THE Red Arrows have confirmed they are unable to appear in Lyme Regis this summer.
The disappointing news came in a tragic week for the Red Arrows, after one of their planes crashed in north Wales killing engineer Cpl Jonathan Bayliss. Pilot Flt Lt David Stark – a new member of the team – survived and is currently receiving medical treatment for non-life-threatening injuries.
The date applied for by organisers of the annual display in Lyme Regis – Thursday, August 16 to coincide with Lyme Regis Community Week – clashes with one of the team’s engineering days and no other date is available in their busy schedule.
The Red Arrows have been gracing the skies of Lyme Regis for more than 40 years. They first appeared in the town in the 1970s for Regatta & Carnival Week before becoming the star feature of Lifeboat Week, appearing for free in support of the RNLI.
The team annually attracted tens of thousands to Lyme Regis and ‘Red Arrows Day’ became one of the most important days of the year for the town’s economy.
In 2016, it was feared that Lyme’s lengthy relationship with the Arrows would come to an end, as the Ministry of Defence agreed to charge for all future displays. Organisers of Lifeboat Week felt they could not commit their charity funds to the event.
However, an appeal launched by the now-closed View From Lyme Regis newspaper quickly raised the necessary funds, thanks to donations from local businesses and residents, and the Red Arrows were able to appear in Lyme again in the summers of 2016 and 2017.
The appeal was fronted by local newspaper editor Philip Evans – now managing director of LymeOnline – who first brought the Arrows to the town when he was secretary of the Regatta & Carnival Committee in the 1970s. He also set up the Lyme Regis Red Arrows 100 Club in 2016 to help cover the costs, with 100 members each paying £100 towards the display.
Lyme Regis Town Council agreed to underwrite the cost of the displays in the event they made a loss or were cancelled because of the weather.
However, collection buckets raised record amounts over the past two years – with the funds being split between the cost of the display and local good causes that provided collectors and took part in Lyme Regis Community Week – built around the Red Arrows’ appearances and organised by the town council.
Hopes for alternative display teams
The town council had already started making plans for this year’s Community Week in the hope that the Red Arrows would be appearing, and funds have already been raised for the display. It is now hoped that the money can be put towards a day of alternative entertainment.
Discussions are taking place with the RAF events team with the possibility of securing other display teams.
Mr Evans said: “Whilst we are disappointed that the Red Arrows will not be appearing in Lyme Regis this year, our thoughts at the moment go to the families of those involved in this week’s sad events.
“Because of the long association between the Arrows and Lyme Regis, the RAF events team telephoned me to explain why they could not appear this year, and that it would have no impact on future applications.”
Councillor Cheryl Reynolds, chairman of the town’s Tourism, Community & Publicity Committee, added: “Obviously we are disappointed that the Arrows will not be appearing in Lyme this year. We are hopeful that Community Week will still go ahead [August 13 to 19] with a number of events during one of the season’s peak weeks.”
Councillor Reynolds confirmed that a message of sympathy had been sent from the town of Lyme Regis to RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, where the Red Arrows are based, following this week’s tragic crash.