Sidmouth FolkWeek is unique event

FIVE years after its transformation, Sidmouth FolkWeek has re-established itself as a unique festival venue for music and dance.

FIVE years after its transformation, Sidmouth FolkWeek has re-established itself as a unique festival venue for music and dance.

The international flavour that prevailed at Knowle Arena until 2004 is gradually returning, with two of the most popular acts coming from abroad.

Spokesman Tim Chipping said: "On one of the wettest days, Genticorum from Canada packed out the Ham marquee at lunchtime and on Wednesday night the queue for The Spooky Men's Chorale concert at the Methodist Church stretched up the road an hour-and-a-half before it started."

For the first part of the week the British weather was unkind to festival goers, with some campers having to be towed out of the mud by a friendly tractor owner at the Bulverton site.

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There, wheelbarrows were provided to carry tents to pitches to avoid cars churning up the ground.

"It has been off and on rain, and so far I would say we have had more sunny days than rainy," said an optimistic Tim.

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"People have been running into venues they wouldn't normally go into, people have been playing in pubs and even step dancing in them. I have even seen people playing on their hotel balconies.

What makes Sidmouth so unique as a festival venue is its town centre location.

"It is beautiful, you are not in a field miles from anywhere, you can wander up lanes and discover things," said Tim.

"It is like folk music, hidden music with hidden traditions. It has always been there but you have to look in strange places for it, and it is amazing the things you find where you least expect them."

Artistic director Joan Crump had difficult decisions to make when booking acts to ensure supporters got value for money, while keeping to her budget.

A new event, the silent disco at Bulverton, was so popular it will become a permanent feature.

Tim said: "It was fantastic. People were dancing to Morris tunes with air hankies."

The Spooky Men from Australia wowed audiences this year, and, says Tim: "We would be lynched if we didn't bring them back again."

He hopes organisers can persuade local authorities to find a site for a second large marquee - maybe seating 500 - because of the demand for concert tickets this year.

"We are thrilled. We tried to bring the spirit of Sidmouth festival back. This is such a different festival from others and I think we have exceeded expectations.

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