Wednesday, 22 September 2010

A Weymouth long since passed by

A CHANCE conversation opened up a whole world of forgotten history for me.

I’d walked in to Brunches in Maiden Street, Weymouth, for a coffee when an acquaintance of mine hailed me and asked if I knew where I was standing.

A bit wary, I queried what he meant and he then told me that Brunches used to be the Old Coopers Arms pub.

I thought this would make a quirky little story and so did some research to find out more about the Grade II listed building which dates back to the early 1800s.

The pub’s existence was swiftly confirmed but it was Pigot’s 1844 Directory of Dorset for Melcombe Regis which really fired my imagination.

We live in an age of space travel, chilli flavoured ice-cream and communication anywhere in the world at the touch of a button, but Pigot’s directory took me back to a world Weymouth has long forgotten.

For instance, in 1844 Melcombe Regis was the official residence for Vice-Consuls representing Spain, Sweden and Norway.

It had numerous businesses and pursuits including two gunsmiths, nine pork dealers, two slate merchants, seven straw hat makers, two tallow chandlers and even a conchologist who studied shells.

Melcombe Regis also had nearly 20 listed taverns and public houses… and included in the list was the Coopers Arms with the landlord recorded as Levi Honeyman.

Amazing what can happen when you go for a coffee!

Fine example of the human being at leisure

ALL I had to do was collect someone and take them home, but doing so at 3:15am on a Sunday was a real eye-opener.

On the drive in to Weymouth town centre I could barely go 100 yards without passing a staggering girl supporting her drunken boyfriend, a staggering man supporting his drunken girlfriend or a drunken couple supporting each other… or not in the case of one pair who could only giggle hysterically while sat in a hedge. In town it got a lot worse.

Two drunken women tried to roll themselves cigarettes while sat in the middle of the road, a man tried to do a handstand on a road barrier, other drunks seemed to be actually going in to pubs for more booze and everywhere there were arguments and tears, although I didn’t see a fight.

Apparently that was being reserved for the inside of some clubs where bouncers were earning their keep throwing miscreants into the street or tipping police off about drug dealing in its crudest form, so inept that dealer and addict’s exchange of drugs and cash was like a bad soap opera it was so obvious.

Having picked up my passenger in the town centre we negotiated our way out somewhat better than various weaving pedestrians and I dropped him safely at his home. Providing a lift as a favour suddenly seemed a much better idea than leaving him to negotiate that fine example of the human being at leisure.

Dog taking the boy for a walk

IT’S nice to see children helping out with general duties by taking a dog for a walk.

It shows willingness, it shows responsibility… and it shows they should have got a smaller dog!

This one was some sort of massive crossbreed and the boy in question was heavily out-muscled.

When the dog stopped because of some canine point of interest the boy could haul on the lead all he liked but the dog refused to budge until it had sniffed everything which had captured its attention.

Equally it could not be held back and in the rush along a section of grass near the pavement there was no question of who was taking who for a walk because the dog practically dragged the boy along the ground to the next lamppost it was so strong.

So if anyone is missing a boy and a large dog then the last I saw of them they were heading at speed down the hill towards the police station.

Buried somewhere in a winter wonderland

WINTER is just a few weeks away, so I was able to raise a chuckle when a friend told me about one Weymouth man’s snowy experiences at an English airport last year.

His plane came in low enough for passengers to make several appreciative comments about the snowy winter wonderland beneath them and how pretty it looked.

Those comments were in very short supply once the man had landed, walked through customs and gone outside into the cold.

He walked to the car park to collect his car, but the snowfall meant that his vehicle and every other one he could see for hundreds of yards around looked exactly the same, just a mounded hump of white!

No problem, he thought, and he used his key fob to trigger his car’s lights… and so did a couple of hundred other passengers who were also trying to find their cars.

To cut a long story short, it took him one and a half hours to finally identify his car and by then he was freezing and Christmas spirit was not so much limited as non-existent!

What future now for Three Cups?

