Musicians call for rethink over Sidmouth seafront performance rules

Musician Paul Scofield at FolkWeek

Musician Paul Scofield at FolkWeek - Credit: Archant

‘Don’t fence me in’ was the response from musicians to designated spaces on the seafront, where performances can take place over FolkWeek.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) cracked down this year after festival-goers complained they were being drowned out by amplified performers.

Some musicians said they needed to be plugged in to be heard, others claimed the ban on amplifiers was not being enforced – but many said there were teething problems with the new performance spaces.

“I’ve been playing here for 10 years and it’s never been a problem – it’s a music festival,” said Paul Scofield, who was moved on for amplifying his chocolate box guitar. “There are big, empty spaces where you won’t hear music. I can’t understand the extent they’ve gone to.”

Jan Strapp plays a hammered dulcimer and was among those who spoke out last year about the proliferation of amplified performers.

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“You only need one electric guitar and no one else can play,” she said. “We just want to add to the atmosphere of the festival.”

Yellow boxes were marked out at York Steps and Bedford Steps for this year’s festival, allocating where ‘programmed’ performances could take place.

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“You can only get three musicians in those boxes,” said Jan. “And there’s no way any musician will be able to keep playing when a morris team arrives. Don’t fence us in.”

June Mycroft, of the Amycrofters Folk Dance Band, said: “Keeping all musicians in a confined area creates problems. For the first time that we can remember, there are few musicians on The Esplanade.”

An East Devon District Council spokeswoman said: “The designated performance areas are a new initiative and have been implemented to improve pedestrian safety by specifying areas where there is sufficient room for an audience without causing an obstruction of the footway or spilling onto the road. So far this seems to be working well, but the arrangements will remain under review and our observations will assist us in making decisions in the future.”

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