Wednesday, 4 March 2015


ROZ Copson moved to Dorset in 1980 and has lived in West Bay for seven years. She continuously campaigns for a better mental health service in the area and helps and those living with a mental health illness through two support groups – Moving On and Harmony Drop-in. Roz previously worked as a radar operator in the Women’s Royal Army Corps and the assistant to the head of security in the Intelligence Corps before working as a prison officer at the a borstal for women. She was also recently named as runner-up in Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s South West Mental Health Hero awards.

COULD you tell us a bit more about what Moving On and the Harmony Drop-in centre offer?
They both offer a much needed place to go to meet others, find support and friendship, and get in touch with activities, groups, courses or community events or advice and signposting.  Moving On, as a registered charity, has also provided facilitators for activities such as swimming, many craft activities and outings. Harmony has only been open for a few weeks, but members have started cooking, art, craft and music activities. The two groups complement each other.

HOW did you work with the centres come about?
I suffer from OCD, a very debilitating psychiatric disorder. I found working incredibly difficult and each time I was offered promotion, I found the responsibility became too much. However, I do need to fill my time and I also want to help fellow sufferers from mental illness as much as I can. A lot of service users don't want to speak out about the hardships and, often, injustice they suffer, and I made up my mind that I would always speak out on their behalf. I was a volunteer at the Dorset Mental Health Forum, which led to founding the forum's Oak Tree social club – something which everyone at the time thought was impossible to achieve.  Since then, I've volunteered at the Moving On group in Bridport, and last year was one of three founders of the new Harmony drop-in centre in Downes Street.

YOU have also campaigned a lot about cuts to mental health services, could you tell us more about this and what you have done?
Mental health has never been funded equally with physical health in Dorset.  The present cuts bear more heavily on the mental health services as beds have been cut and in-patients might be in hospital many, many miles away. The home treatment strategy is under severe pressure because of lack of staff. I joined the HUGS campaign against the bed closures at the Hughes Unit at Bridport Hospital and I brought a judicial review of Dorset Healthcare Trust's lack of proper consultation over the changes. It was hard, and we didn't win, though some strong criticisms of the process were made, but I feel the campaign has really highlighted service users' rights to be consulted. I speak up for this whenever I can, and I've been interviewed on radio, TV and in the press. I must pay tribute to the work done by HUGS leader Simon Williams and so many other service users and carers to get the service they deserve.

WHAT is next to come for the Harmony Drop-in centre? What do you hope it achieves?
We're growing fast! We have more members, meaning we're reaching more people who would otherwise be struggling alone. Hearing members say that they're gaining strength from attending and helping each other, as they do, is part of what we hope for. We want to end the stigma still surrounding mental illness in some people's minds, by showing just what we can achieve.

DO you think the Harmony Drop-in centre and Moving On group have been helpful in the local area?
Definitely yes! For some people it is truly a lifeline. You would never believe how much members and volunteers have taken it to their hearts. For people to be able to help themselves to get on a sound footing, whether with their friends, families, work or learning, must be helpful to everyone in the community. There is such an atmosphere of friendship and optimism. 

WHICH three people would you invite to your dream dinner party? 
The Duchess of Cambridge, because she seems so friendly and unaffected, I'd love to talk to her, the manager of my football team, Spurs, and Judith, who is the owner of Paddy, the Berkshire Search and Rescue dog I sponsor - as long as Paddy comes too.

Luke’s first step to stage stardom

I HAVE commented many times in this column how lucky we are in the Lyme area to have so many talented amateur stage performers.

The quality of shows put on by the local operatic (now Lyme Regis Musical Theatre), Lyme Regis Dramatic Society and the Lyme Regis Pantomime Society,  not to mention those over the Devon border, seem to get better every year. The bar is currently at a very high level - can it go higher?