AS expected, there was plenty of interest in the consultative exhibition on the future of The Three Cups staged at The Pilot Boat last week.

Over 200 people attended the event and we are told that a majority were in favour of the schemes put forward.

No one can deny that it was a very professionally presented exhibition. However, whilst acknowledging this fact, the 'Save The Three Cups Action Group' were far from convinced. Their brief is to press for The Three Cups to be re-opened as an hotel, a proposition which Palmers have dismissed as not being financially viable.

The Save The Three Cups group will now go back to the people of Lyme at another public meeting on October 22nd so that, having seen what Palmers now have in mind, they can decide whether they wish to continuing campaigning for an hotel.

The protest group, excellently led by John Dover, has certainly be successfully in mobilsing local opinion and they are still of the opinion that despite their long consultation process, Palmers are not listening to the wishes of the local populace.

They are asking whether Lyme wants more potential second homes and empty shops. Palmers are adamant that the hotel option is not viable and their professional report and conclusions have been supported by West Dorset District Council.

The protesters say there are potential hoteliers in the wings ready to take on The Three Cups but there’s little or no chance of Palmers selling. It’s not their way.

You can rule out compulsory purchase (it won’t happen) so it is difficult to see what further action can be taken by the group.

If one of the schemes displayed last week becomes a reality, the protesters will have no reason to believe they have failed.

The public outcry over the length of time the Cups has been empty would not have gathered momentum had it not been for their efforts.

I am sure that at next month’s public meeting feelings about this historic building will still be running high and that there will be many who would like the fight to continue. If that is the case, this newspaper will continue to report their on-going campaign.

Like many others who attended the exhibition, I was impressed with what I saw and heard. The “beach hut accommodation” idea is certainly unusual and will no doubt be highly popular if ultimately implemented.

With apartments, town houses, shops and another restaurant with stunning views over Lyme Bay, the overall scheme will demand significant investment and is therefore a long-term commitment from Palmers.

The proposed development will provide a number of jobs, probably as many if not more than re-opening the bulding as an hotel.

Whatever the outcome, I believe the public campaign has been worthwhile and hopefully Palmers will still keep the lines of communication open with those who have fought so passionately to save The Three Cups.


I SPENT most of last weekend at the Woodmead Halls. At least, it seemed like that.

On Friday, as a member of the halls management committee, I was helping out at an open evening atended by about 60 users and guests, the main thrust being a presentation of improvements made at the halls over the past couple of years and what we plan to do in the future.

It was a pleasant enough occasion and we were pleased to see the Marine Theatre’s new creative director, Phil Whitehead, pop in for a chat and to look at the halls.

The Woodmead Halls are in great demand these days and that was certainly the case for the rest of the weekend. On Saturday I was back on duty with my Cancer Research UK hat on with our volunteers organising a soup and sweet lunch for the first time. We only had about 50 turn up but we managed to make £360 thanks to the gnerosity of those who attended.

Event of the week was definitely the surprise 90th birthday party at the halls on Saturday evening for Cecil Quick, one of Lyme’s best known characters.

Although he looked a bit startled when he stepped into the halls, having been told by daughter Angela that they were calling in on Evelyn Caddy’s birthday party on the way to a family dinner at the Hunters Lodge, Cecil took it all his his stride but was overwhelmed to see so many “friends and neighbours” as he put it.

The esteem in which Cecil is held by his family was more than evident and was emphasised when one of his granddaughters came over and asked me to stress how proud they all are of their grandfather.

I can’t remember when I’ve seen so many local faces in one place at a time. How they kept it a secret from Cecil I will never know, especially in Lyme.

On Sunday evening it was the turn of the sequence dancers to take to the Woodmead Halls’ highly polished floor. And before you asked, no I wasn’t present!

We deserve better

AT Monday’s PACT meeting, after listening to yet more complaints about the appalling state of our public toilets, someone said to me: “Why don’t the district council and town council just get together and sort it out.”

If only that was the way in local government.

