Well, I think I can do no more than relate our own experience and follow it with a few conclusions and recommendations.
I went to Butlin's a couple of times as a kid. It was, in the sixties certainly, a cheapish readymade holiday for working class families with not a lot of what we now call disposable income, and, in truth, it does not really seem to have changed much since then.
Skegness is a pig of a place to get to and, when you eventually do get there, your first impression will be 'why have you bothered?' Whoever thought of making Skegness a holiday destination must have had one hell of an imagination or sense of humour or they were certifiably insane.
Driving through the town we came to the entrance to the site. I have to say that the organisation was pretty slick, considering the numbers of people that were there, we were checked in within minutes and give a very good site map and keys to our apartment. We arrived a little early and had to wait till four o clock before we could enter our flat, but there were coffee bars, restaurants and a very decent pub for us to wait in, naturally we chose the latter, and, do you know, it was alright! Good real ales and excellent coffee, we took the opportunity to browse the breakfast menu whilst we were there and it did look pretty good.
Four O'clock came at last and we made our way to our home for the weekend. We had elected to go for the 'Standard' accommodation rather than the 'Silver 'or 'Gold' standard. It strikes me that if the other accommodation status were named after precious metals; ours would have been better called 'Pig Iron'. First impressions were not good. On opening the door it appeared that someone at some time had tried to break in and a very hasty repair had been made (on reflection, they may have been trying to break out), the fitted carpet that had been thoughtfully provided looked like it had been reclaimed from a restaurant after the Bullingdon club had an evening out there. I wouldn't say exactly that one's feet stuck to it as it was walked upon, but I kept my shoelaces done up tight just in case. A couple of cupboard doors were falling off and a drawer front was hanging on by a thread, but apart from that and the hair in the shower plughole, it was OK, after all, it was only for a couple of nights. To be fair though, our friends had booked both a 'Silver' room and a 'Gold' apartment and these were both excellent – so I suppose you get what you pay for.
As far as entertainment goes the line-up was, to say the least, impressive. Steeleye, Fairport, St Agnes Fountain, Jim Moray, The Strawbs, Barbera Dixon, Bob Fox and Billy Mitchell and loads of others. One of the main problems was that there were effectively only two proper concert venues, both very good in their own way, but with a line up like this, you are bound to miss some of the acts that you want to see, but that is the way of all festivals, and, big as the venues were, they weren't big enough! The first night was a disaster, We particularly wanted to see Jim Moray and made our way to the venue to find it absolutely crammed full, people were standing six deep wherever they could and I think with it being the first night, a lot of folks met up for the first time for the weekend and were talking quite a lot and poor old Jim had to cope with this and with a totally inadequate sound system – the lad did well, but after an hour of standing and trying to listen, we called it a day and went back to our bolt hole. We were a bit knackered anyway after our journey so we hit the sack and looked forward to what the morrow would bring.
After a leisurely lie in and a cup of tea made with diluted Dettol (what is it with the water in the fens? It always seems to be over chlorinated) we made our way to the 'Sun and Moon' the pub for breakfast. Brilliant breakfast – truly excellent – could not fault it – bacon, sausages (real ones), eggs, hash browns, tomatoes, mushrooms (real ones), fried bread and beans and all very well cooked and all for about seven quid. Set us up for the day! However, it does show the slight naivety of the organisers that for the entire weekend of the 'Great BRITISH Folk Festival' the pub was blasting out Bob Dylan inside and out. – It was bad enough for us punters, but it must have been hell for the poor bloody staff.
Time was pressing on and we decided to stroll down to the main complex to watch a bit of Morris Dancing. The dancing was pretty good, but the organisers again thought it a good idea to have background wallpaper music on constantly and this was competing with the Morris tunes. Ah well – back to the pub for the sing around.
The sing around was good, very good in fact as good as any at any festival I have been to and was a very pleasant way to spend the afternoon.
Throughout the weekend we managed to see some very good performances, but they were very badly let down by the sound system and the 'in house' sound engineers. It took ages, over an hour in one case, to set up between acts and when they eventually did the sound was very poor. In fact, the only time I found the sound to be any good at all was when Steeleye played – I reckon they must have brought their own sound people.
I can't comment on the quality of the many restaurants on offer as our very good friends who were staying in the much envied 'Gold' apartment very kindly fed and watered us every evening which was incredibly kind of them.
So, to conclude; this could be something special. It desperately needs a professional Folk Festival Organiser to run it; it needs to be more careful of its guest selection and clashes of similar artists, it needs a complete overhaul of the sound systems, this is vital. It needs to make proper use of the main event area there was a great looking stage there and a dance floor that was only used for the Morris yet there was no Ceilidh – I have never been to a folk festival without a ceilidh and this area was crying out for one.
I think we were just a tad unlucky with the state of out apartment (at least I hope we were) everyone else I spoke to seemed to find it OK.
So, would we go again? Dunno – the jury is still out. It was cheap enough and at a good time of year but for me, the sound is very important, that is what I go for really. I also like to be able to actually sit down at a concert!