Sidmouth's Olwen is folk dance veteran

PUBLISHED: 11:57 08 August 2009 | UPDATED: 11:34 10 June 2010

WHEN MC for one of Saturday s FolkWeek dance displays asked if anyone had been to all 55 Sidmouth folk festivals, one of the few hands that went up belonged to Sidmothian Olwen Tavener.

WHEN MC for one of Saturday's FolkWeek dance displays asked if anyone had been to all 55 Sidmouth folk festivals, one of the few hands that went up belonged to Sidmothian Olwen Tavener.

Olwen (nee Counter), says she was at the first festival with her mother, as a babe-in-arms, and has supported it ever since.

"I love the festival, I adore it," said Olwen, 55, who now lives in St Martin's Close. "I would be so upset if ever it finished."

"As soon as I was able, I used to run to Connaught Gardens with my friend Jane Harris (now Cooper) who now lives in Scotland, and we used to help put the tent up."

Her favourite part of the festival over the years has been the dance displays.

In the 50s, when the English Folk Dance and Song Society brought dancers for the event they were dressed in felt coloured skirts, black waistcoats and white blouses.

"Mum and Dad had an outfit made for me for my birthday when I was about six or seven by a lady who used to do dressmaking in Old Fore Street.

"I thought I was the bee's knees and wore it until it got too small.

"Jane and I used to dance up at Connaught Gardens when the displays had finished. They let you join in for half-an-hour afterwards and we used to get up and have a dance."

Over the years Olwen has gathered quite a collection of programmes, tapes and photo albums of the festival, much of which she lent to Derek Schofield, author of The First Week in August to celebrate its golden anniversary in 2004.

"I used to work as a hairdresser for Vi Channing in All Saints Road, and my mother used to bring me sandwiches and a flask at around 6pm so I could go straight from work to Knowle Arena.

"Dancers came from far and wide. I remember an Israeli group stole the show one year and there were stilt dancers from France and a fabulous Aborigine group.

"I wish it would go back to the arena because there is more room. There are hardly any chairs in some marquees and season ticket holders get priority."

Whatever format it takes, you can be sure Olwen will be there next year, tapping her feet at more dancing displays.

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