As a member of the Blackmore bar staff I found it incredibly frustrating that during the lunchtime/afternoon sessions the tent was practically empty but the gardens themselves were packed. Something must be done to get the punters in but it is next to impossible when there is so much free entertainment in the gardens, I would suggest that the lunchtime and afternoon slots should be open to all on a collection basis. More money would be collected (especially if the stewards were proactive in collecting) than is currently taken in entry fees, plus the bar profits (which in the blackmore all go to the festival) would be massively increased.
On the subject of people in the gardens, why are we not allowed to sell them drink? It is not a problem to get a license as it was done previously but not used. The ham marquee bar sells drink to the public without a problem so why not the blackmore bar? They all bring in drink anyway from supermarkets and other pubs so we are missing a very big trick. It would require minimal internal re-arrangement of the marquee but would massively increase footfall. The amount of money that the festival would gain from doing this would be thousands and thousands of pounds extra profit.
I also think that the festival is suffering generally from too many free ceilidhs, bands and entertainers i.e. at The Anchor and Dukes. You always used to be able to have a good festival as a singer or musician without buying a ticket by going to sessions and singarounds. Now you can do it as Joe Public. Why would you want to buy a season ticket when you can be entertained all week for nothing? You can't do much about private enterprise but letting the Anchor act as a free alternative all week is shooting yourself in the foot. I know that they are a platinum sponsor but I feel that the damage to the festival is not worth the money they put in. Time for a rethink and a scaling back to what it used to be?
Another annual gripe! The Sunday lunchtime battle between traders, dancers and holiday makers took place as usual. It creates bad feeling all round so why can't the road be closed from the Bedford to the Ham from 11 to 2? The dancers could dance on the road and the traders and non-folky strollers could use the promenade. Everybody happy - so why isn't it done?
Didn't see much of the festival apart from the Blackmore. Like most people who get a free ticket I don't actually use it very much! The general impression I got was that there wasn't the buzz or numbers of previous years. I know that the Olympics and the weather have had an effect but I don't think that that the whole story. The line-up wasn't very inspiring, especially with dance display teams. When you look at the line-up that festivals like Shrewsbury put together then Sidmouth needs to really go to town in order to compete. A weeks season ticket ticket might be good value but it is still more expensive than a weekend ticket elsewhere so it needs to be something special to make people want to pay that much!
Generally I think that the organisers have done a good job in getting the festival reined in and under control but there is a severe danger of it slowly dying financially unless a more radical approach is taken. Or maybe the days of week long festivals are over?
At this point I stand back and wait to be shot down :)