A fish out of water: What is happening at Sidmouth Sea Fest 2019?

PUBLISHED: 07:00 25 April 2019 | UPDATED: 10:54 29 April 2019

Dave French making a tradional East Devon willow crab pot at the Sidmouth Sea Fest. Ref shs 20 18TI 3100. Picture: Terry Ife

Dave French making a tradional East Devon willow crab pot at the Sidmouth Sea Fest. Ref shs 20 18TI 3100. Picture: Terry Ife

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Louise Cole shares what is in store for this year's Sea Fest.

Sidmouth Sea Fest. Ref shs 20 18TI 3131. Picture: Terry IfeSidmouth Sea Fest. Ref shs 20 18TI 3131. Picture: Terry Ife

Fish out of Water: a new play exploring the life of Sidmouth's Stephen Reynolds, has been written especially for Sidmouth Sea Fest 2019.

This short play uses humour, song and personal testimony to tell Reynolds's moving story.

The play about author and social commentator Stephen Reynolds is to be performed by a community ensemble at Sidmouth Sea Fest on Saturday, May 18.

Sea Fest organisers Sidmouth Coastal Community Hub asked for the play to be written to as part of their 2019 theme – Celebrating Diversity Creatively, aiming to bring to life the hidden history of Reynolds life, his experience of life with the Sidmouth fishing family the Woolleys and his later influence on the fishing industry.

Sidmouth Sea Fest. Ref shs 20 18TI 3112. Picture: Terry IfeSidmouth Sea Fest. Ref shs 20 18TI 3112. Picture: Terry Ife

Reynolds, whose book 'A Poor Man's House', published in 1908, was based on his life in Sidmouth. At the time it was acclaimed and praised by the likes of Joseph Conrad, but is not particularly well known locally. His personal struggle with his family, his sexuality at a time of intolerance, his reflections on social class and inequality are often overlooked.

SCCH director Louise Cole: “We have, through our film Working the Sea and previous projects, touched on Stephen Reynolds as we bring to life Sidmouth's Fishing heritage.

“We wanted to re-tell Stephen's story to engage people locally and bring this, often hidden history, to a new audience including younger people by casting a new light on his dynamic and extraordinary narrative. It often seemed strange to us that locally, not many people and certainly very few young people know about Stephen. It may be that his story simply hasn't been told in an accessible way that touches on issues still relevant today.”

The play is a stylised and impressionistic insight into the life of Stephen Reynolds, and his relationship with Sidmouth, with the Woolley's, and with the sea.

Jack Massey tries his hand on the training boat R.S Vision at the Sidmouth Sea Fest. Ref shs 20 18TI 3092. Picture: Terry IfeJack Massey tries his hand on the training boat R.S Vision at the Sidmouth Sea Fest. Ref shs 20 18TI 3092. Picture: Terry Ife

The title, A Fish out of Water, suggests Reynold's journey to find his 'element', socially, creatively and personally. The play suggests that it was his time in Sidmouth that enabled him to become who he really was, not simply as a chronicler and observer, and an advocate and innovator, but as a socially diffident, gay man committed to justice and to community.

As Hilaire Belloc said: “He had charity, humility and justice in equal poise” - a true gentleman, who felt more at home with working-class fisherfolk than his own middle-class upbringing.

Pippa Marriott, currently at the University of Exeter, has co-written the play with fellow creative writing MA student and Sidmouth resident David Lloyd. Pippa, who is directing the play, is herself a former drama teacher.

Working with Sea Fest organisers, they have recruited a local community cast who will perform the half-hour play at Sea Fest in the main marquee on the Ham, Sidmouth at 3.30pm.

Stephen ReynoldsStephen Reynolds

Pippa and David have drawn on Reynold's writings, aided by Nigel Hyman, of Sidmouth Museum, who has just published a short book about Reynolds, to bring this extraordinary man's life to the attention of the audience at the Sidmouth Sea Festival with an engaging mixture of humour, song and ensemble performance.

Coco Hodgkinson, artistic director of the festival added: “This year is the 100th year anniversary of Reynold's death during the influenza pandemic of 1919. His grave at the cemetery in Winslade Road, in Sidmouth, is not much known about either and it felt fitting to start this community project at Sea Fest this year, which we hope to extend out into a wider heritage project with students in Sidmouth, if it generates people's curiosity.

“We would love to see a really interesting interactive heritage installation in Sidmouth that young people will engage with in the future.”

Sea Fest itself will be parading rainbow colours, fish masks and feature, as usual, lots of creative and environmentally friendly activities, food and live music on the day.

This year, for the first time in our six-year history, the festival will run as a free festival not just in the day but through the evening too, from 10am to 11pm.

The programme will see an increase in our cultural offer and by hosting the event all through, it is our ambition that all ages will come along, get involved and make a day and evening of it.

The festival is Sidmouth's first single-use plastics free event and will be full of active collaborations with other local organisations such as the Scouts, the Gig club, Sidmouth Arboretum, the Sailing Club and the Science Festival.

Sea Fest creates a platform for a multitude of special interest groups such as Sidmouth In Bloom, the Walking and Literary Festival, the Sid Vale Association and others.

It will include a range of Creativity on the Coast activities such as storytelling, arts and crafts, authors, a coastal-themed Cake Off competition and the festival's own Sidmouth Sea Fest Community Choir.

The festival organisers have also been successfully working with Winstone Books in Sidmouth to bring Tom Nancollas, author of Seashaken Houses, A Lighthouse History from Eddystone to Fastnet, to Sea Fest.

Last years' addition of withy pot making, a pop-up beach and a Sea Fest beach clean run by Sidmouth Plastic Warriors will be back.

Visitors to the festival will be able to learn about the process of making Sidmouth Gin at the copper distillery from the Dairy, buy local New Devon Army ale at the Prawn Cocktail Bar and eat from a range of local food stalls including local seasonal fish baps from the Bagwell's Fish Hut.

Local sponsors and supporters include Everys Solicitors, Morris Sales and Lettings, the Royal York and Faulkner Hotel, Sidmouth Town Council. Sidmouth Sea Fest is also supported this year as one of the Co-op local causes.

For further information visit:

www.facebook.com/sidseafest/ or click here.

sidmouthcoastalcommunityhub.org/ or click here.

For more features from East Devon Resident, click here.

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