Fears acoustic traditions on seafront ‘will be lost’

Jan Strapp and Theo Thomas on the esplanade with the traders behind them. Ref shs 1855-32-15TI. Pict

Jan Strapp and Theo Thomas on the esplanade with the traders behind them. Ref shs 1855-32-15TI. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

A FolkWeek performer fears the festival is losing a big part of its character and tradition as acoustic music is being ‘pushed away’ from the seafront.

Jan Strapp has been visiting the town since 1988 and says it was watching musicians on The Esplanade that inspired her to take up playing her unusual string instrument – the hammered dulcimer.

Since 1991, she has been a regular fixture on the seafront during FolkWeek - playing alongside people of all ages and abilities – but the music lover said this may be her last year as it is getting harder to fight for space among traders and amplified music.

Jan said: “I love the folk festival, but we have seen it change so much over the years.

“I regularly set up by myself and whoever comes along, comes along – that’s the joy of this week.

“We do it because it’s one week of the year we can - but it’s getting harder and harder and I know a lot of people do not do it anymore.

“There used to be waves of people [enjoying acoustic sessions] along the seafront.

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“I have not been able to play where I used to since the regulated pitches were put up, but now there’s more people arriving to sell things in between, so there’s nowhere to go.

“This is making the festival lose a lot of its character – if everybody moves from the seafront and the only ones left are amplified music and traders – that’s not what FolkWeek is about. It will stop eventually and there will be no acoustic music on the seafront. It’s giving, sharing, listening and passing on traditions – that’s what it means and all that will be lost.”

FolkWeek director John Braithwaite ‘thoroughly agreed’ with Jan’s comments.

“We would love to make much more use of the seafront as we used to do,” he said.

“But there seems to be a bit of an outbreak of amplified music.”

He added that the seafront is used for a big performance on the Sunday of the festival.

A spokeswoman for East Devon District Council said the area is strictly monitored and the authority, which restricts the number of traders along The Esplanade to allow people to perform there.

She added: “We ensure that enough space is left between the trade stands for the performers to entertain visitors.”