Proudly championing traditional music, dance and song since 1955, the festival continues to build on its many years of success in creating an inclusive music community that embraces variety – celebrating tradition in all its many forms, including the rich diversity of folk arts in the UK, from the grassroots to the cutting edge.
The exciting week-long programme takes places throughout the beautiful East Devon seaside town of Sidmouth, and spans a huge range of genres and interests, featuring top tier concert stars, emerging talent, exclusive shows, dynamic ceilidhs and folk dances, a colourful array of dance displays, storytelling, Children’s Festival, Shooting Roots youth sessions, a huge range of participatory sessions & workshops and much more! Find out more about this year’s programme
Expect the very best Sidmouth quality assurance stamp in each area of the festival with some fantastic headline concert and dance names from throughout the British Isles and beyond.
What festival goers say about the festival
‘It’s the diversity and community spirit that sets Sidmouth apart from other festivals – it has, as it says, an ear to the past and an eye on the future – it is steeped in tradition which is a most important part of Sidmouth – but not in a stuffy way – it keeps in touch with current stuff too.’
A short history
Back in July 1955, the English Folk Dance & Song Society (EFDSS), on Eileen Phelan’s suggestion, decided that Sidmouth was a perfect addition to their existing and established folk dance festival in Stratford, offering the added attractions of the seaside and the Devon countryside. The EFDSS at the time were, according to Derek Schofield, festival archivist and author of The First Week In August – Fifty Years Of The Sidmouth Festival, imbued with ‘a missionary zeal to encourage more people to take part in folk dance.’
The first publicity leaflet for the 1955 event announced performances in Connaught Gardens and dances on the Ham and in Blackmore Gardens. Directed by Nibs Matthews and Margaret Grant, the first event ran from Saturday 30th July to 6th August, setting an early precedent for the festival week always including the first Monday in August. It was a great success. Les Barclay, a first festival ‘survivor’ remembers his legs aching with all the dancing by the middle of the week!
This book was written by Derek Schofield for the 50th Festival in 2004.
Sidmouth quickly became a must in folk dancers’ calendars. A folk festival has been firmly established in the town ever since and 2024 sees the 70th Sidmouth Folk Festival. Click on the image below to watch some 1970 Festival footage from the Knowle arena.
Some memories of the festival in years gone by