Tuesday, 26 January 2010

VIEW PROFILE: Martin Young

Martin’s sitting spiritually

AFTER being diagnosed with a life changing illness, MARTIN YOUNG from Uplyme, had to change not only his lifestyle but his career too. Fortunately this lead him to forming a successful business making garden seats, which have become hugely popular. Here he tells his story to View reporter TOM GLOVER.

“It’s like swimming, you might need it one day,” was the advice Martin Young’s father gave him whilst he contemplated a carpentry apprenticeship back in 1963.

Martin had wanted to pursue his love of drama but a quick talking to from a careers advisor, seconded by his father, soon changed those plans.

“Its quite funny because I wasn’t that good at woodwork at school but I was very good at drama ironically,” Martin recalled.

“I went to a school where it was made clear to you from the first year that you would go on and do an apprenticeship. You are sort of conditioned into that work ethic right through the four years of secondary school.”

Martin heeded the advice of his father but after completing his five-year apprenticeship he left carpentry behind and went onto pursue a career in sales.

Staying in the construction industry Martin negotiated contracts for builders merchants, spending many years at Bradford’s before finishing his career with the Ready Mixed Concrete Group.

Having climbed the ranks for over 30 years Martin found himself in a national role which saw him travelling the country, covering 40,000 miles a year and spending half his week in hotel rooms.

However, a life changing diagnosis in 2004 caused him to re-evaluate his lifestyle and it was to mark the start for his business Sitting Spiritually.

Martin was diagnosed with a condition called “Syndrome X”, a combination of obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

“A real recipe for a early heart condition,” said Martin.

He finished work and began to concentrate on his gardening, which had become his passion after moving to Uplyme in 1998.

The therapeutic and active hobby proved to be the perfect tonic for Martin’s condition. He perfected his garden with the help of local Landscape Architect Ed Brooks and decided to apply to the National Garden Scheme.

He was disappointed to have his garden refused – the problem being a lack of seating. Martin had always harboured a hankering for a swing seat, stemming from memories of American films, so decided that he would try to add one to his garden.

“I found hundreds of swing seats but they were hideous. They didn’t meet my expectations at all,” he said.

“I sent for some plans from America and I made my first seat which still sits in my garden today and that was the start of the whole thing really. Sitting Spiritually was born.”

Martin’s new lifestyle was the inspiration for his company’s name.

“The name fitted nicely with what I was trying to do with my life,” he said. “ I had become interested in meditation and Feng Shui as part of my new lifestyle. We bought the domain name and launched the website in 2004 and maybe half a dozen people bought swing seats and then it started.”

With sales increasing year on year Martin applied to the Chelsea Flower Show. Having had no response he resigned himself to missing out on the show until one day, a month before the show, he was phoned out of the blue and asked to fill a spot left by a cancellation.

He said: “They said we know all about you and we have looked at your website so would you like to come and exhibit.

“Because they had a cancellation they approached me in a much shorter time frame because you are normally told in January and you have five months of planning but we had about three weeks.”

Martin made his first trip to Chelsea in 2008 and admits that this was the turning point that saw his business go national.

He said: “Numbers grew and then I started to involve quite a few local business to help me because I couldn’t do it all myself.

“A chap called Nick Shannon, who is a furniture maker, helped me out, Ed Brooks from Wootton Fitzpaine started to help me make the frames, I started buying my timber from Guy Ewert who runs Eype Down Sawmill; Absolute Industrial in Axminster supply me with my stainless steel, Matt Harvey from Bridport welds all the chains and Siobhan Lancaster from Hawkchurch is my PA.

“I have started to build quite a network of local people so as the business has grown the money has been kept circulating in East Devon and West Dorset.”

The business has grown ever since and a turn of good fortune in May 2009 gave Martin better exposure than he had ever imagined.

He said: “There was a big national article about us in the Daily Telegraph on Saturday, May 16th which was the big selling edition when the MPs expenses scandal broke. That was the Saturday before the flower show in 2009. We had a phenomenal Chelsea flower show in 2009 and we have been developing ever since.”

Martin may have been advised against his acting aspirations but he still gets his fair share of attention. He admits he likes the attention he receives on the celebs day at Chelsea and he did get his big TV debut when his garden featured on a television program hosted by BBC Gardener’s World presenter Carol Klein.

