With hundreds of performances, a carnival atmosphere and so much to experience, Sidmouth Folk Week continues to be one of Devon and England’s truly unmissable music festivals. For Sidmouth Hotels and the town as a whole, it is a magical time as “folkies” of all ages arrive in their droves to play, dance, sing and make merry.
In an age of X-Factor entertainment, Folk Week is not so much a music event as an utter breath of fresh air. Much of it is totally free to enjoy, while in terms of togetherness it is truly a party apart. What you will not find is any particular niche group or target audience, however. Guests range from eight to eighty, while participants include everyone from BBC award-winners to talented teens making their first ever public performances.
Here at the Bedford Hotel, we could not be better placed for a week of music, culture and fun. If you’re quick there are still rooms, but non-residents are also very welcome to join us each day as we embrace the true spirit of Sidmouth Folk Week, with live music and great ales all week. And in that vein, here are four essential things to do this year to become an official “folkie”:
Hit the Streets:
While there are some household names and ticketed events at Sidmouth Folk Week each year, one of the joys of the event is to roam the town meeting performers and making accidental discoveries. Besides tricksters, fire eaters and other eye-opening street entertainers, you will also find a phenomenal variety of buskers playing everything from gypsy jazz to rhythm and blues.
If the characters themselves are colourful, the instruments on display are often similarly unique. For example, many of the authentic folk instruments are handmade and totally unique. The special three-string guitar pictured below is a classic example, constructed from an old cigar box, while the tone and volume controls are beer bottle tops:
Dance like a local:
Besides a wealth of musicians, Sidmouth is awash with dancers of all kinds each and every Folk Week. Morris men and women come from far and wide to be part of one of the largest gatherings of folk dancers anywhere in the UK. An amazing sight to behold, you’ll find dancers arriving from Tiverton to Tibet in traditional garb. But why merely watch when there are so many dances going on?
You could simply dance as the mood takes you at various performances, but an even easier option are the friendly have-a-go dance sessions taking place. Fancy trying an American Square Dance, some classic folk moves or even a good old English Tea Dance? With a little expert help you’ll be making all the right steps in no time at all. The official event site has a dedicated section on these social dance events.
Catch big stars and bright sparks:
With so much variety on show, Sidmouth Folk Week can be anything from low key to marquee entertainment. Head for the main ticketed arena out of town for the biggest shows and leading folk acts such as Show of Hands, Nancy Kerr, Adam Irvine and festival favourites such as Australia’s Spooky Men’s Chorale (see the Ham Marquee line up here).
However, equally exciting is the chance to see tomorrow’s stars before they’re spotted. Devon itself has some thrilling emerging talent at present, who you’ll find performing both on the streets and in the bars at the festival. Fresh from his BBC Radio sessions, Exeter’s Tobias Ben Jacob is certainly a name to track down during Folk Week. Blessed with a haunting voice and wonderful acoustic guitar technique, he has wowed audiences across the country recently.
Witness a fabulous finale:
If you only visit for one day during Folk Week in Sidmouth, the final Friday (the 7th August in 2015) closes the event in style with a colourful procession along the seafront. Expect fireworks, dancing and even a swarm of giant jellyfish, with a cast of hundreds of dancers and displays.
Whether you catch the grand finale from the beach or from the bar, we hope you can join us for a truly memorable 2015 Folk Week in Sidmouth. With our seafront location and elegant, cosy rooms just seconds from the heart of the town, the Bedford Hotel could not be better placed for a wonderful week of music and celebration.