On September 12 I heard three different bits of news and wondered if they were all linked in some way. The first was that John Lewis profits were down 99%, the second that apparently we are all still £800 worse off per annum after the banking crash of 2008 and the third was that Looe Music Festival, due to take place on 21–23 September, had ceased trading.
Looe has become the most recent of a few folk festivals that have cancelled suddenly this year. The other notable one was Beverley Folk Festival, that I so much enjoyed on a very hot weekend last year. Others have been or will be taking a gap year, like our very own Folk Weekend Oxford, Wirral and Ilfracombe. Some, like Teignmouth, have become much smaller events, only seemingly booking more local acts.
I am sure there are many complex reasons why this is happening and each case will be different, but people must be feeling the pinch where money is concerned. I don’t want to suggest all folkies shop at John Lewis, but I bet quite a few of you (just like the Editors of this magazine!) do. Personally, I have cut down my festival attendances because of cost. It’s not so much the price of the festival tickets, but as I no longer camp or have a camper van I need a hotel or a B&B. When a festival hits town the prices do seem to go up or, as I found recently, I had to pay for three nights, when I really only wanted to stay two. With travel, food and the odd beer (or six!) it has become quite an expensive weekend.
Perhaps this is just market forces; or possibly there are just too many festivals and there was bound to be some readjustment over time. There is no doubt that some of the major festivals, like Sidmouth, Towersey, Warwick, Folk by the Oak and Shrewsbury, appear to the outsider to be doing well. Maybe festival goers are choosing to go to just one of these with their impressive line ups, rather than multiple events?
For Shire Folk all the festivals mentioned above booked adverts. As adverts are our only source of revenue we have a commercial interest in the success or failure of the festivals – if our advertisers are struggling then that means Shire Folk will struggle too. So let’s hope that this is just a temporary situation – for all our sakes.
Shire Folk is a free, A5, bimonthly magazine covering folk, roots and acoustic music. It has been produced for over 40 years on a not-for-profit basis, paid for by advertising revenue. Each issue includes news items, both local and national, artist interviews, festival and gig reviews, as well as reviews of about 30 new CDs.
From our base in Oxford, we distribute 1800–2000 copies through an intricate network of folk clubs, record shops, libraries, music venues, pubs, morris dancing teams, festivals and individuals. Click here to see a list of places that receive bulk copies of Shire Folk. We think you can safely assume that well over 4000 people read each issue.
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Graham Hobbs & Jonathan Roscoe
Co-Editors, Shire Folk
Shire Folk Album of 2017
Trails & Tribulations