Regatta memories from the early 1970s

easter bonnets
Another of my favourite Lyme events is the annual Easter Bonnet parade and this is my favourite picture from this year’s event -Kyle Horn with this impressive headgear, taken by photographer Richard Austin

MY eldest daughter, Zoe, a well organised sort, is home for a few days and decided that I am in great danger of becoming a hoarder as my three score years and ten approaches. So she decided that stuff had to go.

She actually found things I could not remember and I was particularly intrigued to see she had found, tucked away at the back of one of our cupboards, a copy of the 1971 Regatta and Carnival programme.

Regular readers of my columns over the years will be well aware that one of my favourite local organisations is the Regatta and Carnival Committee. That’s because from the age of 19 I was secretary of the regatta for ten years, during which time we built it into one of the biggest events of its kind along the south coast. In those days there was no Lifeboat Week.

I was fortunate to have a committee of burly chaps – and a few less muscly chapesses – who gave up a week’s holiday to stage the numerous events. The role gave me confidence to host public events and led me to be invited the to compere the National Carnival Queen contest at London’s Lyceum Ballroom in Shaftesbury Avenue, which was televised by Thames TV after which I nearly became a Butlins Red Coat. But sanity prevailed I am pleased to say.

The programme was not the sophisticated, well-designed and extensive publication we have become used to in recent years. It was A5 in size printed mainly in mono black with the odd bit of spot colour, produced by Powell & Morris (now the burger joint in Coombe Street). The front page photo by Lyme photographer, the late Gerald Silverloock, was a shot of comedian Tommy Trinder crowning Miss Lyme Regis 1970, Jane Curtis, with Nicola Spiller (nee White) as the Carnival Princess.

The foreword to the programme of events was written by town clerk Harry Williams, my father-in-law at the time, who was also the regatta treasurer. In encouraging the people of Lyme to support the week of events, Harry wrote: “We have endeavoured to provide entertainment for all the family”- and that remains the purpose of the regatta and carnival to this day.

Other officers in 1971 was Alderman Ralph Oliver (president), policeman Ken Meech (chairman), former councillor and mayor Ivor Curtis (vice-chairman) and the committee was 16 strong.

The week costed £1,000 (the equivalent today of £13,700) to stage and some of the events included in the programme which Lyme people will recall with affection:

  • Soap box derby
  • Ladies’ football match
  • Donkey derby
  • Open air disco with Dr Psycho (Douglas Emmett)
  • Round The Houses beer drinking race to all Bass Charrington pubs
  • Carnival Capers fete
  • Ladies’ walking race
  • Illuminated boat and rocket display

I think it was the following year when we succeeded in getting the Red Arrows to appear in Lyme, sadly not to happen this coming summer.

guildhall window
The overhanging window of the Guildhall has been smashed several times by passing large vehicles

How many times will the Guildhall be hit before common sense prevails?

CHURCH Street was closed yet again to traffic last week to enable repairs to be made to the overhanging window at the Guildhall following more damage caused by one of the mammoth lorries that pass unnecessarily through Lyme.

As soon as it was repaired another lorry caused damaged which necessitated an extension to the road closure. At least on these occasions, the repairs were carried out late in the day which prevented a road into town being shut at peak trading times. How many more times do we have to put up with this?

It’s impossible to stop such large vehicles travelling through town, but it’s not acceptable that local shops have to shut whilst the road is closed so often.

One would hope that when that happens – and I’m thinking of the popular café Aroma here – they would get some form of compensation that is covered by the council’s insurance. No matter how many signs are put up saying ‘business open as usual’, there is bound to be a long term effect on trade.

The simple answer, of course, would be to remove the protruding window so that it is flush with the facing Guildhall wall. But the Guildhall is one of Lyme’s oldest buildings and protected by Grade II* listed status. Lyme Regis Town Council has considered this option but has been told that permission will never be granted to carry out such work.

A CCTV camera on the council offices usually identifies the offending vehicle and costs are always recharged so there’s no real burden on council finances. But that’s not really the issue. Nobody wants to see Lyme’s finest buildings desecrated in any way, but the overhanging window is not the most important feature of this marvellous old building.

Surely it would be possible to come up with an acceptable design so that any changes do not have any appreciable effect on the aesthetic qualities of the Guildhall. Conservation officers have an important duty to protect our finest buildings and are uncompromising in their determination to do so, but, you know, sometimes common sense has to take priority. Isn’t this one of those occasions?

nigel ball
Lyme Regis resident Nigel Ball brought a litany of complaints to the last full council meeting

What happens to all complaints raised in council’s public forum?

WHEN I was a councillor back in the day, things were a lot different. There was no public forum in those days, where the public could speak at council meetings.

If a ratepayer had a problem, they would contact a councillor who would try and find a solution. Today, quite rightly there is much more transparency and accountability.

Someone who often uses the public forum at Lyme Regis Town Council meeting is Nigel Ball, a keen follower of local affairs. He always does it politely and is also quick to praise the council when he thinks praise is deserved.

At the last full council meeting Nigel, who many would like to see sit as a councillor, delivered a litany of complaints and alleged inefficiencies that took him nine minutes to cover. He cleverly got over the three-minute restriction by saying he was also talking on behalf of his wife and son, who were present.

Among the issues that Nigel raised were the fiasco over the park and ride, the proliferation of weeds growing in the Cart Road and Cobb Road despite the council employing a lengthsman, the gardeners being taken out of the public gardens at a crucial planting time to repair the Town Mill steps, the new seafront benches not being bolted to the ground, agenda and minutes not being on the council website since November, and the outside staff being told to stay at home during the snow and not helping with snow clearing.

These are all issues that many in the town are commenting upon with staffing levels at the council running at a record level. As always, the councillors listened intently and the Mayor, Cllr Michaela Ellis, said she would make sure the issues are looked into.

But what concerns me about issues brought up in the public forum is what happens after the complaints are made. Do the complainants ever get a letter saying something like “we have looked into your complaint and this is our response”? That’s what happened at other councils I have covered over the years, including Charmouth parish.

I hope Nigel gets the answers he requires, If not, I’m pretty sure he will be back.

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