Freedom of Sidmouth FolkWeek for its saviour

Support of Sidmouth acknowledged by FolkWeek organisers at welcome concert

SIDMOUTH’S talented Sidmouth Steppers and the town’s award-winning band, made sure visitors had a home-grown early welcome to FolkWeek 2011.

During Saturday’s welcome concert, headed by the band, organisers honoured Sidmothian Tony Reed with the Freedom of the Festival.

Barry Lister, vice chairman of Sidmouth FolkWeek Ltd., explained to a packed Ham marquee how Tony had, in 2005 “stepped up to the plate” after the international festival’s organiser pulled out.

“His help and support in getting procedures with the district and town councils done was invaluable, as was his wife’s hospitality at meetings,” said Barry.

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“When you want something done, Tony will make it happen,” added festival director John Braithwaite.

Tony, 74, who was first chairman of the newly-formed FolkWeek, said: “I happened to be chairman of the town council and decided the festival was not going to die on my watch.

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“We very quickly got a band of volunteer helpers together that got us on the road to continue this festival.”

He said it had been vital to keep the first week of August as the date for Sidmouth’s festival, now in its 57th year.

Since its re-formation, Tony said local businesses had been gently coerced to back the event, which this year had more than 600 events on offer.

Tony, president of the town band, said how important the festival was commercially to the town, one reason it couldn’t be lost to Sidmouth.

“It is easy to put on a good show, but making it pay is hard sometimes,” he said. “The festival is now on a much sounder base, both financially and flourishing artistically.”

He thanked organisers for the accolade saying: “This is my third award this year – Freeman of the Town, an Alderman and now Freedom of the Festival.

“I am immensely proud to have been able to do something for the good of the town.”

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