THIS week in the LymeOnline office (more like a cupboard, actually) we celebrated a minor achievement – our 50th edition.
As celebrations go, it was a modest occasion, unlike the night we launched the paper and website when the good and the great of Lyme joined us in raising a glass or three to this new venture. It turned out to be quite a riotous night.
It was in February 2018 that we launched – a unique concept of publishing a hyper-local community newspaper and website of the same name.
Following the demise of the View From series in January 2018, we were inundated with people asking: “What are we going to do without our View?”
There was no doubt the town wanted a community newspaper but the dilemma was how to make it pay with falling advertising revenues sending dozens of local papers up and down the country to the wall in recent years.
We came up with the idea of making the project a community non-for-profit exercise and set about how we could cover our direct costs.
I sent my daughter Francesca, who worked as a sub-editor/reporter on the View From covering Lyme Regis, out to Galway in Ireland where my eldest daughter lives to build the website which they completed within two weeks.
Four weeks later we launched the paper version of LymeOnline and set up a distribution operation which necessitated us initially delivering the paper door-to-door to 2,200 homes in Lyme, Uplyme and Charmouth, with a further 1,800 copies available via bulk drops at pick-up points.
After launching the paper, a number of businesses came forward and said they would support the project financially, helping to cover our direct costs because they wanted to see the paper succeed.
We recruited some youngsters to deliver the paper to the estates, paying for their services, and a number of people volunteered to deliver the paper to the houses in the roads in which they lived. Only last week we received a letter in the post enclosing a cheque for £100 to help us cover costs.
Francesca and I are both passionate about community journalism and I have spent a long career launching and managing newspapers. In all, I suppose I have launched more than 60 titles but LymeOnline is undoubtedly the most popular.
Every issue we publish more than 50 local stories and dozens of photographs covering virtually every event in Lyme, Uplyme and Charmouth. I would venture to suggest that there are very few, if any, communities as small as Lyme which get better or more comprehensive press coverage.
Because I walk around in smart suits most of the time, some people think we make a fortune from LymeOnline. As a family we don’t take a penny out of and if anyone doubts this I would be quite happy for them to visit our office so I can show them our profit and loss accounts. We subsidise the costs from editing newspapers for other publishers, a business run by my wife Jackie.
The 64,000 dollar question, of course, is: can it continue to survive? Well, as long as we can attract sponsorship on an ongoing basis, and our readership stays strong, there is no reason why it cannot.
The LymeOnline website is also extremely popular attracting thousands of hits every week. And recognising that the digital media is the future, we have recently introduced a new Sights & Sounds platform for video coverage of local events, podcasts and photo galleries, and from last week we introduced our first News Bulletin which Francesca presents, which represents a great step forward for us.
So as we approach our second anniversary, a warm thank you to all those who support us – our sponsors, advertisers, deliverers and of course our readers.
A great way to start our fundraising year
I’VE written many times in this column about the generosity of the people in Lyme Regis who give such marvellous support to charities and good causes in this town.
Although we shall never know, it would be interesting to find out how much is actually raised in the course of a year. I suspect the figures would run into many thousands.
As chairman of the Lyme Regis branch of Cancer Research UK, I’m always gobsmacked about how kind and supportive people are. I appreciate of course there are few, if any, families who are not affected by this terrible disease at some time in their life.
Last Saturday we kicked off our 2020 fundraising campaign by holding soup and sweet lunch at the Woodmead Halls. In the past, this event has always raised around £250. On this occasion we collected a whopping £624, getting our New Year off to a wonderful start.
My thanks also to the members of my small committee who prepared the lunch and sold the raffle tickets. Last year we raised about £7,000 in total and we have set a target for £10,000 in 2020. If we achieve that our small branch, formed in 2008, will have topped the £180,000 mark.
So to all of you who supported the lunch, and especially the lady who made a donation of £100, a heartfelt thanks and a reminder that our next events include a Pizza Night at the Pilot Boat on Tuesday, February 25, and The Big Breakfast at the Woodmead Halls on Friday, March 27.
It’s research that will finally find a cure for cancer so it’s important that our work continues. Your continued support is making a real difference and as I have written many times in this column – Lyme never stops giving.
How I spent the mayor’s allowance in one day!
IT won’t be long before town councillors will decide who the mayor will be next year.
Tradition dictates that the current incumbent should be invited to serve for a second term, but after our current first citizen, Brian Larcombe MBE, was installed there was some that thought he might only serve for one year.
I think it is almost certain, however, that he will retain the mayoral chains for another year. I certainly hope so.
The next year is going to be a challenging one for Lyme Regis Town Council with a programme of works scheduled likely to run into seven figures. So it needs a steady and experienced hand on the tiller to steer the council through what could well be a very bumpy ride.
With several new councillors still learning the ropes, Brian is the man for that job.
Councillors can serve more than two years if there are no other nominations for the position. The late Henry Broom and Barbara Austin MBE were two of the longest serving mayors, as was Sally Holman in recent times.
If my memory serves me correctly, only three mayors in the last 30 odd years served for just one year – Stuart Case, me and Ken Whetlor. Disgracefully in my opinion, tradition was abandoned when Ken Whetlor was only elected to serve for one year, but for Stuart it was a personal choice to do just the single term.
I became the youngest mayor at the age of 34 in the 1980s when I was editor of the Sidmouth Herald and not earning a fortune. But I was lucky to have a good friend in my deputy, the late Ivor Curtis. In those days the mayor’s allowance for the year was a paltry £350.
I followed in the footsteps of the late John Broderick and it was custom in those days to hold the post mayor making party at the Royal Lion. I went up to the Lion the following morning to pay the bill. And it came to £355!
All other entertaining expenses during the year had to come from my own pocket and one of these was quite expensive as I had to entertain the Devon & Dorset Regiment on a visit to the town which meant I had to buy all the squaddies a beer or two.
During the year I ran up an unauthorised overdraft at the then Midland Bank whose manager clearly turned a blind eye, presumably because I was the mayor. But he wasted no time to contacting me as soon as I stood down.
The day after I handed the chains to Ivor Curtis, I received a letter from the bank asking how I intended to clear my overdraft.
That was the moment I decided I ought to concentrate on my career and it wasn’t too long after that I moved to London to take over the running of a newspaper group in the East End.
I have no idea what the mayor’s allowance is today, a few grand I suspect, but I doubt whether that it covers what a mayor will spend during his or her term of office. However, I’m pretty sure it would not be spent on their first day in office!