Another iconic Lyme Regis event bites the dust

Champion yard-of-aler Chris Higgs, pictured in action during 2019’s event

RUMOURS abound in Lyme Regis that one of the town’s iconic summer events, the yard of ale competition in Lifeboat Week, will not be held again.

I accept that this is not everyone’s cup of tea and that it is probably being knocked on the head after complaints that it encourages drunken behaviour.

But it’s the latest in a long line of traditional Lyme events that have fallen by the wayside in recent years because they are deemed to be unacceptable in these days of political correctness.

The yard of ale has been one of the traditional fun events in Lyme’s summer programme for many years and has been brilliantly compered by Elliott Herbert in recent times.

For organisations like the Lifeboat Supporters Group and the Regatta and Carnival, they have little option but to toe the line.

It was very different in the ten years I spent as Regatta and Carnival Committee secretary in the late 1960s and early 70s. We were not troubled by such stringent requirements in organising public events.

The regatta used to be just a one-day event on a Thursday in early August and much of the activity revolved around the pubs. The emphasis was not on raising money but to give the people of Lyme one day to let their hair down in mid-season.

In the ten years I was secretary we built it into one of the biggest events on the south coast with more than 60 different events. We always tried to include some of the old traditional activities, such as the pram derby, now sadly defunct because of insurance issues.

For my generation you were not considered to be a real Lyme boy unless you had taken part in the pram derby. In those days there was a drop of several feet from the Cart Road to the beach but I cannot recall there ever being an accident.

Taking part in such an event was almost seen as a rite of passage, and much the same attitude was attached to the yard of ale.

Later, conger coddling was abandoned after complaints about the cruelty to fish (the conger was dead!), there’s no tug of war on the beach and the torchlight procession can only go ahead if children carry glow lights and not a flaming torch.

Of course that makes sense, but for the Lyme 1200 festival in 1974 I organised a procession of 1,200 torches without any problems or injuries.

On one occasion we even hired a high diver who set himself on fire and dived 100 feet into a large bucket of water on the Cobb Beach.

On November 5 in Ottery St Mary they will be running around the town with flaming tar barrels on their shoulders. Makes you think, doesn’t?

Timothée Chalamet
Heart-throb Timothée Chalamet in costume as Willy Wonka (photo from his Twitter account @RealChalamet)

Wonka mania down at the Cobb

MUCH excitement down at the Cobb last week for the filming of the new ‘Wonka’ musical, starring Timothée Chalamet.

I was about to add “me neither” but that would show how totally out of touch I am with popular culture.

My daughter reliably informs me that he is the latest Hollywood heart-throb, aged just 25, best known for his recent roles in ‘The King’, ‘Little Women’ and the upcoming sci-fi epic ‘Dune’. I’m not sure I’m any wiser.

Other familiar faces who are also in the film include Matt Lucas, who was also present in Lyme, Olivia Coleman and Rowan Atkinson, who were not, all of whom I would recognise.

Unlike Kate Winslet, who I had heard of, when she was filmed in Lyme for the ‘Ammonite’ film, Mr Chalamet did not stop to talk to local schoolchildren who had gathered to see the filming.

But there was plenty of screaming from the assembled teenage girls when he left the site in a blacked-out car on Tuesday evening. Tune in to the LymeOnline website and you can hear them!

Lyme, of course, with its dramatic coastline as a backdrop, is one of the favourite locations for film directors these days, delivering a great deal of free publicity for the town. The Daily Mail carried a full page on the filming in Tuesday’s edition.

Such events also attract other media, creating more publicity. A number of photographers, including our own Richard Austin, spent two days looking for an exclusive photo, difficult because they could get nowhere near the action and were shooting into the sun.

Radio Solent were in town to cover the event. They interviewed local fisherman and fire chief Virgil Turner who could not remember Chalamet’s name. They found it so funny that it was repeated on BBC Radio 1 by their top presenter Greg James!

It is also amazing how much effort goes into the making of such films. The Lyme scene apparently lasts no more then a couple of minutes but there must have been between 300 and 400 personnel working down at the Cobb.

Much of the car parking space was taken over by the film crews and there was a tented village set up on the park and ride field in Charmouth Road.

The whole operation must have cost tens of thousands of pounds. It also makes you wonder what the carbon footprint is of such activities. I understand the musical director flew in from Los Angeles and flew back again two days later.

It irks me sometimes when I hear of famous names lecturing us all on how to be kinder to the planet. They should practice what they preach.

Thanks for the memories

GREAT sadness in Lyme Regis this week following the news that the Lyme Regis Musical Theatre, formerly the operatic society, has ceased to operate in its 100th year.

It has been my privilege to have been president of LRMT these past few years and I quickly witnessed how much work and energy goes into producing an annual show and how the standard of performance had risen so high in recent times.

It’s all the more sad that the society has had to finish in its 100th anniversary year.

Some of those on the committee have been connected with the organisation for 50 years or more and the time had come for them to step away after such stalwart service.

Regretfully, no one came forward to take their place. Lyme is all the poorer for the passing of this group of talented individuals.

I rest my case…

IN his annual report on risk management, Lyme’s town clerk John Wright has told his warring councillors that their unacceptable behaviour is one of the biggest risks to the town.

Following on from the recent letter of resignation from deputy mayor Kelsey Ellis, in which she delivered a damning condemnation of councillors’ behaviour, some of which verged on bullying, Mr Wright’s observation is extremely disturbing.

I believe this latest disturbing assessment backs up my claim in my last column that Lyme Regis Town Council is no longer fit for purpose (no longer good for doing its job).

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