Folk songs inspired by real-life stories of Sidmouth residents will be performed at this year's Folk Festival.

The 'Stories of Sidmouth' project is being organised to mark the 70th year of the festival. It's being run by Wren Music, a charity that uses folk arts to bring people together in making and performing music. The project is being funded by Arts Council England, and will aim to strengthen the connection between the festival, held annually since 1955, and people who live in the town.

Anyone who has a story to tell is invited to attend one of three 'memory swap' events at Sidmouth Library. These are informal sessions, with no need to book, and will take place on consecutive Thursdays: April 18, April 25 and May 2, from 10.30am to 12 noon. 

Wren Music will be working with Year 10 students from Sidmouth College to create the songs, which will be fine-tuned by professional musicians.

Hannah Earl from Wren Music, who is coordinating the project, said: “We want to hear your stories of how Sidmouth has changed over the past 70 years. Do you have a particular story of your own to share, from your experience of living in Sidmouth? Then come along to one of our memory swap sessions.”

The songs will be performed at Sidmouth Folk Festival on Sunday,  August 4 as part of a concert by singers and musicians, including Wren Music’s community groups, at the Ham Marquee from 12 noon until 1.30pm. The concert will also feature a professional artist who is performing at the festival, with further details to be announced soon.

Hannah said: “It’s really bringing the stories of the town to the festival, and these songs will be saving today’s memories and stories for the future. It’s a wonderful project and we’re very excited to be part of it. And one of the exciting things is that we don’t know what the repertoire will be yet because that will develop as we see the themes that emerge.”

As part of the project, Wren Music is working with teachers and pupils at Sidmouth Primary School to teach them folk songs, tunes and dance, and to create a mini folk festival at the school.

Hannah said: “These will be a repertoire of existing folk songs, but they will reflect the area’s local history. So there will probably be folk songs about the sea and fishing and other themes that are important to this part of Devon.”

Tash Daly, artistic director for Sidmouth Folk Festival, said: “We are thrilled to be working alongside Wren Music to bring the stories of Sidmouthians of all ages to life, with support from Arts Council England Lottery Funding, creating new folk songs based on local memories. 

“Folk has always been the culture of the people, serving as a mirror to the lives of everyday people, and offering insights into histories, values, and collective identities through music, storytelling, and dance. We can't wait to unveil the results at the 70th Sidmouth Folk Festival!”

Sidmouth Folk Festival runs from Friday, August 2 until Friday 9. Early Bird tickets are on sale now via the official festival website.





Wren Music celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2023. The Okehampton-based organisation has community choirs and orchestras across the county. Its professionals also manage special projects, using folk arts to empower people from all backgrounds to make music and feel part of the community. The charity has collected and digitised traditional West Country folk songs and tunes, including the Sabine Baring-Gould collection.