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Pete Lawrence - 08 Aug 2017


Those of us in the know would probably suggest that these Sidmouth folk fashionistas are ahead of the curve. Either that or off the scale in terms of their headgear and finery. As ever, Sidmouth Folk Week brought a splash of colour to that most traditional of English south coast resorts.

The action, for me, was away from the stages and marquees - in the streets and in the pub sessions. I was only there for two days but it this rainy summer season left enough of an impression to make me want to return for longer in future years. The annual street 'dance off' between Great Western and The Smiths (Hammersmith Morris) was a particualr highlight, taking morris dancing to entirely new pastures which involved one 'social commentary' move that incorporated pauses for group selfies several times. Genius. 

On Monday night I spent a joyous two hours in The Radway Arms revelling in an English tunes session after a particlarly tasty curry at the Sidmouth Tandoori (almost next door) - well worth the half hour wait outside. Sidmouth magic at work.

My first Sidmouth was 1989 and that season as well as the following were sunny ones. In 1991 I was privileged to be the first musical curator and host of a new area of the festival - the Bulverton Marquee, in those days just a simple white tent, but we had some amazing parties that year, every night a hootenanny with stand out highlights including The Oyster Band, Edward II, The Barely Works, Alias Ron Kavana and Abdul Teejay's Rokoto. 

My most recent memorable return to Sidmouth was in 2009 when I went up against Jim Moray at The Late Night Extra's Silent Disco ... what a triumphant night, not least to hear 400 people singing Teddy Bear's Picnic acapella. Moray's set was masterful with assorted edits and mixups putting Steeleye Span alonsgide The Who in the same track and overlaying Michael Jackson's 'Billie Jean' with a Seth Lakeman fiddle tune.

Sidmouth  - always full of delights and surprises.



Dave Dann

I used to live in Bristol and spend the full 8 or 9 days in Sidmouth (Bulverton, Bowd, Anchor, Swan, Dove, Radway, Bedford etc). When I got back home, still buzzing, it used to seem like the city had been painted grey and that no-one smiled.


Pete Lawrence

I know exactly where you're coming from with that comment @Dave Dann I felt it after two days this time, even in the rain. I remember the heady first Sidmouth in the late 80s where, after a whole week, re-entry into a grey, clinical normal world was a big jolt to the system.


Dave Dann

I think the first Sidders I went to was '92. It was after reading in fRoots about the first year of the Bulverton. I went there regularly for 10 years, myself and partner taking extended family plus dogs in 2 full estate cars. LNE at the Bowd were amazing in those days with the fairy lights and honeysuckle down the green lane. Had to take teenage stepdaughter once or twice from LNE to have her stomach pumped in Sidmouth hospital. Teenage stepson changed his life by learning circus skills. Took my parents there for their last holiday together in '94. They stayed in a B&B near the Radway. Dad complained that in was 'hard going' but I found out that was because he was drinking over 10 pints day, plus chasers.. Mum loved everything about it and had seen nothing like it before.
It opened my eyes to English music and e-ceilidh, for which I am very grateful. It's sad that so many of the session pubs have been corporatised and turned into upmarket eateries or coffee shops but that just mirrors the rest of the world.
Some of the gigis at the Bulverton must be in my top 10 ever - I can think of Ron Cavana's band playing for hours non-stop and hearing EII doing an encore as I left for the LNE and surely some classic Oyster Band and Blowzabella.
The massive LNE at the Bowd was like a foretaste of heaven with such a diverse, good humoured crowd. Happy days and long may it continue!


Dave Dann

After the Revolution the streets of Albion will be full of people dressed like this...(just a thought)

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