Much hard work is undertaken by the council behind the scenes at Sidmouth Folk Week - photo courtesy of Sidmouth Folk Week

East Devon’s StreetScene, Environmental Health and Car Parks, and Licensing services all have important roles to play in helping Sidmouth’s famous Folk Week run smoothly

It is inconceivable that a town like Sidmouth could absorb events as successful as the Folk Week and the Fringe Festival each year without there being significant work behind the scenes to ensure that everything runs smoothly. Here, the council’s three services – Environmental Health and Car Parks, Licensing and StreetScene – explain what goes on behind the scenes…

Andrew Ennis – Service Lead Environmental Health and Car Parks

“Both our Environmental Health and Car Parks teams work really hard to make sure that Folk Week is a success year after year.

“For example, our Commercial Premises team works with organisers of both the Festival (in the town and at Bulverton) and the Fringe (at Salcombe Regis), with visiting traders and with our established local businesses to provide assurance that good standards of public safety and hygiene prevail throughout the week at camp sites, trading areas, eateries and entertainment venues.

“Our Environmental Protection team are heavily involved throughout the pre-event planning process. They agree noise abatement and monitoring criteria and identify suitable locations for assessing and controlling the impact on local people of the events taking place at Bulverton and The Ham.

“The team also looks carefully at each separate licence application for various venues to have musical entertainment and they will intervene with either a negotiated solution or a formal objection to the application where they consider the impact on local people to be unreasonable.

“During the Festival itself, the team investigates the inevitable complaints about noise disturbance from local residents. They liaise with the Festival organisers and venue management and always receive a good level of cooperation.

“They also investigate complaints about buskers causing annoyance, especially those playing amplified music and they do their absolute best to enforce the long standing ‘No amplified music on the Esplanade’ bye law. They always investigate complaints about noise that is alleged to be causing a statutory nuisance and this year, for the first time, we produced a simple advisory leaflet to encourage buskers to consider the impact they might be having on others without spoiling the overall ethos of the festival.

“We have also been working with police and local councillors to consider the complaints we receive about people sleeping overnight in campervans in the residential areas around Glen Road and Bickwell Valley. Again we have produced an advisory leaflet, which we distributed to 17 campervans that were present in Bickwell Valley. However, none of these vehicles were parked illegally and there has been no specific evidence of harm being caused so far.

“Car and coach parking is always going to be an issue during Folk Week and the Fringe Festival. Our Car Parks team has never inflated its prices for car parking spaces during the week. Despite others now charging £10 per day, our charges of £6 per 24 hours and £25 for the whole week have seen customers queueing to use our  Manor Road car park throughout the week. The team works tirelessly to manage the car park, creating extra spaces for both cars and coaches. No one is turned away and visitors and locals alike queue for up to 45 minutes on busy afternoons waiting to be shown to the next available space by a courteous smiling Civil Enforcement Officer. We are complimented on the “good value for money” and “courteous service” and the team absolutely does go the extra mile in terms of their council ambassador role.  Whether it’s a lost dog, a broken wheelchair or local tourist information, or even just the nearest toilet, litter bin or café, nothing is too much trouble and our team never fails to please. This year, one satisfied customer has already sent a thank you card and a box of chocolates to the team in appreciation of the obvious high quality of the service they offered.  

“And finally, credit must go to our excellent graphic designers for the excellent leaflets they produce for Sidmouth Folk Week.

Stephen Saunders – Licensing Manager

“Sidmouth Folk Week has successfully occurred in the first week of August for over 60 years and seems to grow and develop each year. The work of the licensing team begins after each event concludes, through planning debrief meetings with the organisers, colleagues from other council teams and agencies involved in the running of the event. This allows an exchange of views regarding what worked well as well as considering what needs to be considered next time around. The licensing team must balance the needs of many different groups of people attending Folk Week, including the public, craft traders, local businesses, publicans and of course the Folk week organisation. The team oversees and allocates the trading pitches on the esplanade seafront, which are always keenly sought after with applications starting as early as April.

“For the past two years traders have been able to apply and pay for a pitch online, which has been a positive change, them to travel abroad buying stock, yet still able to apply while out of the country. In the months leading up to Folk Week, the team is kept busy allocating pitches, checking insurance, applications and preparing for the start. Although our Licensing team is small, we still manage the week-long event on a daily basis, starting at 6.30am on the seafront, ensuring traders are set up after StreetScene staff have conducted a clean-up from the night before. The team also works into the evenings by conducting licensing visits to bars and events. With Folk Week always beginning on a Friday, it is a long weekend for the team and the work doesn’t stop just with Sidmouth Folk Week. Oher festivals and outdoor events have to be licensed and visited elsewhere in the district during the same period and, this year sees the same staff attending the Honiton Agricultural Show, the Blackdown Beer festival and the Sausage and Cider festival all of which take place during the same week.”

Andrew Hancock – Service Lead StreetScene

“Sidmouth Folk week sees thousands of extra visitors descend on Sidmouth on top of our usual summer influx, which makes for a bustling town with services stretched to capacity. Our teams are busy prior to Folk Week ensuring the town and it’s parks and gardens are looking at their best; as well as providing information and logistical support to the festival organisers. During the week itself we have additional teams working overtime to undertake evening and late evening bin, litter picking and toilet cleaning rounds, all in addition to our normal operations, to keep Sidmouth looking great as the revellers enjoy their music. Folk Week sees us collect additional waste and of course extra water and toilet rolls are used in our public toilets. Even though the clean-up and additional servicing activities for Folk Week costs the council around £3,500 and even though our teams work almost non-stop behind the scenes to ensure Sidmouth still looks great while the party is in full swing, Sidmouth Folk Week gives the town a real buzz and is a delight to behold.”