Morris dancers dancing at Sidmouth Folk Festival
Image via Sidmouth Folk Festival website

Sidmouth Folk Festival 2023 – a mini guide for newbies

Want to know what to expect from Sidmouth Folk Festival, 2023? We'll keep this page updated so that you stay in the know.

The Sidmouth Folk Festival, 2023, is the 69th in the event's history. It runs from August 4-11. Tickets are on sale now and can be bought from the link below.

Sidmouth Folk Festival 2023 is on the horizon. We’ve been dusting off our bell pads, tuning our fiddles and parping our melodeons, eager to get started with the 69th edition of England’s longest-running traditional folk extravaganza.

With many of the artists and events already announced, and with many of the super-early-bird tickets fast evaporating, now is an excellent time to get yourself acquainted with this legendary affair. There’s so much going on, you’ll need these remaining weeks and months to plan your week properly, whether that involves seeing all the headline artists, hitting the beach or simply lazing around with a pint and a good book in Blackmore Gardens.

In short, if you’re a regular Tradfolk reader and you’ve never been to Sidmouth Folk Fest, this is the year to right that wrong. It’s the folk experience – there’s nothing else quite like it.

In this article you’ll find…

What is the Sidmouth Folk Festival?

Sidmouth Folk Festival began in 1955, organised by EFDSS. Initially a celebration of folk dance, it has grown to include many more of the folk arts, and is now known for its diverse programme, including some of the big names from folk music (traditional and non-traditional) that perform across several stages over the course of the first week in August.

Along the way, Sidmouth Folk Festival has been known as Sidmouth International Festival, The Sidmouth Festival, and Sidmouth Folk Week. Visitors can expect over 700 events, stretching out across the length and breadth of the picturesque Devon seaside town, ranging from folk art workshops to Morris Dancing championships.

Where are the venues?

Sidmouth is what’s known as a town festival, meaning that everything is spread around, rather than being stationed in one location. Although things are subject to change, here’s a Google Map showing where you’ll usually find the action.

What is the lineup for Sidmouth Folk Festival 2023?

The first announcements were made in January, and the festival organisers have been spilling tankards full of beans ever since. For the full lineup, head to the Sidmouth FF website. In the meantime, here are a few of note:

Is the Sidmouth Folk Festival purely traditional music?

No, it isn’t. While the traditional arts are clearly the main focus, there are plenty of things going on that will appeal to non-tradfolkies. This year’s line-up includes a good number of performers who may have been inspired by the tradition, but tend to perform more contemporary music. Show of Hands and Grace Petrie, in particular, will draw large crowds.

Of course, it’s not all music, either. As we’ve already mentioned, dance is a large part of the programme, and you could quite easily fill out your entire week attending workshops on everything from storytelling to mumming.

Tell me about the morris…

Border Morris dancers at Sidmouth Folk Festival
Wreckers Border Morris, Sidmouth Folk Festival, 2018

If morris dancing (and display dancing in general) is your bag, Sidmouth is the place for you – you’re never not within earshot of a set of bells.

Get ready for an electrifying showcase of display dance in 2023, as Malcolm Major and Charlotte Dover, the Display Dance Co-ordinators, have curated a thrilling and diverse programme. Some of the most exceptional dance teams from around the world are set to perform, including Aurora Appalachian, Bampton Traditional Morris Dancers, Berkshire Bedlam, Chiltern Hundreds Clog Morris, Chinewrde Morris, Compass Roses (US/Canada), Handsworth Traditional Sword Dancers, JD & Folk, Luascadh Irish Dancers, Northgate Rapper, Pecsaetan Morris, The Shropshire Bedlams, Martha Rhoden’s Tuppenny Dish, and Tower Ravens Rapper. You can catch them throughout the week in a series of Dance Spectaculars at Connaught Gardens and the Blackmore Gardens Marquee, as well as around town and on the Esplanade.

For those eager to experience the dances for themselves, there will be a range of dance workshops every morning of the festival. Everyone is welcome at the workshops, which cater to a wide range of experience and ability.

The highly-anticipated John Gasson Memorial Jig Competition is making a welcome return on Sunday, August 6th, adding a competitive spirit to the festival with high standards and energetic jigs. And let’s not forget the popular Sidmouth Horse Trials, which return on August 6th. Grab your hobby horses and beasts and compete for the prestigious trophy.

To top it off, Morris Wednesday on August 9th is certain to make a memorable mark. The theme is yet to be announced, but we can expect nothing less than a sensational celebration.

Is Sidmouth Folk Festival family-friendly?

It certainly is. In fact, there’s even an area dedicated specifically to families. If you have littleuns with you, head to Blackmore Gardens, where the Children’s Festival takes place. You can expect to find children’s theatres, maypole lessons, arts and crafts workshops, one-man bands, and a stage for younger performers. Jackie Oates and Bryony Griffiths are just two well-known names that will be running events for kids in 2023.

Is Sidmouth Folk Festival free?

No, Sidmouth Folk Festival is not free. A variety of ticket types are available, including season tickets, all-in-one weekend tickets, week tickets, weekend tickets, day tickets, and more. More info can be found on the ticketing site.

Can I combine it with my beach holiday?

A photo of the beach at Sidmouth in Devon, taken by Jon Wilks.

Nobody is stopping you! It’s the height of summer, and the beach – although quite rocky – attracts plenty of bathers. In fact, it’s not uncommon to find that the person you’re swimming next to was the star attraction the night before.

It’s also a good spot for walking, wonderfully situated on the Jurassic Coast with the clifftops stretching out in either direction from the edges of the town. The views across Jacob’s Ladder from Connaught Gardens are breathtaking.

That said, if you’re turning up to Sidmouth for a beach holiday during the first week in August, and folk culture isn’t your thing, you’re in for a bit of a surprise. The promenade is rammed with street performers, stalls, Morris sides and throngs of festival-goers. If folk’s your thing, it’s quite the party.

Where can I stay?

The festival is extremely popular, so hotels and AirBnBs tend to get booked out months in advance. However, it does have its own camping ground – the Bulverton Campsite – which is linked to the town by a festival bus, free to use for wristband holders.

A useful tactic is to enquire at the Sidmouth Rugby Club, which puts up people with campervans and motorhomes. Alternatively, many people stay inland in nearby towns such as Ottery St Mary and drive into the festival for the day.

Is there much to eat?

The festival invites stallholders to trade around the various stages, so there’s plenty of food on offer. A collection of international food stands can often be found opposite Jacob’s Ladder Beach, and there is a wonderful Indian street food stall in the grounds of Kennaway House. You’ll also find a range of cuisines around Blackmore Gardens.

The town also has its fair share of pubs and restaurants. Prospect Plaice is an excellent fish’n’chips restaurant.

Got any other Sidmouth Folk Festival questions you’d like us to answer? Get in touch via our contact page and we’ll see what we can do.