Will this really be the last GOTB?

COME RAIN COME SHINE: Geoff Baker looking sodden but happy at the 2016 GOTB when the skies opened

SO this year will be the last Guitars On The Beach? So disappointed and affronted that the town council failed to support them financially this year, the organisers decided that was it – GOTB would “go out with a bang” this summer. No more rockin’ on the beach.

Cue fury on Facebook. As expected, GOTB founder Geoff Baker, PR supremo who has fought and won many a battle with authority, didn’t hold back in his condemnation of the council after returning home form the Guildhall after the decision was made.

In a subsequent press release he inferred that councillors were, in fact, saying that GOTB, an event which attracts thousands to the town and in its eighth year, was “not worthy” of the council’s support.

He took up the battle also for those smaller organisations, like the majorettes, who too were disappointed not to receive a grant and who might not be able to fight back with the same vim and vigour. Geoff is never slow to defend the underdog.

The town council decided not to reply to Geoff’s accusations and issued a brief statement to say they were sorry that this year’s would be the last Guitars On The Beach and thanked them for their past efforts.

Wise move not to take on Geoff is a social media row when his dander is up. Geoff is a complex character – loyal to the core and fiercely protective of all he holds dear.

But I can see a silver lining to this unfortunate situation which could bring an end to an event which has brought thousands to the town. In their application, GOTB said the cost of staging the event was £6,500 and they were asking for a grant of £6,000 because it had become increasingly difficult to find sponsorship.

Last year the council gave GOTB £3,000 but this year they changed the method of selecting worthy causes, looking to support long term capital projects with a separate £20,000 pot to support the running costs of smaller groups.

After he got his frustration off his chest, Geoff and his team of organisers decided to pull out all the stops to raise the money to ensure the last ever GOTB was the best ever.

They launched a crowdfunding site with a target of £2,000, which has already been raised, and decided to double their efforts to get more support from the town. Geoff even stood outside Tesco selling GOTB memorabilia to bring in a few bob.

And they also put out an appeal for local shops and firms to donate an item for a grand draw which, as it nearly always does in Lyme, received fantastic support.

Geoff, his faith restored in his hometown, was bowled over by the response and waxed lyrical on Facebook about the support from traders.

I don’t know how much has been raised so far for this summer’s GOTB, but I’m pretty sure in the end they will collect enough to make it an event to remember. And I believe there will be greater satisfaction in raising the money by their own efforts and not relying on support from the council.

In last month’s column I wrote about the difficulty always experienced in the council’s grant procedure. No one doubts their generosity – £80,000 was sanctioned this year, a reduction of £50,000 on previous years but still more than any other town council around these parts gives.

But the unpalatable fact is that Lyme organisations cannot rely on these hand-outs for much longer with the council facing some extreme expenditure on major projects in the near future.

In events that I’m involved in I try not to depend on financial support from the council. Back in 2012 my daughter and I, with the backing of the mayor at that time, Sally Holman, and the Woodmead Halls, organised the weekend of events to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. It was the most comprehensive programme of events in Dorset and we did it without asking for a penny of council money.

I am waiting with bated breath to hear whether we may have secured a visit from the Red Arrows again this year. We should know any day now. If we are successful, we will have to raise around £13,000 but I will not be going cap in hand to the council. We will raise that amount somehow.

I do think it will be a great shame if GOTB sticks to its genuine intention of calling it a day. I have to say that music does not play a big part in my life, despite the fact I grew up in the golden age of pop. I’m more of a Big Band man with a bit of swing thrown in. But I recognise that for many people, music is their life.

Guitars On The Beach is a fabulous event, one opportunity for music fans to let their hair down and have a good time in the sunshine (well sometimes). So here’s my prediction: the organisers will raise the money they need; the eighth GOTB will be another resounding success; the musicians will play out of their skins as always and enjoy themselves; there will be hundreds strumming their guitars and dancing on the beach; and the pubs in the Cobb area will be overflowing.

In fact, it will be so popular that there will be an immediate call for a repeat performance in 2021. If that happens will the GOTB team be able to say no?

Lyme on the airwaves 24/7

CONGRATULATIONS to all those who have been connected with the launch of Lyme Bay Radio – a huge achievement for Lyme Regis Development Trust to get it up and running seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

I’ve had a good deal to do with local radio over the years. I was a regular contributor to Devon Air back in the 1970s and I’ve sat on a number of consortiums bidding for radio stations as well as doing a stint on hospital radio in Exeter. It’s a wonderful medium.

In more recent years, I did an interview every Friday evening in the back bar of the Royal Lion for Lyme Regis Radio, an internet station set up by the late Gordon Smith, known affectionately as Nomad.

We did try a couple of live Sunday morning shows but to be honest they were a disaster, especially as I was 20 minutes into interviewing the then mayor, Barbara Austin MBE, about her childhood days in Lyme before Nomad switched on the ON button!

It is obvious that Lyme Bay Radio, with its own studio located in The Hub, is going to be much more professional, being led by Simon and Tracey West who both have a great deal of experience in local radio.

Simon is Lyme Bay Radio’s station manager with Chris Tipping, chief executive officer of the development trust, taking the role of programme controller.

Simon, Tracey and Chris are hosting the daily breakfast show and Simon and Tracey are currently fronting a number of other programmes. There will also be regular news casts covering the whole of Lyme Bay with content from other news outlets, including LymeOnline, as well as a national bulletin.

When their own shows are not being broadcast, they use an automatic system to play music to suit all tastes, which keeps the station on air for 24/7.

They are also training up a number of volunteers who will be presenting their own shows. This all adds up to a huge voluntary commitment.

The project has been financed by a Lottery grant and contributions from the Rotary Club of Lyme Regis, the Regatta & Carnival Committee and Palmers Brewery.

I understand that the initial listening figures have been encouraging and I wish this new and ambitious venture every success. You can listen to Lyme’s very own radio station by clicking onto www.lymebayradio.com

Talking of new ventures, I’m delighted with the response to LymeOnline’s new initiative, a weekly news bulletin on Friday mornings, presented by editor Francesca Evans, launched as part of our second anniversary celebrations.

It’s essential viewing for those who want to hear about all the big Lyme stories before this paper hits the streets.

Pride in our brave lifeboat crew

IT was difficult watching ‘Saving Lives At Sea’ featuring the Lyme Regis lifeboat crew without an overriding feeling of pride and emotion.

The rescue of two young boys who were swept out to sea by the dangerous currents from Axmouth harbour was filmed on the helmets of crew members Tim Edwards, Murray Saunders, Nikky Williams and Andy Butterfield. It made dramatic viewing.

In seaside resorts we tend to take the lifeboat for granted but we should never forget or underestimate the bravery of those who save lives at sea, those that risk their own lives to rescue others.

There is no doubt that those two young swimmers were in mortal danger and close to the end of their tether. They were clearly exhausted but were sensible enough to cling together.

But what came over strongly was how professional and understanding the crew members were of their predicament. And how they immediately put their minds at rest as they summoned the coastguard helicopter to get them urgent medical attention, as they had been in the water so long.

We should never forget also that this is a voluntary service.

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