With Sidmouth Folk Week now underway (1st – 8th August) our series of interviews ‘Sidmouth Folk Week Memories’ have come to an end. Today’s final double guests are the Oysterband and Steve Knightley.
The Oysterband have a long association with the festival, going back to the 70s as Oyster Ceilidh Band. They return this year for a full band concert, a special ceilidh and a rare acoustic performance:
Sidmouth FolkWeek has been a part of our lives for the whole of Oysterband’s existence! As a fledgling ceilidh band back in 1979, to get Sidmouth was the pinnacle and we played the whole week for tickets, with workshops in the morning, lunchtime sessions, songs in the afternoon and themed ceilidhs at night…and if you had any energy left you went to The Balfour Arms, courtesy of the ever hospitable Len and drank and sang the night away!
It was creative, crazy and exhilarating. We met many fellow travellers who have remained lifelong friends. Whether it was playing to thousands surrounding us on the grassy bank of the Arena on a beautiful evening or simple walking round the town taking in the colour and verve of international dance teams, great morris, street theatre, and bumping into people, Sidmouth has been a thread of continuity through our lives. It didn’t just reflect what was going on in the wider folk music world, it helped shape it and still does. It means a lot to us!
Oysterband – Road to Santiago (Holy Bandits)
Steve Knightley, singer/songwriter/instrumentalist – one half of Show Of Hands, Festival Patrons.
When did you first come to Sidmouth, and what for?
Living only about eight miles away in Exmouth, I first came to the festival when I was about 14. I used to come over for the day. I remember when I was 15, it was the first time I ever stayed away from home without permission. I slept in Connaught Gardens and hung around on the beach, and also under the old promenade. I remember going home and getting there about 10.30am and my dad walking in and saying, “You’re up early son!”. Moral being if you’re going to run away, make sure someone actually notices!
What do you most remember about your first (and/or subsequent) Sidmouth festival experiences?
I remember sneaking into the Beach Store and Roger Watson (of Muckram Wakes) was compering. He was great, really gruff and grumpy. I used to really like the way he would tell people to shut up and get off who were going on and on! The act that we saw was Carthy & Swarbrick, which changed my life because I didn’t realise that it was the same Martin Carthy mentioned on the back of Bob Dylan’s Freewheeling album. So that’s how I got into English traditional music at such early age – because of Sidmouth back in ’69.
Do you remember the first song you sang, tune you played, story you told, the first dance you called or danced or played for?
The first song I sang was probably busking on the seafront, the Keys Of Canterbury, with me and Paul Downes in a band called Gawain. And Spanish Ladies too probably.
Do you have memories of particular venues ?
I used to love the old Bowd…1000s of people on the side of a hill in the summer. And all the singarounds. Fond memories of all of the venues really.
Do you have memories of particular people you met at the festival? Or particular performances?
Mrs Knightley, my wife Clare. We met in 1998 just after an open air gig we’d done. She was in the audience. We got married within two years.
What are your lasting impressions of the festival?
It’s part of my DNA really – coming from East Devon and being part of this music. It’s in the wiring of Knightley, and the Knightley family! No impressions, it’s just part of me.
What are your hopes for the future of the festival?
To carry on as it is! The combinations of concerts, sessions and singarounds…. Long may it continue!
Show of Hands – Youngstown (Sidmouth 2011)
More here: http://www.sidmouthfolkweek.co.uk/
Read the rest of our Sidmouth Folk Week Memories