In years past my favourite performers included Elaine Kendrick (nee Broom) and Elizabeth Broome (nee Searle).  Today I have many favourites, among them the multi-talented Nicky Sweetland, now working for me very successfully as my theatre critic for our London papers, Kelly Apps (nee Street) and the incomparable Brian Rattenbury.

In the panto society Brian’s daughter, Gemma Hatton, always makes me laugh and this year’s principal girl, Melissa Denslow, is going to be another rare find.

So it was brilliant to hear this week that another Street - Luke, son of former town crier Phil and wife Dawn - is about to take his first tentative steps towards stardom - not on the local stage but in the West End.

As reported on our front page, it has just been confirmed that Luke is to appear in the West End revival of Gypsy at the Savoy Theatre, playing alongside three-times Olivier award-winner Imelda Staunton and former Dr Who Peter Davison.

The Streets are a rare breed when it comes to theatrical talent. Luke’s granddad is Billy Street, president of the Pantomime Society and for many years Lyme’s panto dame, a role also taken by his father Phil, and mum Dawn also has an excellent singing voice. It seems that the theatre is in their blood and Phil actually proposed to Dawn on the Marine stage.

The couple now live in France where Phil, much missed in Lyme, works in the aviation industry.

And it doesn’t end there. Luke’s sister, Amy, is hoping to follow in her brother’s footsteps and is currently studying at the Performance Preparation Academy in Guildford where Luke honed his acting and singing skills. What odds on talented Amy also making it to the West End?

I first realised Luke’s talent when he was a finalist in Lyme’s Got Talent which I organised in 2011 and he also demonstrated his all-round ability by starring in a number of productions at the Woodroffe School.

Gypsy opens at the Savoy Theatre on London's Strand on the April 15th for a strictly limited run.  

Nicky Sweetland will be reviewing that show for us - and I have no doubt that there will be more than a sprinkling of Streets in the audience to witness Luke’s tentative steps to theatre stardom.

INTEREST is growing over who - or who will not - be seeking election when the town goes to the poll to choose a new council in May. I know of at least four new candidates who say they intend to seek election,  the names of whom we will publish in due course.

But what people really want to know is which of the existing 14 councillors will stand again. Next week we will try to find out by contacting each councillor asking if they intend to seek re-election.   

It’s doubtful they will all respond... but that’s their prerogative. 

It’s just a bit of fun - oh, yes it is!

THERE’S been some talk about town over the fairness of town councillors being ridiculed at local pantomime performances. Oh, yes there is!

Last week Councillor Mark Gage was the subject of a fairly inoffensive jibe at the Lyme Regis Pantomime’s production of Aladdin.

I don’t know what Mark thought about it (we are not exactly on speaking terms, as you can imagine), but as a seasoned councillor I doubt that he was much troubled. 

But,  as I know full well, having made myself fairly unpopular in certain circles in the town, through this column, over the years, it is often the family of those in public positions that suffer the most. I’m sure Mrs Evans will agree.

This is not a new phenomenom.  Over the years I have been on the receiving end of a number of remarks at pantos I have been covering. 

I’ve always taken it as a bit of fun,  being of the opinion if you dish it out you have to be prepared to take it.  I can also remember getting in deep water some years ago when I was compering the town band’s Christmas concert and said the town council wanted to put on their own Nativity but could not find three wise men.  It went down well with the audience but, oh boy, the councillors were not amused.

I remember one specific occasion when I was given my comeuppance. I was foolish enough to mention in my column that my great pal John Stamp was appearing in the Charmouth panto and went on to comment on his potential acting skills.

When I arrived to cover the panto Jackie and I were ushered into the front row. Jackie immediately smelt a rat, saying ”‘You’re going to be stitched up here”.

She was right. I was dragged up onto the stage and dressed and made up as a woman, much to the delight of the audience, especially when John Stamp poked his head around the curtain and said: “Every dog has his day!”

Since that time I always make sure I sit towards the back of every panto I attend so I can make a quick exit when they are looking for gullible souls to be embarrassed up on stage.

