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Saturday 20 July 2024

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Counting Down to Sidmouth Folk Festival 2023

Jul 6, 2023

There’s just one month to go before the spectacular Sidmouth Folk Festival lights up every nook and cranny of the picturesque Devon seaside town with song, dance and all manner of musical magic and merriment.

The week-long event, returning for the 69th consecutive year, runs from August 4 to 11 and features countless exciting live performances and happenings in a myriad of venues large and small, indoors and out, as well as plenty of opportunities to put on your dancing shoes, tune up your voice or your instruments and get involved. The options are endless – dip in and out on a day to day basis, or book for the whole week and pitch up at the official campsite.

Sidmouth Steppers 📷 Kyle Baker Photography

The action kicks off with two special pre-festival headline shows with globally popular artists. Cornish shanty maestros The Fisherman’s Friends make a welcome return to Sidmouth on the evening of Thursday, August 3, followed by Scottish queen of song Barbara Dickson, with Nick Holland on the afternoon of Friday, August 4.

Festival goers can then take their pick from major name concerts, lively late-night roots parties, intimate sessions, high energy ceilidhs and expert top quality folk dancing, engaging storytelling, joyful family entertainment, hands-on workshops and spectacular dance displays, the best in South West crafts and the tastiest local food and drink. The dedicated Children’s Festival takes pride of place on the Peacock Lawn, and the Shooting Roots youth music sessions for 12- to 17-year-olds offer a springboard for the stars of tomorrow.

Topping the bill on The Ham main concert stage during the week are The Unthanks, with their transcendent sibling harmonies, the top-notch sounds of English four-piece Banter, Quebecois livewires Le Vent du Nord, festival patrons and Devon folk icons Show of Hands with Miranda Sykes, legendary folk-rock pioneers Lindisfarne, distinctive Irish songstress Cara Dillon and the life-affirming contemporary musical storytelling of Teeside’s The Young’uns.

 Gigspanner Big Band (with Peter Knight, ex-Steeleye Span) will be presenting Saltlines, unique interpretations of traditional songs and tunes from the South West Coast path, inspired by Raynor Winn‘s book The Salt Path and featuring the author delivering bespoke new prose. It’s the only stop on their tour that actually sits right on the award-winning 630-mile national trail.

Also gracing the Ham stage are Maddy Prior and the Forgotten Lands, the Eliza Carthy Trio, Leveret, BreabachLady Maisery, award-winning piper Brighde Chaimbeul (fresh from Glastonbury), McCusker McGoldrick DoyleJohn Tams, and a special concert honouring the late Paul Sartin. Cutting edge acts include Angeline Morrison, who uses her vital, tender voice to explore black British experience in folk song, and the exhilarating alternative sounds of Dominie Hooper.

At the top of the town, The Bulverton, known as the high energy hub for dynamic evening roots shows, eating, drinking and after-hours fun will host Kathryn Tickell and the Darkening, Scottish crowd-pleasers TaliskGrace Petrie, Tiree’s award-winning band Skerryvore, singer, songwriter and fiddle maestro Seth Lakeman, Blackbeard’s Tea Party and the high-octane Peat & Diesel. And new musical worlds will be explored on smaller festival stages with inventive tradition ground-breakers like Cerys Hafana, Suntou Susso and many more.

Known for its quirkiness as much as flying the flag for the great British folk tradition, look out for off-the-wall classics like the Sidmouth Horse Trials where a colourful collection of hobby horses and beasts of disguise line up for a hilarious cross between a fancy dress competition, a beauty contest and a horse race.

Check out for tickets and more information or download the 2023 taster programme here.

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