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Sidmouth Festival

The Sidmouth Folk Festival was once described, by Colin Irwin, as the granddaddy of English folk festivals. Founded in 1955, 2022 was the 68th festival. In 2020, the festival went online, and in 2021 a cut-down event, called ‘A Celebration of the Sidmouth Folk Festival’ took afternoon and evening concerts to the outdoor Blackmore Gardens stage. So Covid had failed to stop the festival altogether.

Nevertheless, regular festival goers were delighted that the festival was able to return to full strength in 2022. Many early-bird ticket purchasers in 2020 kindly rolled over their tickets to 2022, and the booking of many of the artists had also been rolled over. There were near-capacity audiences for the two pre-festival concerts with Steeleye Span and Fisherman’s Friends, as well as for firm favourites Show of Hands and The Spooky Men’s Chorale as well as Kate Rusby, Yves Lambert Trio and many, many others. There was a special tribute concert in memory of Norma Waterson, featuring both Martin and Eliza Carthy. There was also a smaller-scale tribute to John Howson at Thursday’s ‘Traditional Night Out’ – an event that John had devised and MCed for many years. Concerts in smaller venues, including the Manor Pavilion and Kennaway House features a wide range of artists. Dance displays included great performances from – amongst others - Seven Champions, Rumworth Morris and Boss Morris. There were ceilidhs, English country dances, contra and Danish dances, with a wide range of workshop events covering a myriad of dance styles, instrumental workshops, song and storytelling.

A small item in the newsletter noted that Alan Bearman was retiring as Artistic Director at the end of the festival. Alan was first involved as the festival’s song producer in 1987, becoming artistic director in 1990. After the change in the festival’s organisation in 2004, Alan pursued other projects, including the development of his agency, returning as Artistic Director once again in 2012. Alan is quite a private person and doesn’t like a fuss so there were no big announcements, no speeches from the stage, just a private gathering of thirty or so friends and supporters from the last 35 years to mark his retirement. That didn’t stop a succession of artists mentioning and thanking Alan for his great contribution to the festival during their performances. Alan is being succeeded by Tash Daly, who has worked alongside Alan for many years, and who has wide experience of event and festival management.

2022 also marked another festival retirement: Ray and Bev Langton have been the Children’s Festival Producers since 1991 (with a similar break to that of Alan’s), but decided to retire this year, handing over the reins to David Gibb and Ellie Dimmock of Little Seeds Music.

The 2023 festival is 4-11 August.

Source: Written by Derek Schofield

Steve Heap: 11th Aug 2022 11:44:00

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