The lack of quality Martin found that day he went in search for a swing seat was what gave him the idea for his business. This is not something he has let slip since either. Quality, sustainable garden furniture is still Martin’s key focus and what sets him apart from the rest.

Martin’s life changing visit to the doctors in 2004 gave him the confidence to push on with long harboured ambitions. It may have taking over 30 years for his father’s words of advice to come to fruition but it is not something he regrets.

“When I was diagnosed it gave me the confidence to try these things,” he said.

“I had to change my diet, I had to lose weight and I had to do a lot of things and it all sort of fitted. Instead of driving up and down motorways I am in a workshop, I’m working physically in the garden.

“I just think it came at the right time I really do. I wouldn’t have had the passion I have for it now perhaps 20 or 30 years ago. I was very happy doing what I was doing but it was the logistics involved with the travel that was affecting my health. I absolutely loved doing it so I think it came at just the right time.”

Martin is approaching retirement age now but his work is his passion and it’s not something he intends to give up in the near future.

“I have every intention of carrying this business on as long as I physically can,” he said.

“I have no dreams of retirement or things like that. When Sunday evenings came along I used to think here we go, tomorrow morning I’ve got to drive here and do that. Now weekends, weekdays and bank holidays all sort of merge into one. I don’t see it as a chore at all, I find it very exhilarating.”

Inevitably Martin will have to put down his chisel and hang up his hammer but he doesn’t see this as the end for Sitting Spiritually.

He said: “The future is to develop to a point where somebody. I don’t know who that might be, within the family carries on the tradition.

“My main designer is my daughter Lucy. She is always coming up with ideas and is quite interested, I have son Gary who helps when things get really busy. It might be my grandson Scott, he is quite interested. Scott comes into the workshop and certain little jobs he likes doing like knocking all the plugs in.

“I don’t know who it will be, we are all really involved in it.”


60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Meeri Wallace

MERRI Wallace was born in Helsinki, Finland and moved to England in 1977 where she grew up on farms and small-holdings in Norfolk villages.

After leaving school Meeri moved to Swindon for a year and worked as an office clerk for a broadcasting company, then went to London to study until she had enough qualifications to go to Plymouth University where got a degree in psychology.

She lives in Hawkchurch with her partner Paul and two young daughters.

Meeri spends her days supporting Paul in running their electrical and security business and volunteering for the local branch of the National Childbirth Trust and Bumps and Babies group in Bridport.

WHAT is the National Childbirth Trust and what do they do?

The NCT has two sides. On the one hand they undertake research into maternity issues and campaign for better maternity services. At a local level they provide support, advice, information and services relating to pregnancy, childbirth and early parenthood.

WHAT is Bumps and Babies all about?
Bumps and Babies is the local face of the NCT, which are local drop-sessions run by local parents, where parents-to-be and new parents can meet up to seek the information/advice they need, make friends and get themselves out of the house with their babies. Occasionally, we have guest speakers. Some mums come along for a coffee and chat, but some mums come along to get specific support for a variety of difficulties they may be experiencing.

WHAT would you say to anyone considering going along to one of your groups and who would you recommend it to?

At Bumps and Babies you can meet lots of other mums in the same boat, exchange experiences, find out tricks and tips on feeding, weaning, sleeping matters. And talk through personal and relationship changes too. I would recommend Bumps and Babies to any new parent. The friends I made five-years-ago are still my friends today. I’ve met lots of lovely people and I hope I’ve been able to give something back.

BUMPS and Babies in Bridport was facing closure – how are things now?

The branch was facing closure after almost 25 years, but thanks to View From and an all-out plea we had a hugely successful AGM. We have a full house on the committee and lots of new mums hosting the drop-in sessions. Fundraising, social events, workshops and ante-natal classes are back in the calendar. We’ve also had to move premises, but have now found a lovely venue at St John’s Ambulance Hall on Rax Lane in Bridport.

WHY do you think it is important to have groups like Bumps and Babies?

