COMMUNITY fundraiser and former Mayor of Lyme Regis, Philip Evans, has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
Mr Evans, an experienced journalist who now publishes the LymeOnline newspaper and website, has been honoured for his services to charity and the community of Lyme Regis, having organised local events and fundraisers since he was a teenager, raising tens of thousands of pounds for various good causes.
Born and bred in Lyme Regis, Philip – better known locally as Pip – started organising events in his teens when he was a member of Lyme Regis Boys’ Club, under the guidance of leader David Cozens, whom he described as “a brilliant old school youth leader” who encouraged members to get involved in the community.
Along with his life-long friend, Stuart Broom, he became a member of the National Boys’ Club, an elite national group which recognised leadership potential.
David, who encouraged Pip to become a journalist and was his boss in the early part of his career, was also awarded the MBE for his services to the community, as did fellow former mayor Barbara Austin and Royal British Legion stalwart Bill Reed.
Pip joined the Lyme Regis Regatta & Carnival Committee when he was 18 and took over as secretary from Shaun Cregan a year later, a post he held for ten years, and with a dedicated team of volunteers they built the summer event into one of the biggest of its kind on the south coast, bringing the Red Arrows to Lyme Regis for the first time.
It was during this time that Pip became a much sought-after compere, cutting his teeth on the Miss Lyme Regis contest and appearing at a number of events in London, including the National Carnival Queen competition at London’s Lyceum Ballroom. He has also been in much demand over the years as an after dinner speaker, especially in sporting circles.
In 1974 Pip was appointed Festival Director of Lyme 1200, a summer-long celebration to mark the 1200th anniversary of the first Lyme settlement. He also played a key role in the organisation of Charter 700, celebrating the 700th anniversary of the granting of Lyme’s Royal Charter.
By this time he was a member of Lyme Regis Town Council, serving as chairman of both the Marine Theatre and Publicity & Advertising committees. He was deputy mayor to John Broderick when Princess Alexander visited Lyme as part of the charter celebration and, the following year, became the youngest ever Mayor of Lyme Regis, at 35 years old, a distinction he still holds to this day.
Pip’s wife Jackie gave birth to their first daughter, Zoe, during their term of office, believed to have been the first time that had happened in the history of Lyme.
A passion for sport
A keen sportsman, Pip played football for Lyme Regis from the age of 14 and also served on the committee for a number of years, managing the Reserves for a period.
As well as football, he was a keen cricketer and became chairman of Uplyme & Lyme Regis Cricket Club, during which time he organised a two-week festival of sport, bringing a number of big sporting names to the town, including football legend Jimmy Greaves, cricketer Colin Milburn, snooker champion Terry Griffiths and gymnast Suzanne Dando, to raise money to build a new pavilion.
Pip took a leading role in helping entertainer Richard Digance, who had a home in Lyme, to organise a week of events at the Marine Theatre to raise money to save Lyme Regis Hospital, raising £30,000 in 1985, the proceeds eventually going to the new medical centre.
Despite moving to London to work for an international media company in the 1990s, Pip continued to take an interest in his hometown. During this period he was president of Lyme Regis Town Band and also compered the Royal British Festival of Remembrance for a number of years, for which he was awarded a Legion Certificate of Appreciation.
He later became a member of the Royal British Legion and is now honoured to be its president, the first time the branch has appointed a person to this position who did not serve in the armed forces.
When Pip returned from London, he also returned to his first love – the football club – serving as chairman for 10 years, during which time the club fielded four senior men’s team, a ladies team and a number of youth teams, providing football for young people from the age of six.
The club became one of the most active in Dorset and Pip was awarded a plaque for services to Dorset Football after he stood down.
During his years as chairman of the football club, he led a project to build a new ground at the Strawberry Field, raising £45,000 in one year for the exploratory reports and plans. But the project was comprehensively rejected by planning officials after strong protests from the residents of Uplyme.
Pip described the failure to deliver better facilities for sport in Lyme as “the biggest disappointment of my life”.
He added: “Had the project been on the table now it would almost certainly have been approved, given the emphasis on the importance of sport in our community. Compared with neighbouring towns, Lyme is poorly served by sporting facilities. The Strawberry Field project would have met those needs and enabled Lyme Regis Football Club to play at a higher standard.”
After standing down as chairman, Pip was made an honorary life member and elected club president following the death of Barbara Austin MBE, six times Mayor of Lyme Regis.
He has also been a keen supporter of the football club’s twinning arrangement with US Creully in Normandy, having gone on the first trip across the channel in 1980 and several others since. In fact, he is currently spending the weekend in Creully and was with his footballing companions when the news of his MBE was announced tonight (Friday).
‘The people of Lyme Regis are the real heroes’
After his wife survived a serious cancer operation in 2007, Pip organised a charity cricket match at Uplyme, raising £12,000 for Cancer Research UK, resulting in the founding of a local fundraising committee which since 2008 has raised in excess of £150,000 for the charity.
“I don’t take any credit for raising such substantial sums of money,” he said.
“I have been lucky enough to get support from my family, friends and those who have worked for me in organising the various events for Cancer Research UK and the people of Lyme Regis have been unbelievably generous in supporting us. They are the real heroes.”
Pip and his family – wife Jackie and daughters Zoe and Francesca – were invited to a Queen’s garden party at Buckingham Palace in 2011 for their charitable efforts.
In more recent times, Pip and Francesca organised the town’s celebration for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 and also fronted the local events when the Olympic Torch came through the town.
Pip also launched the Red Arrows 100 Club and a fundraising campaign to ensure the RAF’s crack aerobatic team retained their 40-year-plus relationship with Lyme Regis, successfully resulting in displays in 2016 and 2017. Although the team is not appearing in Lyme this year, due to unavailability, it is hoped they will return to Lyme in 2019.
His other interests include Lyme Regis Musical Theatre (formerly the operatic society) for whom he is the current President, and the Woodmead Halls where he is chairman of the management committee. He is also a member of the Uplyme and Lyme Regis Sports Trust, a small committee, which tries to provide funding for young people to achieve their sporting potential.
Commenting on the award, Pip said: “Of course I was shocked and surprised when a letter from the Cabinet Office arrived a few weeks ago. My wife said: ‘Now what have you done!’
“I have been really fortunate over the years to have been surrounded by people who have been prepared to go that extra yard and do all sorts of crazy things to raise money for good causes. And in all the events I have been involved in over the years there has been one common denominator – and that is we always have a lot of fun doing it.
“I am very grateful to those people who nominated me. I shall probably never know who they are but they have my eternal thanks.”