Sophie Moseley, Theatre Manager of Seaton Gateway writes for the Herald.

A Small Quiet English Town, a feature documentary film that tells the story of ‘the longest running folk festival in Europe’, is going to be shown at the Gateway Theatre on Sunday 9 June.

Producer Paul Tully at TPL Films, in collaboration with The Sidmouth Folk Festival Committee and The McGuffin Brothers, says it is a ‘journey through time’, using previously unseen and private archive film that explores the fascinating history of England’s much loved folk festival since its inception in 1955.

‘We had residents handing in old VHS tapes, old film canisters, and there is even a Supper 8mm film reel that was rescued from a skip.’ Said Paul.

Using personal testimony from those who were there, the film includes interviews with folk stars such as Ralph McTell, Eliza and Martin Carthy, Joe and Cole of India Electric Company, and a host of other well known performers.

Music infuses the film and was very much key to the project from the beginning. Steve Knightley was involved early on and could see how important the film was going to be, so much so, he wrote an original song for the film. ‘Walk With Me (When The Sun Goes Down)’ is on his 2016 album ‘The Long Way Home’, and forms a key part of the final sequence of the film.

From its humble beginnings in 1955, it records the highs and lows of the festival, and the growth of English Folk Dance, due in part to the then Prince Phillip and Princess Elizabeth being photographed doing a square-dance during a trip to Canada.

With archive footage, it shows how the festival became one of the most important folk festivals in the country, reaching critical point in 2004 when it was a victim of its own success, in danger of collapse, but was rescued by a hard core of supporters, and by 2014, the Sidmouth Folk Week had re-cemented itself once more as the iconic event it was famous for.