Damned if you do, damned if you don’t!

carols around the tree
Carols Around the Tree – the popular event was called off for the second year running ahead of Christmas

COVID has a lot to answer for. Just when we thought we were coming out of it and Lyme Regis was slowly getting back to some form of normality, the new Omicron variant does it’s best to spoil yet another Christmas.

Understandably, there was great disappointed in Lyme when one of the town’s most festive and iconic events, Carols Around The Tree, had to be called off at the last moment as the number of COVID-19 cases rocketed.

It was a difficult decision for the organisers, the Rotary Club, and I have great sympathy for the dilemma they faced. In the end they decided to do what the thought best for the town.

It’s very easy to criticise such decisions, not so easy to make them.

Shortly before Christmas the Lyme Regis branch of Cancer Research UK, of which I am chairman, was informed that we had raised £175,000 since being formed in 2008. That’s a huge sum for such a small town and we are hugely grateful to all those who have supported us over the years.

The year 2020 and most of 2021 was a write-off as far as funding was concerned. But we bounced back in the final four months of the years, raising about £4,000.

We had hoped to have added another £1,000 to that amount by organising a Christmas Gatsby-style ball on December 19. Within days of the tickets going on sale we had sold out with 100 tickets going in just a matter of days. In fact we sold all the tickets before the posters arrived from the printers.

We had plans for what we thought would be a real festive occasion – a brilliant band, and superb supper and the best tombola Lyme had seen for some years. Some of our would-be guests told us they had bought Gatsby-style costumes especially for the occasion.

And then Omicron raised its ugly head. In a matter of days the numbers attending the event fell from 100 to less than 40. We had no chance of running the event.

It was the first event we have ever had to cancel at such late notice and certainly the first loss-maker. Fortunately, a number of those who had bought tickets told us to keep the money and we held an online raffle for the tombola prizes which raised an unbelievable £400, helping us to negate the loss on the evening.

Like the Rotarians, we pondered greatly over whether we were making the right decision. Having organised dozens of similar social events over the years, I felt a degree of embarrassment, as well as extreme disappointment, that we were not able to deliver on this occasion.

We have a full programme for 2022, COVID permitting, which should help us pass the £180,000 mark by the end of the year. Meanwhile we wish all those who support Cancer Research UK a happy New Year in the hope that 2020 will be better for us all.

Jubilee a chance to demonstrate our community spirit

I WAS interested to read that Lyme Regis Town Council are pulling out all the stops to ensure that the town celebrates the Queen’s forthcoming Platinum Jubilee in style.

Originally, the council set a budget of £8,000 but increased this to £20,00, having secured an appearance of the BBC Big Band Orchestra who will give a concert on the beach. That’s going to be some event and will attract a huge audience.

I was closely involved in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012, working closely with the then mayor, Sally Holman. We had no budget as such but still managed to put together a programme over four days which was one of the most comprehensive in Dorset.

We managed to cover our costs and not seeking public money at least satisfied those anti-royalists in the town.

One of the most memorable events in 2012 was a parade of all the town’s organisations led by a marching band with two Chelsea Pensioners out in front. I shall never forget the roar of the crowd when the two pensioners, resplendent in the scarlet uniforms, joined in the parade at the Royal Lion Hotel whilst the band played ‘Boys Of The Old Brigade’.

I wish the organisers of the platinum celebrations every success. It will be another chance for Lyme to demonstrate its great community spirit.

An honour so richly deserved

WHEN I was awarded the MBE a couple of years ago and went to Buckingham Palace to collect my medal, I found myself surrounded by recipients all of whom seemed to have achieved such wonderful things.

I was the only one that day receiving the award for services to the community. All the others were military awards, achievements by the captains of industry and many who had worked in the charitable sector having spent a lifetime helping the less fortunate.

Although very proud to be among them, I wondered what I was doing in such exalted company. I was left with similar thoughts when I interviewed Clare Gollop who was award the BEM (British Empire Medal) in the New Year’s Honours.

Clare is the daughter of Ken and Joan Gollop, one of Lyme’s oldest and most respected families. Her Dad is one of the great characters of Lyme, a former fisherman, town councillor and expert on local history.

Clare has chiselled out a career in which she has dedicated her life to helping others who have been subjected to the most awful of crimes. She spent 18 years working in the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary working on some of the most heinous crimes.

Today, she leads the West Midlands Violence Reduction Unit and she was awarded the BEM for services to the victims of slavery and to vulnerable young people.

She’s also part of a rapid response rescue team who deploys to every disaster in the world and in her spare time cooks for the less fortunate.

Spending 20 minutes interviewing Clare for this newspaper, I could not help thinking how mundane my own career has been.

Ken describes her as a “whirlwind”. A credit to our town and her upbringing.

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