A Painful Duty – World War 1 at Sidmouth FolkWeek

Roy Bailey and Robb Johnson

Roy Bailey and Robb Johnson - Credit: Archant

As well as marking the 60 year anniversary of Sidmouth FolkWeek, a more significant event was marked this week with some moving commemorations of the First World War and heartrending tributes to those who lost their lives.

As lights went out over the country, the festival marked the event in many ways (customer safety not allowing us to switch off the lights) with Monday, August 4 featuring two particularly poignant performances – one at the Ham Marquee, and one in the open air on The Hub; both reflecting on the devastating impact of the war on ordinary lives.

Gentle Men with Roy Bailey & Robb Johnson focused on Robb’s own grandfathers’ experience of the war. His moving songs and dialogue explored the effect of history on two of its statistics, two ordinary soldiers, two gentle men, who survived the war but were forever in its shadow: a raw and tender reflection.

Ouse Washes Molly Dancers, the Fenland dancers from East Anglia, explored the fate of some of the Molly dancing villages of Cambridgeshire and the Fens who had their own ‘Pals Battalions’. There were few dry eyes as they told their touching story – told in dances, music, songs and readings.

Taffy Thomas, the first storytelling laureate, also marks the centenary with the launch of his Legends Of WW1 (a new History Press book produced with Helen Watts) today at the Manor Pavilion (1.15pm): featuring folk tales gleaned from diaries, reminiscences and rumours. Taffy’s stories are complemented by songs from Becky Unthank, Simon Ritchie and The Claque.

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And, coming at the end of the week, Painful Duty, performed by Sid Vale Community Productions, actors from Sidmouth Amateurs Dramatics Society & Sidmouth Youth Theatre, is a promenade play set on three stages, exploring the impact of the war on local families: the Clodes and the Channings. It shows how two mothers support one another in their tragedies as they both lose sons in the conflict. Painful Duty is staged at All Saints Church Hall on Friday, August 8 and Stowford Community Centre on Saturday, August 9 at 7pm.


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