Groups like Bumps and Babies give incentives to get out of the house, get some fresh air, engage in social activities for both parent and child. Becoming a new mum is probably the most intense life-changing event that we go through and it does change who we are. Some parents will find this a relatively easy transition, but some parents might lose a bit of confidence somewhere along the way and attending any social group can help you find your stride again.

WHAT were you like as a child?

A bit of a handful I think! I was always very lucky to be close to my mother and being the youngest in the family I suspect I was spoilt rotten. I remember being quite independent and confident and I’m prepared to accept that I was probably hard-work. I remember I got bored a lot and needed constant mental stimulation.

WHAT'S your earliest childhood memory?

Skiing. The winter just after my second birthday. I was following my sister out of the drive way in Finland and I can still remember looking down at my feet getting into the rhythm. In Finland, snow is a fact of life and children learn to ski very young.

IF YOU could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

I’ve been lucky enough to have travelled a lot and Hawkchurch is where I want to be right now. I’ve never been to New Zealand, but it looks like a wonderful place to be with lots of space. Hawaii might be nice for a while. It’d be fun to watch the kids on beach all day surfing.

WHAT would you cook if you were on TV’s Come Dine With Me?

I love the idea of entertaining guests with a full on stylish dinner party. But it’ll never happen, the pressure of getting it right would be too much. Perhaps I’d go Finnish and cook up a traditional meal of reindeer and bear stew!

AND who would be your three dream dinner guests and why?

I would invite the Dalai Lama. I saw him doing a talk in London about 15-years-ago and he had such a lovely sense of humour, along with his incredible teachings. I’d also like to invite Goran Visjnic, who played Dr Luca Kovac in the American drama series ER. My final dinner guest would be the comdian Michael McIntyre. His observations on day to day human behaviour are spot on and utterly hilarious.


LYME MATTERS with Philip Evans

First of the big election hitters

YOU know there’s an election just around the corner when the political parties trot out the Big Hitters.

There was one in town on Friday - Nick Harvey, the Lib Dem’s Shadow defence spokesman. He was accompanied by Dr Sue Farrant, the Lib Dem’s Prospective Parliamentary candidate for West Dorset. They visited the Woodroffe School in the afternoon to speak to sixth formers and then attended a dinner at the Woodmead Halls in the evening.

In between, I was given an hour or so to fire a few questions at the MP for North Devon, a constituency not too dissimilar to our own with low wages and high property prices.

I have interviewed many politicians over the years, the first one ironically being Jeremy Thorpe who once held North Devon for the Liberals before his fall from grace in the Norman Scott affair.

Last year was a bad one for politicians with the expenses scandal having caused more MPs to quit parliament than did in 1945 after the war.

Nick Harvey came through the expenses scandal relatively unscathed (claiming for hanging baskets and Sky TV being his major indiscretions) and he’s much respected by the Libs Dems, having held a number of shadow portfolios before taking on defence in 2006, a role he describes as the “most challenging and interesting” in his political career.

He’s also well respected among the political commentators. “Cerebral and sane” wrote Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian. “Clever, inscrutable and deep” was how The Times sketchwriter, former Tory MP Matthew Parris described him. “Shrewdly sensible” was Andrew Roth’s assessment.

Before interviewing Nick, I sat in on a session he had with Woodroffe sixth formers and they certainly gave him a good grilling. Both Nick and Sue were impressed by their political awareness and bravado in asking the awkward question.

I had a long chat with him about the issues particularly relevant to the West Country, one of them being his concern over the future of the search and rescue helicopter services at Chivenor in his constuituency and also at Portland.

There are plans to bring in commercial contractors in 2012 with a cut in operational hours. This is a subject which should concern the electors of West Dorset as much as it does in North Devon as Culdrose at the far end of Cornwall could end up as our nearest rescue operation for part of the day.

We went on to talk about defence issues, Iraq and Afghanistan, the pain which the next Government will inevitably inflict upon us to get us out of this currrent financial mess - and, of course, the coming general election.

They are gearing up for a May 6th election and believe that West Dorset, where Oliver Letwin has a 2,000 majority, is a winable seat.

“I certainly would not be here today if I did not think we could win it,” admitted Nick. Having served in the Armed Services for five years, Sue Farrant was delighted to bring her party’s Defence expert to the constituency.

