REVIEW FROM www.livingtradition.co.uk
FIRST WEEK IN AUGUST - Fifty Years of the Sidmouth Festival By
Derek Schofield Published by Sidmouth International
Festival Ltd ISBN 0-9547502-0-9
Published to coincide
with the 50th Anniversary of the Sidmouth Festival, this book is the fruit
of extensive research by Derek Schofield with contributions by several
hundred people. There is a foreword by Martin Carthy; a brief history
of the Folk Dance Revival leading up to the 'Folk Dance Festival, Sidmouth'
held in August 1955; then the impact of the Folk Song Revival weaves itself
into the story of the early years of Sidmouth until 1962 when the festival
changed its name to The Sidmouth Folk Festival.
Any history of Sidmouth mirrors to some extent the history of the folk
revival. Each chapter of the book has a Year heading that also gives a
few bullet points from normal life in that year, e.g. 1962 was the year
of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the release of the Beatles' 'Love Me Do'
and 1973 saw the introduction of VAT and hits from Donny Osmond, David
Cassidy and Slade. This is a neat idea and perhaps some brave soul could
use the Sidmouth chapters in a similar way, as subtexts to a broader work
reflecting the wider folk revival over the past 50 years. The final chapter
talks of 2005 and beyond and touches on some of the issues that made the
future for the festival somewhat uncertain.
The book has the style of a typical EFDSS publication, somewhat old fashioned
but functional. There are more than 450 photographs all printed in rectangular
format and relatively small. The introduction of a more modern style and
with larger photographs would have enhanced the book, but it would also
have made an already substantially thick book, even thicker and more expensive.
My approach to reading it was first to skim through, then I picked out
memorable years from my personal recollections of Sidmouth, before finally
reading through on a year by year basis as a series of short stories.
For me it has turned out to be both a reference book and an easy read.
It has currently taken up residence in our bathroom - sorry Derek - with
each year a comfortable read.
Are there any omissions? Over 50 years there will have been many thousands
of stories to tell, so the book could have been endless. I think that
the overall balance is good. What could be added are parallel projects
that would bring together the sights, sounds and voices of such a vibrant
festival. A box set of recordings from Sidmouth has already been released.
The contents of that set, although weighted towards 'star names', hinted
at the existence of more historic material. Perhaps there is more of the
story yet to be told. However, the book has been written; thanks go to
Steve Heap for commissioning it and congratulations to Derek Schofield
for a job well done.