Stories of Sidmouth to be turned into new folk songs

3 April 2024

We’re thrilled to be collaborating with Sidmouth Folk Festival on a special project to help celebrate this year’s 70th anniversary of the festival. 

‘Stories of Sidmouth’ is funded by Arts Council England and has been devised to strengthen the connection between the annual August festival and people who live in the town. 

Residents are being asked to share their memories of the town, which will be turned into new folk songs with the help of local secondary school children. 

To collect the stories, we are holding three ‘memory swap’ events at Sidmouth Library on three consecutive Thursdays on 18 and 25 April and 2 May, from 10.30am to 12 noon. There’s no need to book, and the memory sharing will be an informal chat over a hot drink and biscuits. 

Wren Music’s Hannah Earl, who is coordinating the project, said: “We want to hear your stories of how Sidmouth has changed over the past 70 years. Do you have a particular story of your own to share, from your experience of living in Sidmouth? Then come along to one of our memory swap sessions.” 

In May and June, we’ll then be working 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.  

These songs will be fine-tuned by our professional musicians and the public will get to hear them at Sidmouth Folk Festival on Sunday 4 August. They will form part of a performance by singers and musicians including our community groups at the Ham Concert Marquee 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. 

Hannah said: “It’s really bringing the stories of the town to the festival, and these songs will be saving today’s memories and stories for the future. It’s a wonderful project and we’re very excited to be part of it. And one of the exciting things is that we don’t know what the repertoire will be yet because that will develop as we see the themes that emerge.” 

As part of the project, our professional songwriters and musicians are also working with teachers and pupils at Sidmouth Primary School to teach them folk songs, tunes and dance, and to create a mini folk festival at the school: “These will be a repertoire of existing folk songs,” explained Hannah, “but they will reflect the area’s local history. So, there will probably be folk songs about the sea and fishing and other themes that are important to this part of Devon.” 

Artistic Director at Sidmouth Folk Festival, Tash Daly, said: “We are thrilled to be working alongside Wren Music to bring the stories of Sidmouthians of all ages to life, with support from Arts Council England Lottery Funding, creating new folk songs based on local memories.  

“Folk has always been the culture of the people, serving as a mirror to the lives of everyday people, and offering insights into histories, values, and collective identities through music, storytelling, and dance.  

“We can’t wait to unveil the results at the 70th Sidmouth Folk Festival!” 

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