The Stories of Sidmouth – update

22 May 2024

This week, we’ve started working with students at Sidmouth College to create new folk songs, based around the stories of Sidmouth we’ve collected in conversations with local people.

The Stories of Sidmouth project is a collaboration with Sidmouth Folk Festival, to help celebrate this year’s 70th anniversary of the festival. It is funded by Arts Council England and has been devised to strengthen the connection between the annual festival and people who live in the town.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been collecting stories and memories from people at memory cafes and residential care homes, and through visiting residents who got in touch after hearing about the project.

Then, on Monday 20 May, Marilyn, Jon, and Paul held the first session with Year 10 students at Sidmouth College who are studying composition, to create songs in a traditional style, using the stories that have been collected. The songs will now be developed and worked on at two further sessions at the college in June and fine-tuned by our professional musicians.

The songs will form part of a performance by singers and musicians, including our community groups, at the Ham Concert Marquee at Sidmouth Folk Festival on Sunday 4 August, from 12-1.30pm. The concert will also include a professional artist who is performing at the festival. Further details about that will be announced soon.

Our project coordinator, Hannah, said: “We’ve collected some lovely stories, including memories from one local woman named Jean who told us she’d been to Sidmouth festival every year for many years.

“And a lady in her 80s who was born in Sidmouth talked about the seafront and her early memories of her, her brother, and her sister learning to swim in the river and sea with her mum. The sea and the coast have emerged as a theme. People have told us how much the seafront has changed and how they’ve seen the coastline change over the years as a result of coastal erosion.

“Another memory is the local bus in the town which was known as ‘the toast rack’ – because it looked like one!”

As part of the project, our professional songwriters and musicians are also working with teachers and pupils at Sidmouth Primary School this summer, to teach them folk songs, tunes and dance, and to create a mini folk festival at the school. The repertoire will be of existing folk songs which reflect the area’s local history.

Sidmouth Folk Festival runs from 2-9 August 2024 and tickets are on sale now via the official festival website.