‘Changes will enable festival to reclaim Sidmouth seafront’ - FolkWeek director

PUBLISHED: 11:09 03 May 2016 | UPDATED: 09:10 04 May 2016

Folkweek 2013. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref shs 0252-32-13AW. To order your copy of this photograph go to www.sidmouthherald.co.uk and click on Photo Orders

Folkweek 2013. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref shs 0252-32-13AW. To order your copy of this photograph go to www.sidmouthherald.co.uk and click on Photo Orders


Pledge that the ‘unique atmosphere’ of town’s long-standing tradition will be recaptured

John BraithwaiteJohn Braithwaite

FolkWeek bosses and musicians have welcomed changes that will enable them to ‘reclaim’ Sidmouth seafront and restore the festival’s ‘unique atmosphere’.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) last week announced new measures relating to stalls and also pledged to crack down on unlicensed traders and loud, amplified music.

The use of the space along The Esplanade has been reviewed in order to provide more room for performers - yet maintain the same number of trading stalls. The trading pitches are being moved closer together and the pitch sites will remain the same size.

For this year’s event, there will be additional seafront performance spaces at Port Royal, where Fore Street meets The Esplanade and opposite the Bedford car park.

Festival-goers turned to the Herald last August to voice fears that the long-established folk celebration was losing a big part of its character and tradition as acoustic players were being pushed away from the seafront.

This week, FolkWeek director John Braithwaite said these concerns have been listened to, as festival-goers can look forward to a return of the event’s ‘unique atmosphere’.

“There are a number of reasons why The Esplanade needed looking at,” he said.“We were finding that we were getting quite a lot of complaints about traders beginning to dominate The Esplanade to the detriment of the original lovely atmosphere along the seafront.

“Also, I think what EDDC wanted to do was to make sure that the traders were operating as they should and give the festival the opportunity to reclaim The Esplanade. It’s part and parcel of the festival’s unique atmosphere.

“The majority of feedback was to do with amplified music, which needed to be controlled, and the way the seafront was no longer really a part of the festival. EDDC has made big strides in creating two new areas in addition to Port Royal.”

Mr Braithwaite explained that festival organisers will programme dance teams into the new spaces to the west and centre of The Esplanade to give people a feel for what goes on.

Acoustic musicians, buskers and visiting dance groups will also be encouraged to make use of the performance areas on a more spontaneous basis.

He said it would be possible for more people to enjoy the atmosphere with stronger controls on amplified music.

Mr Braithwaite added: “We are all looking forward to not only a very good festival, but also the return of that unique atmosphere.”

FolkWeek organisers, Sidmouth Town Council, the police and EDDC’s licensing, environmental health and StreetScene services worked together behind the scenes to plan the new arrangement.

Musician Jan Strapp has been a regular fixture on the seafront during FolkWeek since 1991, but last year told the Herald she may not return because it was becoming increasingly difficult to fight for space among traders and amplified music.

She said: “When I saw the headline [in the Herald last week], I thought it was good news. It means a lot to me because it means I can carry on playing there. I hope spontaneity will still be encouraged among performers.”

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