Getting in to the Sunday spirit at Sidmouth FolkWeek 2017

Sidmouth FolkWeek. Picture: Paul Strange.

Sidmouth FolkWeek. Picture: Paul Strange. - Credit: Archant

A walk round a close cluster of venues can really get you into the spirit of Sidmouth FolkWeek, write Paul Strange and Delia Pemberton.

Such was the case last Sunday (August 6), where, within five minutes of each other, you could leap into a memorial jig competition, revel in a rollicking folk-rock band, savour a sword-dance group, sup up some sublime West African music, enjoy an acoustic session at The Bedford and taste the tradition – and a few chips – on the seafront.

One of the most popular ticketed events in the Sidmouth programme, the John Gasson Memorial Jig Competition is a must for fans of English folk dance. Dancers are judged for their audience appeal as well as their music, presentation, technique and artistic skill, with categories for solo and pairs performers.

Combining athletic leaps and bounds with graceful poses and gestures, this year’s performances – held in the Blackmore Gardens marquee – drew gasps and cheers from the assembled crowd.

A short distance away – at the Anchor Garden – there were more leaps, bounds and plenty of head shaking as Dorset folk-rockers State of Undress turned in a frenetic performance of originals. The crowd loved their rocky, rootsy sound and you never knew quite what to expect next.

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That was also the case over at the Blackmore Gardens, where Washington DC sword dance group Cutting Edge Sword looked splendid in their 18th-century garb and were razor-sharp in their reinterpretations of English rapper and longsword.

It was a huge cultural leap over to A Cellar Full of Folkadelia at Carinas, but the journey was well worthwhile as West African Batch Gueye raised the roof with traditional music and dance from Senegal. His tight band of skilled musicians produced a mesmeric, sparkling sound that lifted the hair on the back of your neck.

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Lifting a few pints was more the order of the day over at The Bedford Hotel, where impromptu music sessions, accompanied by a warm, community spirit, were a constant delight.

It may have been cooler along the seafront, but there were many fascinating acts to savour on Sunday, especially the powerful singing and clog-dancing of contemporary folk duo Georgie and Phoebe. Marvellous stuff.

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