52 years of Folk Week

Fifty-two years ago, the English folk music and dance scene was undergoing a revival and there were festivals celebrating the traditions in the south-west and north of England but nothing in the south-east.

The late Jack Hamilton was instrumental in the growth of Sidmouth Folk festival over sixty years ago, but he wanted to found his own festival somewhere in the south-east so he set out to find the perfect seaside town.

He arrived in Broadstairs and knew at once this was the perfect place.

The Folk Show took place twice a day and then the festival expanded into the pubs and the Retort House as a song venue.

Funding came from the District Council who provided a £100 deficit guarantee. The English Folk Dance and Song Society provided a £50 grant.

In the early 70’s the festival became well known in the folk world and more workshops and dance events were added and the festival also laid out camping facilities at a local school. Extra grants were secured and sponsorship grew. South East Arts also recognised the festival and gave a small grant.

In 2001 Folk Week – thanks to a Development grant from the Arts Council, hired a 500 seater marquee to programme the head line acts and as a result, the turnover tripled in just a couple of years, exceeding all expectations.

The festival benefits and always has done, from an amazing army of volunteers without whom Folk Week would not happen. They do everything from taking tickets at the door, staffing the Festival centre, the campsite, driving minibuses – all in exchange for a season ticket. There are now over 250 of them.

The festival has changed over the years from being an event that was organised and catered for a core of enthusiasts and experts in English traditional folk music and dance into an event that still attracts that audience but also involves the whole town.  In 2012, Kent County Council carried out an independent survey of the Economic Benefit of Festivals in East Kent. Folk Week had by far the most significant impact with an estimated £2.3 million into the local economy.

But that’s not why people get involved with the festival – they love Folk Week a the music, song and dance and making life-long friends.

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