Best of the West - Sidmouth FolkWeek 2017’s local links

Seth Lakeman. Picture: PEBond

Seth Lakeman. Picture: PEBond - Credit: Archant

Recently awarded a blue plaque in recognition of its innovative, influential and successful role in the region’s musical heritage, the folk festival in Sidmouth has been an East Devon institution since the 1950s, with a reputation and influence that radiates way around the country and abroad.

Sidmouth Sea Fest Community Choir.

Sidmouth Sea Fest Community Choir. - Credit: Archant

Flying the flag for Sidmouth, Devon and the South West region is a major part of the festival. In its 63rd year, 2017 sees a welcome return for local talent Sidmouth Steppers, the home-team North-West Morris side; the piratical Sidmouth Traditional Mummers, the prize-winning Sidmouth Town Band and Sidmouth Rock Choir – all to be seen on stages and streets during the week.

New this year, FolkWeek is excited to be working with Sidmouth Coastal Community Hub, organisers of Sidmouth Sea Fest, to present the Sidmouth Sea Fest Community Choir and Sidmouth fishing heritage film Working the Sea at the Manor Pavilion Theatre on August 7. Sidmouth Coastal Community Hub connects people with the sea and coast, promoting a greater understanding of the heritage, community identity and social inclusion of Sidmouth and other coastal areas. Its aim is to engage through art, culture, heritage and education, innovating creatively with young people and inclusive of all generations for whole community benefit.

Working the Sea tells the story of Sidmouth’s fishing heritage, following one resilient family, the Bagwells, from the war years onwards, through romance and tragedy. As the women in the family pick up the pieces, it also weaves contemporary users of the coast - from the lifeboat to the sailing club - into the narrative. Ultimately, this is a story of how a mutual love and respect for the sea draws a community together. The film will be screened alongside another fishing heritage film from Easter Ross in the Scottish Highlands with a live soundtrack from renowned Scottish fiddler Duncan Chisholm in collaboration with the young Feis Rois Ceilidh Trail team. The show is a perfect collaboration highlighting the connections that exist between coastal communities.

“This stunning film, fascinating and inspiring, funny and humbling, is a powerful reminder of how lucky we are on the coast,” say Coco Hodgkinson and Louise Cole, Sidmouth Coastal Community Hub directors.

Writer Michael Morpurgo. Picture: Richard Cannon

Writer Michael Morpurgo. Picture: Richard Cannon - Credit: Archant

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Continuing the briny theme, the ultimate shanty crew Fisherman’s Friends return to the Ham Marquee stage for an always-popular pre-festival concert on August 3 at 3pm. The Cornish choir, back by popular demand, have no gang leader, no master and no-holds-barred. Each member of this unique group is or has been a fisherman, lifeboat man and coastguard (as well as builders, artisans, hoteliers, and shop keepers) in Port Isaac. Expect rousing, upbeat songs and barrels of fun. Support comes from the fine singer Jim Causley, a singer/accordionist who is passionate about traditional song and particularly that of his native Devon.

The internationally famous Devon-based children’s author Michael Morpurgo returns to the festival with pre-festival family show Where My Wellies Take Me.

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Morpurgo’s previous sell-out shows at Sidmouth, War Horse and Private Peaceful, were a massive hit with children and adults of all ages.

Festival patrons and acoustic stars Show of Hands appear at their established Sunday night concert spot at the Ham – a perennially popular event. Their ranks are swelled by regular double-bassist Miranda Sykes, but also The Lost Sound Dartmoor Folk Choir, whose multi-layered textures and harmony will help lift the roof. “One of the highlights of our recent sell-out Royal Albert Hall show was Sandra Smith’s extraordinary 30 strong Dartmoor choir, whose mission is to sing without the score in natural voices,” says Steve Knightley. “Also, opening the evening will be fellow Dartmoor musician and head of the Lakeman dynasty, Geoff Lakeman. Receiving critical acclaim for his debut album Geoff is a model lesson that it’s never too late to become a folk icon!”

Fisherman's Friends. Picture: Kyle Baker

Fisherman's Friends. Picture: Kyle Baker - Credit: Archant

Whipping up a frenzy on the dancefloor, Geoff’s son Seth Lakeman and his trademark stomp, swooping fiddle and viola, soaring vocals and potent electric tenor guitar, appears at one of the festival’s many upbeat roots dance parties at The Bulverton.

Dancing at the Bulverton marquee.

Dancing at the Bulverton marquee. - Credit: Archant

The Bulverton marquee,

The Bulverton marquee, - Credit: Archant

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