Sidmouth Folk Week is a unique week-long seaside celebration of music, dance and song, taking place in the charming East Devon regency coastal resort for 60 years.
There has been a folk festival in Sidmouth in the first week of August every year since 1955, attracting tens of thousands of visitors to over 700 diverse events with a promise of 'something for everyone' – from major league concerts to small intimate sessions, from ceilidh dancing to lively roots parties, from family entertainment to youth-centred masterclasses, from social dance to colourful dance displays. The town’s streets and venues come alive with festive atmosphere as holidaymakers and festival goers join together in a music-based holiday to remember.
Sidmouth Festival was founded as a folk dance festival in 1955 by the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS), but gradually expanded to cover ceilidh dancing, music and song, as well as related folk crafts. Over time, the scope also broadened to include performers from abroad, and the festival was renamed the Sidmouth International Festival in 1986.
In the same year it also became the birthplace of Shooting Roots, which provided a variety of workshops for young people and has played a key role in nurturing a network of young performers.
In 2004 the festival celebrated its 50th year. Derek Schofield's book, "The First Week In August - Fifty Years Of The Sidmouth Festival," describing the history of the festival was published.
2004 was also the year when the festival's future was at stake. This was due to funding issues brought on in part by the 'rainy year' of 1997 which depleted much of the festival's financial reserves and in part by East Devon District Council withdrawing funding.
For several months, the future of the festival was uncertain, but the grass-roots folkie festival-goers wanted their Sidmouth festival to continue. Various groups of people, individuals and organisations began planning events for 2005 for their own particular aspect of the folk scene, and by November 2004 a steering group had been set up to co-ordinate and publicise these events under the new name of Sidmouth Folk Week.
The 2005 event was much smaller than Sidmouth International Festival, it did not use the Arena Showground owing to financial risk involved, had fewer international performers and no season tickets. Nevertheless, it proved a resounding success, and so Sidmouth Folk Week was reborn.
Getting You in the Party Mood – a Breakdown of the 60th Anniversary Celebrations:
Photo Credits: (1) Sidmouth Folk Week, (2) Eliza Carthy, (3) Martin Carthy, (4) Martin Simpson, (7) Barrule (unknown/website); (5) Éamonn Coyne (by Festival Interceltique de Lorient); (6) Jarlath Henderson & Ross Ainslie (by Walkin' Tom); (8) Cara Dillon, (9) Breabach (by Adolf „gorhand“ Goriup).