk Dance and Song Society as a festival of folk dancing, which meant instrumental music only – no singing. In fact some people did want to get together and sing, but this had to take place behind the scenes. Folk singing didn’t become an official part of the festival until the 1960s.

The festival also had a very strong international element. Archive footage shows groups from around the world performing their traditional dances in national costumes and parading through the town centre.

But the key focus of A Small Quiet English Town is the people. Many audience members at the premiere on August 7 saw their own faces on the big screen – or the faces of key festival personalities who have since passed away. The film includes interviews with people describing their own memories of past festivals, and clips from memorable performances over the decades.

Sidmouth Herald: Paul Tully with Steve Knightley at the film premiere

Festival patron Steve Knightley – who was among the VIP guests at the premiere – appears in the film several times, talking about his own involvement with the festival over the years. He wrote and performed the song ‘Walk With Me (When The Sun Goes Down)’ specifically for the documentary, and it fits perfectly into the closing sequence.

The film’s premiere had been a long time coming for Paul Tully, but the audience’s reaction left him in no doubt that it had been worth the wait. As the closing credits rolled, applause broke out, and he was inundated with praise and congratulations.

Sidmouth Herald: Audience applauding at film premiere

He is now in negotiations about possible further screenings before Christmas this year; details will be announced at a later date.