A few more Big Hitters are likely to follow in the coming weeks as we endure a marathon run-in to May 6th.

Grahame's made his mark

NEW harbourmaster Grahame Forshaw has certainly made his mark since taking over the job at the end of last summer. He has introdued a number of improvements, including a pontoon which proved to be extremely popular and well used and increasing the number of moorings.

There’s also been a general tidy up around the Cobb and Graham has quickly won the respect of the harbour users.

Mr Forshaw was given the opportunity to outline what has been achieved during the past year and what he wants to do in the future when he was invited to speak at the town council’s Community Plan Implementation Committee.

This is the committee which monitors the progress of Lyme Forward, the blueprint for Lyme for the coming years, to ensure that the town council and Lyme Regis Development Trust are singing from the same hymn book.

At least, I think that’s what its all about but there’s always been some slight confusion over the exact role and purpose of the committee. It started life as a working group but became a committee in its own right, presumably so that it carried a bit more clout.

Some councillors are very sceptical about the CPIC and on occasions show very little interest in what is being said, especially when representatives of outside bodies are invited to speak.

I thought Mr Forshaw’s presentation was excellent - concise, precise, professional and honest. It cleared up a number of points over which there has been some discussion in the town and councillors were left feeling, I hope, that the harbour is in very good hands indeed.

I also liked the way he involved assistant harbour master Mike Higgs in his deliberations and he ended up telling the committee they had the best interests of the harbour at heart and that was good for Lyme.

I’m not sure whether this committee has a future. Without a more enthusiastic approach from councillors one wonders whether it has become just another pointless talking shop?

Eyebrows raised about town clerk's deputy

THERE were a few raised eyebrows in Lyme when the town council announced the appointment of a new deputy town clerk.

“Does a town the size of Lyme need a town clerk and deputy?” was the question being asked.

The new role was created after a thorough review of the council’s staffing structure which coincided with the retirement of the works manager. So there was no increase in staff numbers.
The post was duly advertised and attracted a good calibre of candidate, I am told. Simon Ratcliff, married to a local girl, the former Sam Norris, worked at the Woodroffe School’s St Andrew’s boarding establishment in the late 1980s and took up his new duties at the beginning of the month.

I had the opportunity of interviewing Simon last week and I think he will quickly prove that his role will genuinely play an important part in the the challenging times that Lyme council face in the coming years.

With such strong family ties with Lyme, Simon and his family are delighted to be living in the area again, being part of the community. He is relishing his new role and seems quite capable of dealing with the goldfish bowl that is local politics.


WEYMOUTH MATTERS with Harry Walton

Square peg in a round hole?

STURDY wooden toys are often given to children when they are very young.

A common one is a simple board with different shaped holes in it through which the youngster is challenged to insert a correctly shaped wooden piece.

So answer me this. Why when children grow up into adults have they totally lost this shape-into-space ability?

A classic example came near a Weymouth primary school where the entry was jammed with cars and so were the exit, both sides of the road and the only remaining traffic lane in the middle.

Yet even though a blindfolded lemming could see the way was blocked it didn’t prevent some bright parents from driving into what clear space was left, naturally doing so from both ends of the road at the same time.

The result was a driving farce that Brian Rix would have been proud of.

No one could drive into the school to collect children or, having got them, drive out of the school gates while those who had parked by the side of the road were forced to stay there.

This was because the only lane they could pull out into was blocked both ways by drivers meeting each other head on in the middle.

It was the ludicrously surprised looks on their faces that amused me as if it was somehow unexpected that each driving towards the other along a single lane should end with a logjam in the middle.

I have no defence for getting snarled up in this battleground because I’ve driven through the area enough times to know that you avoid the end of the school day like the plague.

So why did I do it? Well, I’d tried to take a short cut because the main road in front of me had seemed even worse because of roadworks. I think I should have stayed at home.

What price filling up potholes?

A NATIONAL news article claimed that one county council had suffered so much winter road damage that it was facing a £5 million bill to fill in all the potholes.

What price filling in all the potholes in Weymouth, eh?

There are some beauties on Radipole Lane, Chickerell Road, Lanehouse Rocks Road, Dorchester Road and Quibo Lane near my home. I know because I’ve abseiled down into some of them.

