Last time I went to a dance at the Marine there were 700 of us

the searchers
The Searchers – circa 1966 when they appeared at the Marine Theatre

MY fondness for the Marine Theatre stems from the fact that I did most of my courting in the old place where I fell in love and had my heart broken – virtually every Saturday night!

These were the days of The Big Beat Nights, brought to Lyme Regis by London music promoter Bob Alexander, a big cheese in the music business, or so we thought.

They were heady days for me. At the time I was writing a column called ‘Teens ‘n’ Twenties’ for the Express & Echo and got to interview many of the top pop acts when they appeared at the ABC in Exeter as well as being sent the pre-releases of all the Top Ten 45s to review. Not that I knew much about music, evidenced by the fact that I tipped Long John Baldry for international stardom! What was his only hit? ‘Let The Heartache Begin’, very appropriate for my romantic experiences at the Marine where Bob Alexander brought every popular band of that era.

One occasion stands out – the one day that every football fan will remember. Saturday, July 30th 1966 – the day England won the World Cup – and the day that The Searchers, one of the top bands in the country, were booked into the Marine. With 700 – yes that’s 700 – of us packed into the Marine all the blokes started chanting “Inger-land”, “Inger-land” until The Searchers gave up and walked off stage. The girls in the hall were far from impressed as it was an hour before the chanting ceased and the band returned to the stage.

There was always a big scramble for the pretty girls as the half-time break approached. To get a dance you would just tap the girl on the shoulder and start jiggling around. There was no room for proper dancing. I had my eye on a pretty blonde for weeks and bucked up courage to ask if she would like a drink in the back bar of the Pilot Boat (classy!) during the interval. To my amazement, she said yes.

Thinking she might like a vodka and lime (very popular in those days), she asked for a pint of Palmer’s IPA. Four pints later she left me prostrate in the corner of the bar and went back to the Marine on her own. You see, she came from Chard, and from that day onwards I made a policy never to go out with Chard girls again.

It was common in those days to cram in 500 or more revellers into the Marine Theatre for such events. No health and safety in those days. The Big Beat nights attracted music fans from all around the area with busloads coming from as far afield as Yeovil and Weymouth. There were some massive fights outside the building and it was the unruly behaviour, including a stabbing incident, that caused the old borough council to change their thinking about the Marine and Bob Alexander returned to London having made many marriages in this little Dorset town – and a few divorces!

I was reminded of all this on Saturday evening when I popped into the theatre quite late to support Geoff Baker’s Guitars On The Beach gig. I couldn’t get there earlier as I was performing my president’s duties at a race night organised by Lyme Regis Musical Theatre to raise funds for their forthcoming production of ‘Hello, Dolly!’, an altogether much more sedate occasion but a profitable one.

But I’m glad I did. There was nowhere near as many as 700, of course, the Marine’s maximum now being 350, and Geoff was a little bit downhearted that the place wasn’t packed to the rafters. No one could have worked harder to get people through those doors, bombarding social media for weeks running up to the event and knocking the cost of tickets down to a tenner.

But those who did turn up were having great time and I was really taken by the last band to perform, The IOUs, a Somerset-based trio. Young Tyler Street won fifty quid for the best air guitarist with local footballer and Status Quo fan Simon Flux surely coming second!

We joked in the bar afterwards that we were going on to a club in Weymouth or might even drive to Heathrow Airport for breakfast, which we sometimes did back in the day. Or we might have gone up town for chicken and chips in the little Broad Street shop which is now Eeles Pottery.

Bringing together those who care for us when illness strikes

Our corner of West Dorset is well provided with GPs and their clinical services. But all GPs and nurses are under pressure, so the NHS expects charitable and voluntary groups to do more of the non-clinical help that keeps us healthy and offers care when we’re not. Yet non-clinical health and care support has always been thin on the ground here, too often stopping at Bridport to the east or restricted by the county boundary to the west.

LymeForward has been working to tackle this ‘black hole’ by encouraging more providers to recognise that we too are entitled to their services. And when opportunities are here, they need to be known about. That applies to the GPs and their staff, busy people who don’t have time to investigate everything that’s available, as well as to the rest of us.

So the ‘Care Links Lyme’ event on Thursday, April 26 is important. It brings into one place a range of providers – from the National Childbirth Trust through to Age UK and Cruse Bereavement Care, from ‘health coaches’ like LiveWell Dorset and My Health My Way to support groups for people with physical or mental health conditions, and to advisory bodies like Citizens Advice and the Partnership for Older People. In addition to around 20 representatives, leaflets and information about a wider spread of activities will be available.

GPs, nurses and other clinical staff will drop in during the day, for having all this information conveniently in one place will be useful to them. For two hours in the morning, and again in the afternoon, the event at Lyme Regis Medical Centre is also open to us all, irrespective of which of the three local GP practices we’re registered with. It’s a good opportunity and I take my hat off to those indefatigable souls at LymeForward for engineering and delivering that opportunity.

Shoreline, the best village magazine I have seen

CONGRATULATIONS to Shoreline, the Charmouth village magazine celebrating its tenth anniversary. And a special word of praise for former parish councillor Jane Morrow, the editor who started the project, and her team of Leslie Dunlop, Neil Charleton and John Kennedy. They can be justly proud of bringing out such a comprehensive and high quality publication.

It’s by far the best village magazine I have seen and I’ve had cause over the years to curse many for getting the best stories before the papers I edited. Charmouth has not received the editorial coverage it deserves for many years.

Early on the View From raised the bar a bit but none of the other local papers took much interest in the village – and still don’t. LymeOnline is hoping to change that. I’ve started to cover Charmouth Parish Council meetings again and we are publishing a Charmouth page in every edition.

Shoreline started with 12 pages in 2008 and has blossomed into the current 52 pages, crammed with everything you need to know about life in the village. Here’s to the next ten years, Jane!

Woodmead Halls
About Philip Evans 145 Articles
Veteran journalist and newspaper manager Philip Evans has worked in the publishing industry for more than half a century. He started out as a reporter for Pulman’s Weekly News as a young man and went on to work for an international publishing company in the UK, South Africa and Australia before returning to Lyme Regis where he is still reporting on local events as he has done for more than 53 years.

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