But as I say, if you dish it out...

Out for the count...

I RECENTLY flagged up the rise of phonetic spelling, but it seems that everyone in Weymouth and Portland would do better concentrating on mathematics.

And the best aid to help children with their sums isn’t a calculator and it isn’t an abacus... it’s chocolate.

You can batter maths into youngsters until they are sick of the sight of it, yet many times it doesn’t stick. Substitute chocolate and young calculating minds become as sharp as razors.

This is probably just as well because I recently saw some chocolate being sold by an outlet which either couldn’t do maths to save its life or was banking on its customers being too backward to make the right choice.

I’ll try you all out now and see how you do.

Which would you rather buy? Two chocolate bars of 200gms for £3 or two bars of 400gms for £7.20?

Worked it out yet? Well if you haven’t then just stand a child in front of the two sets of chocolate bars and get them to choose. Chances are they’ll get it right... and eat the chocolate.

The sobering thought is that this scenario isn’t taking place as a game and it isn’t taking place in a classroom. It’s taking place in real life, right now, out on the High Street.

The answer to my question is that you get more for your money buying two 200gm bars for £3 than you do buying two 400gm bars for £7.20, yet the shop in question either hasn’t noticed, doesn’t care or is raking in enough money from customers who can’t count not to worry about those who can.

So here’s the real question: if I’ve found this example of a ‘bargain’, how many more have I missed? 

So be wary, brush up your maths and keep your wits about you before going shopping in Dorset.

Don’t let carnival fade to a sepia postcard memory

REMEMBER when Weymouth Carnival had more than a hundred motorised floats and seemed to stretch for miles?

Well, those days are gone, and carnival itself may be gone soon too unless there is a substantial community reaction to help save it.

The harsh modern reality is that organisers have swapped wondering how they can fit everything in to having nightmares about being sued for compensation over breaching organisation or safety rules.

The focus seems to have gone away from the joy of the event and switched more to its red tape no matter how necessary some of it may be.

For instance, you might think cheering crowds are a big plus but they are also a big headache in these days of litigation because organisers must now ensure not just that crowd stewards are provided but that they have been properly trained as well.

As I said, modern demands seem to have sucked a bit of life from carnival through no fault of the organisers who now have to fight on so many different fronts to put on such an event that it is no wonder they have warned that carnival may soon be consigned to history.

It only just broke even in 2014 and needs £10,000 pretty much now and at least another £25,000 on top of that actually to stage the 2015 event or carnival just won’t happen.

Some have said that there is always a carnival crisis somewhere along the line and that it takes such a cry for help to coax the community into action, but I think it is a bit more than that this year.

There is an old saying: ‘Use it or lose it’, and I genuinely think that, without major community input plus substantial organisation and funding changes, Weymouth’s giant snake of floats may be consigned to old postcards and yellowing newspaper reports.

Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should

FANCY your taxi or bus to Weymouth town centre collecting you without a driver?

Or how about your pub pint being served you via an intercom with a tap or the prospect of being measured for that new suit by an electronic eye with nary a human being in sight?

Well that scenario is not as far-fetched as it might seem because business leaders are predicting that half of all jobs will be taken over by machines by the year 2035.

I’ll be in what is laughingly called my “twilight years” by then and I certainly don’t fancy the prospect of my bedpan being changed by a robot nurse called Vernon.

More worryingly is that, if there is a grain of truth in this machines prediction then you have to ask where a constantly growing population is going to find work with more people and fewer jobs.

Yeah, but it just won’t happen, I hear you say... but think on this.

Barely a century ago we were still only just getting to grips with flight. It is only 46 years since man first stepped on the moon and it is only 34 years since the first laptop computer appeared weighing 23.6lbs (10.7kg).

So I wouldn’t be too dismissive about what mechanical advances might have appeared in Weymouth and Portland in 20 years time.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Hail the Grizzly mad-caps!