The trouble is that snow has been replaced by rain and so the holes are full of water and often completely hidden.

The first inkling you have of trouble is a bone-shaking jolt as the wheel of your car is swallowed.

At least two potholes I know of are more than 12 inches in diameter and if you hit that big a hole at any speed it will shake your tooth fillings loose.

I can’t hold out much hope for them to be filled in soon because it is budget time at the council and every penny is being watched like a cat at a mousehole. Maybe we’ll get it done in time for next winter.

Will they get the message?

THEY were casual kings of all they surveyed, lounging lords wreathed in cigarette smoke as they relaxed after school by sitting on someone’s garden wall.

The wrist cocked languidly to tap ash on to the pavement had just the right degree of superior indifference to the rest of the world and set just the right “Look at how adult I am” tone for younger pupils to admire.

Unfortunately this spotty poser and his cronies couldn’t have been more than 14 or 15 years old and presumably were only superior because they were out of sight of teaching staff.

I have deliberately avoided identifying the senior school involved because under-16 pupils smoking cigarettes is not a cross borne solely by one site. It is pretty much a universal problem.

What got me was the brazen nature of the pupils involved, smoking right next to a major Weymouth road and a bus stop where they were bound to be seen. It certainly didn’t appear to say much about the deterrents facing them because furtive they were not.

Also, leaving all the obvious health hazards to one side, are local schools now so indifferent to residents living near their premises that pupils are allowed to puff away while lounging on people’s garden walls?

I’m not calling for them to be strung up, but an occasional and public tour by teaching staff of the area near a school might just catch enough of the little darlings to get the “no smoking” message across because that message is certainly being blatantly ignored at the moment.

The unkindest cut!

TWO elderly women chatting over a cup of coffee were worried about their doctor.

One said to the other: “He’s a lovely man but he don’t half have cold hands.”

The other woman replied: “Yes, I noticed that. Must be those budget cutbacks they’re on about in the health service. Don’t have enough money to turn the surgery radiators on!”


Tuesday, 19 January 2010


Preaching to a different beat

THIS week TOM GLOVER talks to THE REVEREND GAVIN TYTE who recently became the new vicar at Uplyme Parish Church. Here he reveals his passion for beat boxing and how a trip to Australia changed his life forever.

After spending his teenage years perfecting his skills as a human beat boxer, the last thing Gavin Tyte thought he would do was train as a Church of England Vicar.

But during a gap year trip hitchhiking through Australia Gavin put his faith in God and has never turned back.

Gavin was licensed at the parish church in Uplyme by the Bishop of Exeter Michael Langridge on December 21st this year, just in time for Christmas.

Despite joining the parish at a busy time Gavin wasn’t too worried about the festive period ahead.

He said: “I think I’ve timed it perfectly because it’s a bit too late to have to organise and lead everything but early enough to have some involvement.

“There is a kind of a misconception that for vicars Christmas is always a really busy time of year but it’s not actually true because if you know anything about being a vicar it’s just flat out all the time.

“Vicars work horrendous hours and in the summer you have all the weddings to do so actually at Christmas there might be a few more services but there is less other stuff going on.”

Gavin became a Christian at 19-years-old. One night on a solo hitchhiking trip around Australia he set a challenge to God.

Gavin said: “I sat there and thought, okay God, who wouldn’t want to believe in you, so I said ‘if you’re real then you’ve got to prove it. I’ll chose to believe in you from now on but you’ve got prove it’.

“I said to God at the time, ‘you’ve got two weeks and if you haven’t proved to me that you exist then I’ll forget it’ and it just blew my mind because I think God accepted the challenge and it was just gobsmacking some of the stuff that happened to me.”

The following two weeks changed Gavin’s life, so much so, that he later went on to write a book about his time in Australia.

“It was like every single person I met from that day on just happened to be a Christian,” he said.

“I was sat on the edge of the road one day and I wasn’t getting anywhere and I said ‘okay God, if your real then give me a lift’. About three cars went past and then the next car that came past skidded to a stop and reversed back up to me.

