Sidmouth FolkWeek - It's time to have a go!

One of the attractions of the festival in Sidmouth has always been the chance to get some hands-on experience. Folk music and dance is essentially participatory so it s time to have a go yourself!

One of the attractions of the festival in Sidmouth has always been the chance to get some hands-on experience. Folk music and dance is essentially participatory so it's time to have a go yourself!

If you are inspired by the singing and musicianship in the concerts, by the dance steps and moves in the dances and ceilidhs, by the morris and sword dancers along the Esplanade - then there are dozens of opportunities to participate - learn some new skills and develop some new ones. And you have a whole week to do it in!

In most cases you don't have to have prior knowledge of folk music to take part. Several generations of Sidmouth residents have been inspired by the festival to dance, sing or play - now it's your turn!

Song:The Festival Choir is a well-established feature of the festival. Led by Sandra Kerr, the choir meets every morning from Sunday at 9.30am in the Manor Pavilion. At 11.15am, in the same venue, American singer Sara Grey will be leading workshops on aspects of American song (Monday to Wednesday).

There are also workshops on harmony singing, West Gallery (the sacred music of rural parish churches before organs were introduced), Sacred Harp (similar music in the USA) and arrangements of folk songs for choirs made by Vaughan Williams and others.

And for something different - try Bulgarian singing on Sunday with Dessi Stefanova.

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Instrumental Music: The Festival Concert Band is again led by the well-known performer, John Kirkpatrick, and will take place from Monday in the Rugby Club from 9.30am. Following on is the Festival Ceilidh Band workshop

led by Nick and Mary Barber.

There are also individual or series of events on instruments including banjo, accordion, fiddle, guitar, concertina, flute, bodhran, Scottish smallpipes and even the jew's harp and cajon. What's a cajon? It's an Afro-Peruvian box drum! Many of the tutors are recognised authorities on their chosen instruments.

Storytelling: Master story-tellers, Taffy Thomas and Hugh Lupton, will be leading workshops, and there's a daily story-telling circle in the Woodlands Hotel.

Social Dance: There are social dance workshops right through the day - the working programme indicates what prior experience is expected of the participants, with many workshops aimed at beginners. Many of the workshops are themed - Irish, Scottish, Contra (American dance style), English, Cornish and Playford - and all have a dance leader, to explain the dance movements and steps, and a live band.

You can also try your hand - or should that be foot? - at Jewish dance, flamenco, Bulgarian and Euro-bop.

Morris and other Display Dance: Almost all the styles of English morris and sword dancing are represented in the workshop programme. Cotswold morris (think bells, handkerchiefs and sticks), north-west morris (danced in clogs), molly and border (from East Anglia and the counties adjoining Wales), plus rapper sword are all catered for. There are also clog dance workshops, Appalachian and flat-foot. Some of these workshops are specifically aimed at people with little prior experience.

Sit Back and Listen: Perhaps you've become fascinated by the whole concept of the folk

traditions of these islands and beyond and just want to know more about them! Twice a day, in the Arts Centre, there is a series of talks about different aspects of folk music, dance and song.

There's a Sussex flavour to the first few days of the talks, with Hastings-born Shirley Collins presenting her Romani Rai talk about the songs of English Gypsies, as well as her Most Sunshiny Day talk about English traditional song (the latter in the Manor Pavilion on Saturday). Vic and Tina Smith will also show a new film about singer Bob Lewis and then interview Bob about the film.

Author Peter Cox talks about the fifty-year old ground-breaking Radio Ballads of Ewan MacColl and Charles Parker, and folklorist Doc Rowe shows his own film and video of traditional customs and singers. Ace concertina player Alistair Anderson gives a personal view of tradition and its future. There's also the opportunity to watch a unique sound film of traditional musician Sam Bennett that pre-dates The Jazz Singer!

There are also daily interviews with some of the well-known songwriters who are visiting the festival.

Details of all the workshops, and all the other events, are given in the Working Programme, available for �5 in the Sidmouth TIC and the Festival Box Office on the Ham. Or read it on line at