The red-cliffed East Devon coastal resort of Sidmouth is home to England’s most iconic folk festival. Proudly championing traditional music, dance and song every year since 1955, The Sidmouth Folk Festival is a living, breathing tradition in itself, recognised as a cultural highlight in the South West regional calendar and acknowledged as a national treasure by festival-goers from across the country and the wider world.
In 2019, The Sidmouth Folk Festival marks its significant 65th birthday with a re-name and a new logo that demonstrates a commitment to innovation, driving the event forward in every way while continuing to proudly champion its musical roots and long-established East Devon home.The Ham is the festival’s largest seated concert venue. Gracing its stage for Evening Concerts are headliners including: legendary guitarist and songwriting genius Richard Thompson in a solo acoustic show; magnificent, craggy ensemblage The Spooky Men’s Chorale; Steve Knightley & Friends in Fifty Shades of Sidmouth – tracing Steve’s musical journey from apprentice to patron, and from beach busker to Ham headliner; multi-award winning Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis; the fiery brilliance of Flook; Quebecois trailblazers Le Vent Du Nord; the unadorned Co. Cavan soul singer Lisa O’Neill; Lady Maisery; Belshazzar’s Feast and many more. There are also pre-Festival special concerts with chart-topping 70s folk-rock pioneers Lindisfarne and much-loved singer, songwriter and guitarist Ralph McTell.
A peek into the Daytime Concerts (included in Week, Weekend and Day tickets) reveals The Young ‘Uns: The Ballad of Johnny Longstaff; Martin Simpson; Sam Sweeney’s The Unfinished Violin; Hannah James’JigDoll Ensemble and exceptional duo Nancy Kerr & James Fagan
If you’re up for a party and fancy some dance floor action, The Bulverton is your natural habitat at Sidmouth: a buzzing hub of activity each night from 7pm through ‘til the early hours with nightly evening roots shows and dances. Confirmed artists so far include: Scotland’s mighty Peatbog Faeries; Dartmoor’s own Seth Lakeman; Anglo-French musical adventurers, Topette; Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys; a 10th anniversary Blackbeard’s Tea Party Bulverton take-over, and much more.
The Sidmouth Folk Festival has a wide range of small events offering opportunities to see festival guests on concert stages in more intimate settings – from special shows at The Manor Pavilion to the English Folk Dance & Song Society co-curated concert series featuring emerging young artists; traditional music and song events at The Woodlands and new sounds from fRoots Magazine-curated Cellar Full of Folkadelia afternoon sessions.
Amongst early Cellarful bookings for 2019 are: Lisa O’Neill; glorious Kurdish singer Çiğdem Aslan; award-winning folklore-inspired You Are Wolf; powerful and raw young Canadian folk duo Mama’s Broke; the dark landscapes and deep stories of Glasgow’s Burd Ellen and Welsh guitar and banjo titan Gwenifer Raymond.
Some of the Manor Pavilion special shows through the week include: The Road to Peterloo with Pete Coe, Laura Smyth & Brian Peters; Debs Newbold’s King Lear Retold and Rowan Rheingans’ Dispatches On the Red Dress.
A round-up of early bookings in other smaller venues includes: Iona Fyfe, Jeff Warner, Jimmy Aldridge & Sid Goldsmith, Broom Bezzums, Jim Causley, Ben Walker & Rob Harbron. The smaller venues also play host to a wide range of storytelling and poetry events.
Sidmouth Ceilidhs are renowned for fun, energy and great danceable bands. Fill your dance card with a line-up of leading ceilidh bands and callers from around the country including: Whapweasel, Token Women, Banter, The Committee Band, Threepenny Bit, Out Of Hand, Kirkophany, The Gloworms, Tautas Roks and Blackbeard’s Tea Party.
The big news for Folk Dance enthusiasts is the introduction of a splendid new venue. The historic Music Room at Sidholme Hotel boasts glass chandeliers, a magnificent painted dome and a frieze with musical motifs. The tried and tested formula in the Folk Dance programme – big mornings, interesting afternoons and fun evenings of folk dance – is back again for 2019.
With an ear to the past and an eye on the future, The Sidmouth Folk Festival really is the music-filled seaside holiday with something for everyone.
Tickets are available now from:
Tourist Information Centre (TIC)
Ham Lane, Sidmouth EX10 8XR. Phone: 01395 577952. Web: sidmouthfolkfestival.co.uk