“It was a guy with his wife and kids and there wasn’t even room for me. I put my bag in the boot and climbed in the back with these kids and this guy said ‘look this may sound really weird but I’m a Christian and I’ve never picked up a hitchhiker before but as I drove up to you God spoke to me and said stop the car and pick him up’.

“It was just things like that happened over and over again in this two-week period and that was the start of my Christian journey.”

Gavin continued: “I think the realisation there was a God changed my life. I read the bible and it said Jesus will come and live in you by his holy spirit if you ask him to, and I thought maybe this is what happened. It just all kind of clicked into place and since then I’ve just had this relationship with God.”

Alongside his work in the church, Gavin still continues pursuing his other passion in life. Gavin started beat boxing at the age of eight and used to record his beat boxing on a reel-to-reel tape machine that belonged to his father.

It wasn’t until hip-hop took off in the 1980s that Gavin realised that other people liked what he did as well.

He honed his skills and went on to perform on the BBC’s Young Entertainer of the Year competition.

As beat boxing began to lose popularity Gavin stepped back but he continued pursuing his love for music.

After completing a degree in software engineering Gavin ran a recording studio for 18 months.
He then went on to teach music technology at Farnborough College.

Said Gavin: “In the late 1990s beat boxing had died and no one had heard of it for years, but then some of my students bought me an album by Rahzel, which had some beat boxing on it.

“I told them I was a beat boxer and they didn’t believe me but I showed them and I started lessons the next day.”

This began Gavin’s second wave of obsession for human beat boxing. He started a beat boxing website with a fellow enthusiast who had had the same idea and he later became one of the most recognisable faces in human beat boxing.

The site’s popularity grew and in 2003 Gavin hosted the world’s first beat boxing convention in London.

“We had guys from Australia, east and west coast USA, nearly every European country and it was kind of a landmark event because it was the first time that beatboxers from around the world had got together and we all had completely different styles it was incredible,” he said.

Gavin is now one of the biggest names in beat boxing having performed alongside acts such as The Roots and Killa Kella and at some of the biggest events including The German DJ championship finals, The Prince’s Trust Urban Music Festival in London and the BBC radio music festival.

Nowadays Gavin tends to gig less often but has been judging the Vauxhall UK Beat Boxing Championships for the past three years.

Being a vicar and a beat boxer does draw attention and interest to Gavin for both positive and negative reasons but he doesn’t see them as being too different.

He said: “I was on a BBC World Service show and the interviewer said that a beat boxing vicar is just about vicars trying to be trendy and I was like ‘no, you just don’t get it at all’.

“I’ve always been a beat boxer and a beat boxer is what I am but I happen also to be a vicar.

“The church probably find it a little more odd than the hip hop fraternity but there are a lot of very religious people in the world of hip hop as well.

“I think because hip hop came out of oppressed black culture, and it was a freedom of expression thing, there is quite a lot of openness.

“I’m passionate about both and for me. I don’t separate them because it’s who I am and they are both bundled up in this one product.”

Gavin has even managed to combine the two passions in his life.

“I’ve been beat boxing in worship for the last couple of years, which is wicked,” he said. “In a church service you sing songs and you might have a worship band who sing more contemporary songs and I beat box with them.

“I think you can connect with a younger audience through beat boxing but I also think it connects with everybody. I beat boxed at an event for over 60s, I’ve performed to pre-school kids and everything in between and it’s just one of those things that people love.”

With Christmas Day now passed Gavin is looking to the New Year and taking the reins at the parish church of Uplyme.

“I’m excited about taking Uplyme forward as a mission community and just turning the church outward looking again,” he said.

“Uplyme is quite an outward, very community focused church anyway but the church generally quite often can be quite inward looking.

“There are going to be aspects of traditional church that will need to adapt and change no doubt. I’m not going to kick all the traditional church goers out and say we are going to do it like this now, I want to take everybody with us as a community which is what it's about.”


60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Nicky Sweetland

NICKY Sweetland has been performing on stage since she was a teenager and next month will star in Marvellous Amateur Dramatics production of Summer Holiday at the Axminster Guildhall.

Nicky lives in Lyme Regis with her two children. After growing up in Chard she spent 12 years in Bridport before a brief spell in Axminster. She attended Woodroffe School in Lyme Regis where her father Chris Sweetland continues to teach Chemistry.

