FolkWeek veteran wants to revive internation element

Friar West

Friar West - Credit: Archant

A long-serving FolkWeek fan is already planning for the next one and hopes to celebrate its 60th year by reviving the international element.

Friar West has held a love of the festival since his first visit in 1977, in which time he says half of the world’s nationalities have been represented.

But he says that cultural diversity was lost when the event was revived – and there is no better time to bring it back than a landmark year.

Friar said: “You would see Tibetans, Russians, Chinese, all walking down the street in their traditional dress. It added tremendous flavour – all that’s gone.”

“Now it’s all old men playing their mandolins in pubs – and I love that.

“A lot of people miss the cultural diversity, and I want to bring it back.

The 65-year-old ran an international campsite during FolkWeek for 28 years, but he said that diversity declined when the festival came under threat of closure in 2005.

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He plans to invite all those different nationalities who joined him in years gone by, and reach out to anyone else who wants to come next year.

Friar has been coming every year since he first canoed into the festival in the seventies, and believes he holds a record – but it’s been challenged.

“One person said they have been coming 40 years, but they missed a year,” said the Ashburton resident.

“I haven’t missed a single one – and I have proof!

“I hope the festival keeps going, so that I can reach my 40th. By that time I’ll be nearly 70!”

A veteran globetrotter who has visited the Himalayas and had a run-in with a rhino, he founded an international conservation project, inspired by his first visit to FolkWeek.

The International Conservation Awareness Network (ICAN) is still looking for a permanent home in the Sidmouth area for its nature centre.

Friar is also looking for accommodation in Sidmouth to house himself and 10 of his fellow veterans, and he knows he needs to start looking already.

Anyone interested in helping out with Friar’s international campaign, or to offer him accommodation, can contact him on 01364 654359.