WHEN  I first came back from London to edit Pulman’s Weekly News, I thought that anyone who took part in the Grizzly had to be mad. 

Nothing much has changed my mind since having seen the look of sheer agony on the faces of many of the runners as they cross the finishing line on Seaton seafront.

Those who finish the gruelling multi-terrain course, one of the toughest in Europe, certainly deserve that coveted T-shirt they get for completing the race.

But the Grizzy is much more than just a race for mad-cap athletes - it’s grown and developed into one of Seaton’s most significant and successful crowd-pullers.

The organisers, the Axe Valley Runners, do a superb job in organising the race and in recent years the town has made a real effort to turn the Grizzly Weekend into a real tourist attraction.

This past weekend was no exception. The race was as successful as ever, attracting runners from all over Europe, and the Saturday events programme added greatly to the overall atmosphere, enhancing Seaton’s increasing reputation as a town which is definitely on the up.

Unfortunately, I was unable to see the race this year but my intrepid reporters, Anders Larsson and Jack Dixon, reported back that the weekend was an unqualified success.

And next year they have promised me they will be running the Grizzly after I promised to give them Christmas Day off!

STRANGE how sometimes life takes a dramatic turn. There was I contemplating retirement and what I would do when I relinquish the editor’s chair when suddenly I find myself launching four new newspapers for our parent company in London.

It was Samuel Johnson who said “if you’re tired of London, you’re tired of life”.  I certainly concur with that. Having worked in the capital for several years, I have always found the media scene in London exhilarating. Nothing’s changed. Last week I returned home after a day in Ladbroke Grove to hear on the news that is where “Jihadi John” was brought up.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Utter motorcycle madness

MUCH has been made about the need for vehicle drivers to be more aware of motorcyclists to try and help reduce the annual loss of rider lives.

There are police campaigns, council campaigns, driver campaigns and even campaigns by motorcyclists  and cyclists themselves, but there is an old saying: ‘You can’t help those who won’t help themselves’.

An entire queue of lorry and car drivers – myself included – was recently left in total disbelief at the antics of one motorcyclist who was correctly dressed and riding a decent machine, so not some ton-up nutter riding a death trap.

We were all on a section of road in Weymouth where the motorcyclist decided to work his way up the queue.

My first indication of his presence was when he shot past me and then the car in front of me before being baulked by a large van.

Nothing daunted, he had a quick look past, pulled out and began to overtake... only to realise just why so many motorcyclists do die. They seem to assume that other people are watching out for them and they forget to watch out for themselves.

The moment he pulled level with the van his eyeballs must have stood out like organ stops because there smack in front of him was a central reservation pedestrian crossing point with waist-high beacons at either end.

He had nowhere to go, presumably thought it too late to brake and resorted to saving himself by risking even more lives.

In the blink of an eye he simply widened his overtaking manoeuvre and swerved round the crossing on the wrong side of the road, accelerating past the van before diving back in front of the van when he got past the crossing.

All this was in the face of oncoming traffic which was mercifully just far enough away not to have their day splattered by this Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse.

You do see really bad driving from time to time but this was so bad we were still all talking about it several hours later.

Maybe the next time I see a ‘Think Bike’ reminder I might be encouraged to start a ‘Think of Car Drivers’ Nerves’ counter campaign. 

Not April 1st yet is it?

CHANGES are to be made to the way Dorset Waste Partnership collects rubbish across Weymouth and Portland because of all the complaints it has received.

All householders must now haul their bins for several miles to two central collecting points, one being New Ground in Portland and the other, a little used park-and-ride site for Weymouth.

A convoy of rubbish lorries will then come each day to collect everything for disposal and recycling accompanied by a police escort to protect operatives from confused residents, difficult questions, the occasional lynch mob... that sort of thing.

Such a streamlining of the service is not without cost and the partnership is expected to announce a budget overspend of £74 million for 2016.