Nicky has performed with Lyme Regis Pantomime Society since the age of 14 and in recent years she has performed in Lyme Operatic Society’s production of Oklahoma and Lyme Regis Community Players production of South Pacific.

Nicky also came close to earning a chorus part in the London West End production of Wicked.

In her career Nicky follows her other passion of fitness and exercise. Contracted to the Primary Care Trust NHS, Nicky provides Cardiac Rehab in Bridport, Dorchester and Blandford. She is also a fitness and aerobics instructor.

WHAT is the best part of your job?

Meeting lots of different people and hopefully making a difference to them.

WHEN did your interest in musical theatre begin?

When I was about 14 when I joined the pantomime society. We did a variety show and loads of the songs we did were from musicals and the type of music just really appealed to me. I started talking about it with some of the girls and then went to see a few and I absolutely loved it. Even now I love the style of singing, it just appeals to me.

WHAT has been your favourite role?

My favourite role was Ado Annie in Oklahoma. That was a really good show and the cast were really good fun. The role was really funny and I just got on well with everyone. It felt like a really good production as well.

WHAT would be your dream role?

Elphaba in Wicked, of course. It’s the best musical in the West End at the moment. The music and the story are fabulous and the songs she sings are just great. I love the lyrics and style of singing. It’s a lot more of a complicated character than people think it is as well. A lot of the plot is about race and prejudice and there is also a tragic love story thrown into the plot as well. It just sort of ticks every box.

HOW did you almost end up in the show?

I entered a competition where you had to prove you were 'the most wicked.' You had to send a video of yourself to Orange performing one of the songs and the prize was to get a walk on part in the show. I didn’t even have a video phone so I went and got one especially for the competition. I told my friends and they thought I was crazy but they agreed to help me. I had myself videoed dressed up as Elphaba jumping on a trampoline and singing. It happened to be that we filmed it on Halloween which was perfect because I was walking around Bridport painted green and dressed as a witch. I went through these rounds where we got phone votes and got really quite far. As the competition went on they showed blogs from backstage of the cast talking about the competition and they mentioned my video and how they wanted me to win, it was great.

HOW do you relate to your character Barbara in Summer Holiday?

It’s really difficult. A lot of the character traits that Barbara has I don’t really have. One of the main things is that she has a controlling mum and that she is being pushed all the time and really wants a break and I don’t have that at all. My parents are absolutely great and they have never pushed me they have just always supported me. She’s really different to me but it’s fun to play someone like that. It’s fun to play someone who’s young as well because she hasn’t really got any cares. Her biggest problem is that she wants to get away from her mother and have a bit of fun so it’s kind of nice to completely switch off and be someone completely different.

WHO would be your three dream guests at a dinner party and why?

The first would be Kerry Ellis who is a famous West End singer and my favourite singer. She until recently has been playing Elphaba in Wicked and she just has an amazing voice. The second would be Hugh Jackman. He’s not actually known for his musical theatre but although he’s a great actor he is also a really great singer and dancer as well. I saw him in Oklahoma in 1997 and he was absolutely brilliant. He is also quite nice to look at as well. My third person would be my friend Tina Paveley. She would have to be there just so that I could share that experience with someone who understands how good they are as well.

WHAT advice would you give to someone wanting to get into musical theatre?

I would say just come along and join a society and be in the chorus. That is kind of how you learn what to do. I have very little experience; this will be my third musical but join the chorus and learn how to do the singing and moving about. It’s fun in the chorus because you’re not under the same pressure you are when you’re playing the lead.


LYME MATTERS with Philip Evans

By-election before the main event

THE chances are we will soon be going to the polls in Lyme Regis to elect a new town councillor following the recent death of Dr Spencer Hogg.

I did not know Spencer well but he was a man of great intellect who certainly had a great love and affection for his adopted town.

Spencer had a rugged determination and did not allow his disabilities caused by midlife meningitis to interfere with his public duties.

I well remember how he would struggle uncomplainingly up the Guildhall stairs on his crutches before the council had a lift installed.

He was also a man who was never afraid to speak his mind on council matters, even if it was the unpopular view.

