Interview by Simon Haines
Unless you are a folk performer, you may not have heard of Alan Bearman, but he has been involved in the English folk scene for over 40 years, starting as a folk club organiser, moving on to being heavily involved in organising the Sidmouth Folk Festival. He is currently Artistic and Marketing Director of the festival, now in its 65th year, as well as running Alan Bearman Music (ABM), an agency representing major artists on the folk, roots and acoustic music scene. He is also one of the few holders of the EFDSS Gold Badge, awarded for services to English folk music. Alan has famiy connections with the area and is a regular at Folk East Festival and at pub sessions in our area. Here is my recent interview with Alan.
Could I start by asking you about your connections with Suffolk? Were your family from this part of the world?
My family were from Essex, but moved to Leiston in Suffolk in the early 1970s as I was leaving for Teacher Training College in North London. I spent many weekends and school holidays in Leiston through to the late 1980’s. Some of that time coincided with Taffy Thomas and Magic Lantern being very active in the area so we got quite involved with them and went to sessions and events around the area. We have been regular visitors to the area ever since and always expected to return permanently at some point.
Would you say the folk scene in the area is special in any way? Is it different from any other rural area?
It’s hard to compare with other rural areas as Suffolk and London are the main areas that I’ve been familiar with. Suffolk’s sessions have always seemed special to me and it was listening to the likes of Oscar Woods, The Ling Family and Percy Webb that deepened my interest in traditional music. For years, it seemed to me that despite the rich traditions and great sessions there was a severe lack of concert and club activity with honourable exceptions like The Everyman. That has changed dramatically in the last few years, largely through the impact of Folk East.
Read more: Alan Bearman - all round folk enthusiast