Sidmouth Poem 2020

Sidmouth Folk Festival Collaborative Poem

Sidmouth 2020

(composed by Workshop Leader Ilse Pedler along with her workshop participants during our virtual festival).


In a quiet coastal English town

puzzled seagulls cock their heads on rooftops,

hotels whisper their loneliness through walls,

pavements are nostalgic for the press of dancing feet

and in all the empty pubs,

dust is sifting the glitter of spent conversations


but close your eyes –

do you hear voices joined in harmony in the flutter of the bunting,

the melodeon chords in the sigh of waves on pebbles?


That little bit of magic that happens every year,

the rollercoaster that is folk week is still living here.

Every square, every corner a memory,

a stream of sound, a river of busy feet.

The sun, the wet, the anything goes

the folkie people in their folkie clothes,

the coast, the cliffs that stretch for miles

the feeling you’ve come home

and everywhere the smiles.

How the view is 360, a sight and sound sensation

a highlight for all, the premier folk occasion.


How the week is a battered suitcase

bursting at its seams

with laughter, friends, discovery

a chance to live your dreams.

From footprints on the Ham marquee

where cheeky seagulls walk

to cellar bars and packed church halls

and cider in the park.


From choirs and bands, exhilarating dances,

to tunes from all around the world

furious and inventive

but if you’re slow and steady, there’s still a place for you

it’s the festival where you all fit in

where you feel that you belong

just look around and see the joy

on faces old and young.


And what will you remember

in this the missing year of ours?

How it ends with fireworks

or begins with the programme,

the studying it for hours!


How in the back room of the Bedford

or the garden of the Swan

the best music sessions are in

the bus shelter on the prom.

How time disobeys its normal rules

and as the evening darkens

there’s so much fun you miss the bus

have to sleep in Connaught gardens.


How the joy and bustle all through the town

with its clogs and bells and tatters

makes you understand a week in Sidmouth

is the only thing that matters.


So follow the flags up the Bulverton Hill,

pause by the letters for photos

watch the sun dip over the flags and the tents

let the lanterns light up the shadows.

We can all bear the winter if we stretch out our hands

and feel the hands of each other

and sing out the song, loudly and clear

sing it out long, sing it out strong

and we’ll see you in Sidmouth next year.


Ilse Pedler (with a nod to Steve Knightley)