The sharp rise in costs is being blamed on having to buy a new fleet of rubbish lorries to replace the current fleet bought from Sid’s Honest Automobile and Flytipping (Trade Endorsed) Depot – or SHAFTED for short – which the partnership later discovered had been supplied without brakes. Compensation claims are still coming in.

There is also the question of exactly what is or is not rubbish, criteria that the partnership is now strictly enforcing. For instance, yoghurt pots are in but yoghurt pot tops are out... really!

Naturally residents are somewhat less than impressed by the whole sorry story.

Small wonder, then, that a review being carried out into the partnership is demanding not unreasonably that the new system work at least as well as the old one.

That did very nicely thank you but going back to that system is wheelie too much to hope for... isn’t it?

Toss of a coin voting

BARELY ten weeks to go now to the general election and it remains difficult to spot a winner as all the political donkeys bunch for a photo finish.

Labour is promising a return to the good times, the Conservatives think we’re still in the good times, the Liberal Democrats can’t remember the good times and UKIP is actually having a good time. As for the Greens? Well, the grass is always greener on the other side.

You know events are getting close to polling day when, for the first time, the number of political leaflets shoved through your letterbox exceeds the number of plastic charity bags.

With the focus on our vote, I hope you all received your brown envelope from the council confirming who in your household is entitled to vote. If your name is not ‘on ze list’ then you can’t vote. Yeah, I’ve asked for mine to be taken off too!

All joking aside, it is a sad fact of life that those who carefully listen to all the arguments, make up their mind and vote accordingly are vastly outweighed by two groups; those who were only ever going to vote one way and those who make up their mind as they walk into the polling booth.

Good luck and don’t forget to take a coin along to toss in case you are still undecided on the day.

What sort of council do you want?

"I believe this conflict has significantly damaged the town council’s reputation within the town and, to a lesser extent, with those external organisations we work with, and has had an adverse effect on member-officer relationship."

THESE are not my words, though you may have think I had written them.

They are the words of town clerk John Wright. The “conflict” he refers to is the war of words between councillors that has blighted this council’s reputation in the past couple of years.

The town clerk went further. He also said: “Those attending the annual town meeting will recall the high turnout, the low standing the town council had with those who attended and repeated claims the town council was bringing the town into disrepute.”

These statements were included in a report Mr Wright presented to the council last week on the authority’ risk management policy.

Mr Wright concluded that the conflict between councillors represented a “high risk”.
It was the second time that the town clerk had seen it necessary to warn councillors about their behaviour.

Mr Wright made this statement on returning to the council chamber after suffering a heart attack.

Those who attended last year’s annual town meeting are unlikely to forget. It was a bad night for Lyme Regis with emotions and tempers (including my own) running high.
There were calls for Mayor Sally Holman, elected to office on her own casting vote, to stand down. It was a shameful night.

It was the perfect occasion for the council to apologise to the people of Lyme for their behaviour and to state categorically that the conflict referred to by Mr Wright would end there and now.

No such apology came. In its place we had report after report of how well the town was being run, with senior councillor Mark Gage blaming all the council’s woes on “sensational” reporting in this newspaper.

He said he did not recognise the council through the columns of the View from Lyme Regis.  He has maintained that opinion throughout this year and will no doubt reiterate it when the next annual town meeting is held on April 10th.

I don’t see eye-to-eye with the town clerk on some issues. But I admire and applaud him for having the guts to express his views so strongly in the public arena.

Having recovered from his heart condition, you might well have thought he didn’t really want any additional stress. It would have been easy to put it to one side

We believe his comments exonerate this newspaper from the allegations made against us. 

We believe it is a total vindication.

We know our views are supported by  a number of town councillors who are not considered part of Mark Gage’s fan club. And we have significant support among our readers.

We also know that there are some of you out there who think that our robust coverage of council affairs has started to make some people feel sorry for Mr Gage and his cohorts to such an extent that they may vote for them again - if they stand. 

