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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Steve in Sidmouth Sidmouth Folk Week - New Director (67* d) RE: Sidmouth Folk Week - New Director 24 Aug 11


It might be good to get away from 'unique and daring acts' for a few years and get back to basics. And that does not mean either dull or uninteresting!

An attempt was made with the social dance programme this year and it was better in part because so many regulars stayed away - and the rest of us had room to dance! 50 or 60 less dancers than in years past? That is 50 or 60 season tickets or maybe 8,000. Maybe not enough to interest the organisers. How many minutes of Kate Rusby can you buy for 8000?

Sidmouth was primarily a dance festival - many years ago - and it is arguably the dance element that needs attending to in future years. Much remains to be done to regain the loyalty of many of the UK's best social and ceilidh dancers.

The Ham venue is now arguably better than it ever was but is 'concerts only' with fixed seating. All the minor venues are much the same as they ever were.

Sidmouth should be aiming for the highest standards for dance as well as for Ham concerts. Has it been a case of too many gimmicks, too much of the wrong type of innovation and not enough basic teaching, learning and improving? We have lurched from Nu-ceilidh to the silly 'family evenings' programmed at 15 - comments on my website! We also have sound (noise?) levels so high that even youngsters say it's too loud - and with their ear plugs in. Quite ridiculous.

There were some very good dance events this year but much remains to be done. Standards of celidh dance are nowadays much higher at Chippenham and IVFDF than at Sidmouth - where loud noise and gimmicks seem to have been the order of the day over the last few years.

How much does Alan Bearman know about these topics? I would hope that the answer is 'a lot' : under Steve Heap the International Festival attracted the best people. Those days (sadly) are unlikely to return but a properly structured five year programme to get social and quality ceilidh dance back to previous standards (or at least to equal the standards routinely achieved elsewhere in the UK at present) might be a good start.

And if anyone wants to accuse me of unfairly criticising Sidmouth, the dance at Towersey (a present-day Steve Heap venue) ranges from excellent to appalling - excellent daytime workshops that attract very good dancers, including from overseas, ceilidhs that I would rate as well below IVFDF standards (mainly because they don't attract the same number of talented people), and late night thrash arounds that are notable for excessive noise, alcohol and prats. But if you want to hone your skills in collision avoidance whilst attempting to dance, they are simply unbeatable.

Something is wrong with the 'shooting roots' programmes at both festivals - people spend hours teaching youngsters and then in the dances they can't do even the simplest things properly. It reminds me of schools these days - after over TEN YEARS of full time education half of them can hardly read and write - get rid of the self expression, the gimmicks, and never criticising the little darlings and start teaching them properly? Now that really would be innovative!!


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