I’ve always viewed Sidmouth Folk Week in the way that the author of Das Kapital saw history, and the author of Mein Kampf saw life: as a virtuous struggle.
You camp a mile or two up the hill, and you get to and from the town (where 95% of all the music is happening) by a bus. The bus service is good, but still… once you go into town you can’t really just nip back to your tent. So you need to bring everything with you: instruments, your own food if you can’t afford to keep eating out, sunglasses, swimming trunks, umbrella, GoreTex weather gear, defibrillators, the usual English summer stuff. And whilst I have long appreciated (as a Sidmouth veteran of many years) that this makes me a better human being, it does have the negative side-effect of making me not quite be arsed to do anything much after about 11am.
And then a friend told me an extraordinary secret.
If you book 8 months ahead, you can actually get a room in a hotel!
This shocked me. From my first visit to Sidmouth I was instructed that it was an act of utter pointlessness to even raise the suggestion of staying in something with solid walls and a roof. For that week, I was told, every hotel, motel and B&B within 20 miles is solidly booked up by the Sidmouth Hardcore. And unless you could trace your ancestry back to the original lineup of the Incredible String Band, your choice was simply: tent or rented camper-van.
But this year, not only did Hannah and I manage to get an amazing room right on the seafront, but the hotel staff were just absolutely lovely.
And it changed the entire experience. If the sun came out, and you maybe didn’t need to carry your coat and bag around, you could just nip back to the hotel room and drop it off. If there was a bit of a chill, and even some rain, you could nip back and get an umbrella. If there was a tiny gap that opened up in one of the folk session areas, you might just have enough time to run and get your instrument and get back before it was filled with two accordion players and a pile of banjos. And better than all of this, you could eat breakfast next to John Kirkpatrick and spill coffee on the same tablecloth for four days in a row.
So now the secret is out.
Also, I had another folk-related accident. I am now the proud father of a very expensive bouzouki, which I shall soon be attempting to play John Playford cittern music on.
You heard it heard it all here first, folks.