Clash with council mars return of food festival

RELAXING – Mark Hix enjoys a massage at the end of his Food Rocks festival

THAT’S it then – summer is over, brought to a close by the seventh Food Rocks festival, organised by celebrity chef Mark Hix and his staff. But will there be another one? That is the question.

The two-day festival, now established as one of the most popular culinary events in the South West, held on Marine Parade and the top of the shelters, was an outstanding success, attracting record crowds and raising a significant five-figure sum for two charities – the RNLI and The Fishermen’s Mission.

Unfortunately, however, the proceedings ended with an unseemly spat between the organisers and town council staff over staging issues which, I understand, has caused the HIX empire to consider taking the festival elsewhere.

A spokesperson for HIX told me: “It’s a very sad end to an incredibly successful event for Lyme Regis and has left the HIX team not wanting to put this on again.” And they added that one council employee’s manner was “hostile and aggressive”.

Apparently it was not the first time this has happened and some traders have decided to boycott the Lyme event in future because they have been treated in such a rude manner by officials.

I was present at the festival for the whole of the two days. It was a very happy, well organised event which attracted huge numbers from outside the town. Many came to our promotional stand to say how much they enjoyed coming to Lyme for such events, and one couple even went as far to say that they intended to move from North Dorset because Lyme was such a lively town.

Whilst the Marine Parade is a wonderful location for a festival, there are challenges with access and using the upper level of the shelters. However, at this particular event the organisers do not allow large vehicles to get onto the top of the shelters by dangerously negotiating the steep bank down the gardens, as was the case for the recent Dorset Street Food Festival.

An argument continues about the value of such events to Lyme Regis with some traders complaining it takes business away from them. That was certainly the case with the Dorset Street Food event, a commercial enterprise in mid season.

Food Rocks, however, is different for three important reasons. One, it is organised by volunteers (members of the HIX staff and others); two, all profits go to worthy charities – the RNLI and The Fishermen’s Mission which have benefitted greatly over the years; and three, it is held outside the main holiday period and so extends the season for the benefit of all traders.

Last weekend’s Food Rocks certainly brought more people into town than would have been the case had it not been held – the first weekend after the end of the summer holidays after kids had returned to school.

Other food and drinks outlets seemed extremely busy despite any perceived competition from the festival stands. One owner of a restaurant at the Cobb told me: “We like Food Rocks. Mark Hix is one of us and we were extremely busy throughout the weekend.” Another restaurant owner at the other end of town confirmed they were also very busy, more so than they expected.

It has to be remembered, however, that council staff are under a good deal of pressure concerning the amount of vehicles on the seafront. But courtesy costs nothing and it should be possible to sort out problems in a polite but firm manner.

The festival was visited by the Mayor, Councillor Brian Larcombe, and his deputy, Councillor Jeff Scowen, who is chairman of the Tourism, Community and Publicity Committee. Both were impressed with the organisation of Food Rocks and both are anxious not to lose them.

The fact remains, however, Mark Hix could take this event to his home town West Bay or Weymouth, both of which would bite his hand off to host the festival.

But Mark has a restaurant in Lyme and wants to put something back into the community. Let’s hope commonsense will prevail and Food Rocks 8 returns next year with a new spirit of co-operation between organisers and the council.

Unforgettable season for England – and Uplyme CC

WHAT a summer it’s been for those of us who are cricket fanatics – not just because of England’s unbelievable victory in the World Cup and Ben Stokes’ herculean solo efforts to win one of the Test matches against the Aussies, but also for our local club, Uplyme & Lyme Regis.

As a former player of limited ability and club chairman, I was delighted to see Uplyme gain promotion to a higher division in the Devon Cricket League.

Bearing in mind that the club nearly went out of business the previous year, this is a marvellous achievement and I was pleased to see that the players celebrated their success in true Uplyme style with a presentation party after their last game of the season in their refurbished clubhouse.

There were fears that the club would have to fold after failing to complete their fixtures in the 2017-2018 season, but the community and ex-players rallied round to raise funds to put them back on an even keel and the committee sensibly decided to scrap their 2nd X1 because of the difficulty in attracting enough players to field two sides, especially with so much travelling in the Devon League to away games.

Because of my long association with Lyme Regis Football Club – more than 50 years as a player, chairman and now president – most people assume that football is my first love. But as a young man, cricket was my great passion and some of my closest friendships were forged on the cricket pitch, friendships that have lasted the test of time.

As kids we were coached by Bob Mason and Ted Denham but the club was in decline when we were old enough to play adult cricket. That is until the late Dennis Applebee moved to Lyme from North London where he played a high standard of cricket.

He breathed new life into the club, organising a number of social events including the notorious Gentlemen’s Nights, details of which cannot be revealed in a family newspaper.

Whenever we get together the discussion invariably turns to the many fun times we had playing cricket around the area and the great characters who kept us amused.

We recall with great pride the sporting festival we organised in 1985 to raise funds for the new pavilion which brought to town a galaxy of sporting stars, including Jimmy Greaves (football), Colin Milburn (cricket), Terry Griffiths (snooker) and Suzanne Dando (gymnastics), raising the princely sum of £8,000.

We also remember with fondness joining forces with entertainer Richard Digance, who lived in Lyme at the time, to stage a week of shows at the Marine Theatre, and sporting events, raising £30,000 for the new health centre following the closure of the hospital.

Richard called on all his showbiz mates to take part and these included such big names as comedians Jim Davis, Hale & Pace, Jethro and singer Elkie Brooks.

Those were heady days for the cricketers of Uplyme and Lyme Regis, which may never return, but it’s heartening to see that Uplyme and Lyme Regis Cricket Club is still full of spirit and ambition. Long may that be the case.

Woodmead Halls

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