During the years when asteroid Crump was orbiting Planet Earth (and exerting a disproportionally large gravitational influence), it became policy that yoof of whatever quality (and whether they could dance or sing or not) should be attracted to the festival in order to make it 'multigenerational' and 'inclusive'.
During the same epoch, social dance nearly died (and many of the best dancers have never returned) and ceilidhs became such a pathetic standard that Sidmouth became an 'also ran' - whereas it used to be amongst the best and with many dancers able to master quite complicated dances. Imagine anyone trying that now.
Talented young singers and musicians used to find a place (and an audience) on the Esplanade and along the streets of the town. Now it is dominated by cheap tat and loud often non-folk music.
At my local club I sometimes teach and call Richard Mason dances (he lives in Exeter and teaches Exeter Univ. Folk Dance Club). They are challenging, a bit different and most of my club members can do them easily enough. So can many dancers at other public dances in the area.
It would be a joke to try them at most Sidmouth ceilidhs - which is a pity because the standard may continue to decline unless corrective action is taken. The principal point of discussion amongst groups of local dancers after the festival is how many of the best dancers were NOT there - fellow locals as well as once familiar faces from afar.
The sound level from bands also increased considerably when the asteroid was briefly in Earth orbit. There might be a causal connection.
As a suggestion, could we have a sort of reverse silent LNE on a few nights, and maybe a similar event in Blackmore Gardens? A really good dance band (Old Swan, Tickled Pink, Hekety to name but three) would be compelled to play at a reasonable volume all night, and at a further reduced level from 1am to 2am.
Any people who really WANTED the music much louder would be able to hire amplifying headphones that were powerful enough to induce hearing impairment - this setting would be used only by the really manly yoof (IQ = 57 maximum) who had something to prove (and probably something illegal in their bloodstream).
The same people cruise around in cars with 400 watt amplifiers in the boot. Later, when they become mature at the age of 46 they become wannabe sound engineers on the festival circuit.
It would be interesting to see how many dancers actually WANTED to amplify the dance music to headbanging and ear splitting levels, compared with the number who were perfectly content to dance to good music that was loud enough to generate a real atmosphere but not stupidly loud.
As for improving the standard of ceilidh dance, how about taking three or four groups of 8 or 10 young non-expert dancers, teaching them intensively and including several complex dances and having a competition on the last day? The best set to do not only the dances they have practiced but a few more besides, would get reduced price tickets next year.