Sidmouth FolkWeek marks a significant birthday this year: its Diamond Anniversary, celebrating 60 years of folk festivals held in the picturesque red cliff-lined East Devon coastal resort.
From 1st – 8th August 2014, the elegant streets and seafront of the Regency town will bustle with visitors, drawn by the spectacle of colourful dance displays and processions, talented young buskers and a welcoming festive atmosphere. The town’s many venues, from 1100-seater Concert Marquees with major headline acts to small pub session singalongs, will be crammed to the gills with enthusiastic festival fans: dedicated music enthusiasts, locals and tourists.
To mark this special occasion Folk Radio UK will be featuring a number of interviews with some of British Folk’s leading lights. Over coming weeks you’ll be hearing about their memories and stories.
To kick things off we start with Northumbrian piper and tradition bearer Kathryn Tickell. Kathryn first appeared at Sidmouth as a teenager and returns again this year performing with The Side.
Kathryn Tickell’s Sidmouth FolkWeek Memories
When did you first come to Sidmouth, and what for?
I think Sidmouth was the first ‘English’ festival I ever went to as a performer (yes, I know Northumberland is in England, but the festivals I was used to up here are very different to the full-on English Folk festival experience!) I was officially there with Monkseaton Morris, playing for their social dances and also playing the odd tune on the pipes while the dancers got ready for the next dance. I was probably about 15 years old. Someone must have noticed me because I was picked to play at the ‘Director’s Choice’ concert – which was very exciting.
What do you most remember about your first (and/or subsequent) Sidmouth festival experiences? Do you remember the first song you sang, tune you played, story you told, the first dance you called or danced or played for?
It was all a bit of a culture shock! I remember being rather shocked at the number of morris dancers – I had no idea that so many existed! I also remember playing in sessions and discovering that the core session tune repertoire was very different to the sessions I was used to at home. The whole festival seemed so big – it was a real eye-opener. I have so many memories of that first time – the indoor camping down by the river (was it a scout hut or something like that?) loads of sessions, busking on the seafront, lots of different venues…and, very importantly, the excitement of being away from home without my parents!
Do you have memories of particular venues ?
I have memories of LOADS of different venues – I think I must have played at most of them by now!
Do you have memories of particular people you met at the festival? Or particular performances?
I think the second time I was at Sidmouth (booked on my own this time) I must have been about 17 and my mum drove me down and we had a week at the festival – I remember playing in Carinas nightclub place and playing the pipes for Ira Bernstein to dance to. Later that night my mum & I sat on the seafront and I saw my first ever shooting star.
A few years later I remember busking with various members of the Chipolatas and assorted friends – I enjoyed that as I was just starting to get to know other young people on the English folk scene, which was great.
And of course I remember the year I was there with my band and we’d driven down from Northumberland and got stuck in horrendous traffic. There’d been an accident which added 3 hours on to an already LONG journey – so of course we were running late – we drove straight to the venue and ran out of the van and straight on stage (Sidmouth volunteers & assorted friends were waiting to help us load our instruments in and to jump in the van and park it somewhere for us!) We had a great gig – although my hands were still vibrating from clutching the steering wheel for so many hours!
What are your lasting impressions of the festival?
I love the fact that the festival embraces the real traditional players as well as the new innovators. There are lots of opportunities to listen to, and to play music informally as well as at the official concerts. I’ve had some great times at the LNE – it can get a bit wild sometimes, but then you can always recuperate the next day with an ice-cream and sit and look out at the sea!
What are your hopes for the future of the festival?
More of the same please.
Kathryn Tickell – Live on Jools Holland 1997
Sidmouth FolkWeek 1st – 8th August 2014
The 2014 event sees many special Diamond Anniversary events across the different areas of the festival. Many “diamond geezers”, artists who have had a long involvement with the festival with have a light shone on them in recognition of their long support of the event, amongst them Martyn Wyndham Read, Pete Coe, Sandra Kerr, John Kirkpatrick and Jo Freya (from Old Swan Band), who says of the festival: “It feels like part of my life. Much hilarity, great music, lasting friendships. A platform for my development over the years!”
We’ll have more memories soon from: Andy Cutting, Chris Wood, Jim Causely, Jo Freya, John Kirkpatrick, Oysterband, Peter Coe, Sandra Kerr & Steve Knightley.
Find out more about this years festival and line-up by visiting: http://www.sidmouthfolkweek.co.uk/
Sidmouth Esplanade 1961