What is surprising, astonishing in fact, is that neither of the two senior members of the council, Mayor Sally Holman nor Councillor Gage, chairman of the powerful Strategy & Policy Committee, made any comment about the town clerk’s remarks.

In fact, they were totally ignored and all we got was a litany of the good work the council has been doing and how well the town is run.

What the mayor or Councillor Gage should have said at last week’s meeting was something on these lines: “We are quite sure the council members have taken on board what the town clerk has said and that he will never be put in that position again by the behaviour of councillors.”

They could then have added: “But it has not been all bad news. Here are some of the good things we have achieved this year ...”

The mayor was even quoted as saying: “This council is doing tremendously well.”

Well, I am sorry but I don’t buy into that. I’ve been around local government for a long time and I can’t recall a town clerk having to reprimand his councillors in such a manner twice! Not in this town, or indeed in any town that we cover or I have reported on over the years. 

In Councillor Gage’s glowing end-of- term report last week he refers to the great improvements the council has made in financial control. Er, what about a salary being paid into the wrong account, to someone who had not worked for the council for several years? 

And £10,000 being made in error or by mistake (whichever) to The Hub?

I’m not saying everything the council does is wrong,  far from it. And most of our coverage, at least 80 per cent, is about the day-to-day decision making, recorded accurately and more extensively than any other newspaper. If you don’t believe us, go onto our website and have a look at our archive.

Behaviour has been much improved in recent weeks and Mr Wright’s comments refer to the conflicts that have seemingly died down. But don’t think it’s all sweetness and light. There’s a continuing distrust between the council factions. 

Last week there was a snide remark about how much county councillor  Daryl Turner is paid now that he has a county chairmanship (which angered his sister, town councillor Cheryl Reynolds) and whenever veteran Stan Williams gets up to speak, a man who has served this town for more than 40 years,  an achievement which will never be equalled, certainly by the current crew, he is appallingly treated with tuts and groans and little respect from certain quarters. 

In a few weeks time, the residents of Lyme will be going to the polls. I don’t know how many will be putting their names forward - some say as many as 18. I will be surprised if that is the case.

This town must decide what sort of council it wants - one which will engage in robust but respectful argument and debate, or one which will force the town clerk to issue more reprimands because members are bringing the town and council into disrepute.


WEYMOUTH Cricket Club chairman John Ryan was born in Weymouth, went to Portland Secondary Modern School and worked as a chef at Slingers restaurant before doing 11 years in Portland Dockyard as a caterer for Royal Marine Auxiliary Service ships. He was then assistant manager at Weymouth and Portland Snooker Club for seven years before winding up as a finance officer with Dorset County Council.

WHY do you live in Weymouth? 
Because I love being beside the sea and I go swimming a lot. Living on The Esplanade you have to!

WHERE do you go for your holidays? 
Funnily enough, I tend to go inland for my holidays, usually to London for sporting events. If I want some sun I go to Tenerife.

WHAT is your favourite time of the year? 
Summer because of the cricket. I love the sport and always have.

WHAT is your favourite film? 
Well, science fiction in general and Star Wars in particular because it just made such an impression on me when I saw it as a teenager.

WHAT is the scariest thing that has ever happened to you? 
I was in a hot rod car getting a lift back in Florida from Coco Beach to Orlando. We were doing 150mph down a freeway when hot oil began to leak on to my back, but I was too frightened to tell the hillbilly who was driving. No seat belts!

IF YOU could live your life again what would you be? 
I would love to have been a professional golfer. I played golf a bit when I was younger but never took it further.

WHICH three people would you invite to your dream dinner party? 
Kim Cattrall the actress because she’s a Liverpool fan and so am I, Muhammad Ali because he was an icon when I was younger and because he has fought adversity and still does. Lastly I’d invite Gordon Greenidge, the West Indian Test batsman, because I used to go and watch Hampshire and he was the one who made me interested in the sport.