An election to replace Spencer will be called if ten or more local electors call for one. If they don’t, then the council can fill the vacancy by co-option.

It is almost certain that there will be an election and whoever wins the contest, or is co-opted, will serve until May 2011 when the four-yearly town council elections take place.

So who is likely to put their name forward? There are a few names kicking about on Facebook and the blogs, including my own, with the writer justifying his prediction by stating that I might have plenty of time on my hands in the future. An obvious reference to our much-publicised and exaggerated demise.

My name will not be among the candidates as it is my intention to spend every waking hour rebuilding the View group to prove to our new boss Jerry Ramsdale, owner of the Mariners Hotel in Lyme, that he has made a wise investment.

There’s also a small matter of Mrs E threatening me with divorce should I ever go back on the council!

One name which keeps coming up is that of champion fundraiser and Alice’s Bear Shop founder Rikey Austin who a few weeks ago on her Facebook site recounted how she had been “verbally assaulted” by a certain town councillor (now who could that be?) over her support for the Three Cups campaign.

Whoever gets elected or co-opted can kiss goodbye to a large chunk of their leisure time.

Recently long-serving councillor Stan Williams had a moan about how many meetings they now had to attend following the creation of numerous working parties to deal with council matters.

Last week, when the Policy Committee was considering the number of groups and working parties needed to advance the council’s programme for the coming year, Councillor Owen Lovell, another long-serving member, advanced the view that the number of meetings could be cut by half.

There’s likely to be a big change in the composition of the council come next May with at least half of the present 14 strong council threatening standing down.

Many of our existing elected members are now well into their seventies, having served the town well, and will not relish serving another four-year term.

Whilst it is always good to have some fresh blood in the Guildhall, losing so many experienced councillors may not necessarily be good for the town.

The question is whether there are seven or eight people who will take their place?

New organ set for first tune

GREAT excitement at St Michael’s Parish Church in Lyme Regis where work on the new £350,000 organ is all but complete.

It looks magnificent and I think it could become a bit of a tourist attraction in itself. Organ afficionados will travel to Lyme just to see and hear it.

I’m far from qualified to comment on the quality of sound (being virtually tone deaf) but church organist Alex Davies and organ appeal organiser Andrew Nicholson tell me it’s wonderful.

As announced in this column a few months ago, I’m writing a book on the organ.

Sounds a bit of a dry subject but not at all. There’s a fascinating story on how a small town like Lyme has managed to raise such a large sum of money (there’s still a bit to go) in such short time, commissioned an organ to be made in Slovenia, shipped it over and watched fascinated as highly skilled craftsmen have put together over 300,000 different components.

A fascinating twist is that our old organ, which came to Lyme from Exeter, in 1941, has been dismantled and sent back to Slovenia where the organ builders, Anton Srabl, have lovingly restored the instrument, which in its last days at Lyme often needed a good kicking to get it going, in readiness a new home in a Bosnian church was has been rebuilt after the wars.

The new organ will be dedicated by the Bishop of Salisbury on Sunday, to be followed by a celebratory lunch at the Pilot Boat, and the first of a series of concerts will be held on February 8th when internationally renowned organised Peter Scriven, organist at Litchfield Cathedral, will be playing in the church.

My book will be called From Slovenia With Love, a bit James Bond-ish I know, but a great deal of love and attention has gone into its making and installation. It should be on sale by Easter for £5 with all profits (£4 per book) going to the organ fund.

Pat on the back for office staff

THERE’S often great frustration in Lyme over how long it takes to get things done. The street lighting on the seafront is a good example.

So here’s an example which shows that it doesn’t have to be that way.

There’s a barrier quite close to my home which is in place to stop children running into Anning Road. Several months it was damaged by a reversing vehicle.

As several local councillors pass by that spot every day I thought the barrier would soon be repaired. Several months went by and nothing happened.

So I decided to ring the town council myself. My call was take by administrative officer Vicki Stickler. She said she would get onto to it right away.

Vicki (a sticker for efficiency you might say, groan!) was back to me in a few minutes saying the county council would carry out the work the next day. And they did.

The girls in the town council officers have to take a lot of stick from time to time so it’s nice to be able to give them a pat on the back.

What amazes me is that none of the councillors did anything about it.