What is the point of having PACT meetings if issues like the toilets keep coming up meeting after meeting and nothing gets done?

“Nothing gets done,” was a much used phrase at Monday’s meeting. The town deserves better.


YOUNG entrepreneur Jamie Isaacs, 17, has lived in Beaminster since the age of five having moved to the town from London.

Having discovered a love for the technical side of the arts during his childhood theatre training Jamie setup his own company after leaving school. DJAY Southwest now provides professional sound and lighting for live music and theatre across the West Country and further afield.

When not providing the technical support Jamie can often be found on the stage himself, most recently as the villain in the Bridport Pantomime and as the leading man in Bridport Musical Theatre Company’s production of 'Anything Goes'.

Jamie has also received international exposure this month with a small speaking role in the film Tamara Drewe.

Away from performing Jamie also enjoys kayaking and exploring the Dorset countryside.

WHAT do you like most about West Dorset?
With my main interests being in theatre and music, there is a large wealth of music events and community productions to keep me occupied in my spare time.

WHAT prompted you to start your own business at such a young age?
It’s a good excuse to have a hole punch.

WHAT advice would you give to other young businessmen?
I find a good team is one of the most important things you can have. Another thing that we take seriously is our branding – learning graphic design has been really useful both at work and for the amateur organisations I’m involved with.

WHAT are the best shows you have worked on with DJAY?
Some of the main highlights of my year have been rigging for the James Taylor Quartet and working with Howe Gelbe, an alternative country artist – he was very cool. But my favourite gig this year would have to be working on tour with Show of Hands as their lighting engineer.

WHAT are your earliest memories of performing?
One of my memories of performing when I was young was in the Bridport Operatic’s production of 'The King and I', which was the first show I took part in, in Bridport.

WHAT is the best show you have appeared in?
One of the best shows I performed in was one of my first professional roles with Ellen Kent Opera International when I was part of the child chorus in 'Turandot' and 'Tosca' at the Bournemouth Pavilion.

WHAT would be your dream acting role?
I couldn’t answer that until I’ve acted it.

HOW did you land the part in Tamara Drewe?
I had a phone call from a friend who was hosting the audition; he invited me to come along. I performed to camera and that was later sent to Pinewood for casting. The second assistant director then called me to offer me the role.

WHAT did you make of your appearance in the film?
To be honest I didn’t even know if I was going to be in it! I knew that having gone through the audition process and being on set didn’t necessarily mean I’d be in the final edit, but I must admit that I was quite relieved to see myself on the screen.

WHO would be your three dream guests at a dinner party and why?
I’d really love to invite John Martyn to a dinner party but I know he would be a nightmare. Liam Neeson and my girlfriend.

WHAT was the last book you read, film you watched and CD you listened to?
I don’t read very often but I’m currently half way through Sogyal Rinpoche’s book 'The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying'. Recently the DJAY team set up a ridiculously large surround sound system to rewatch the awesome Gladiator. In the office I listen to music from lots of different formats – we love Spotify for instance – one of my current favourites is Imogen Heap.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010


ARTIST Lucy Young spoke to the View from this week having just launched her latest collection of artwork at the Blue Lias Gallery in Lyme Regis.

Having grown up in the area, Lucy moved to London where she studied Fashion at the University of Westminster. Despite enjoying the city lifestyle Lucy couldn’t keep away from the coast and has been back in Dorset for a number of years now.

Lucy now lives in Uplyme with her boyfriend having recently moved from Charmouth.

Lucy’s latest collection of expressionist paintings, entitled 'Incandescent Light of Dorset’s Coast' was launched last weekend at the Blue Lias Gallery, where her work has been exhibited for four years. Lucy is known for her seascape paintings and is also represented by other coastal-based galleries in St Ives and South Wales.

For anyone interested in meeting Lucy, she will be painting in the Blue Lias Gallery on Saturday, September 25th.

HAVE you always painted seascapes?
I think because I moved back here after uni, and I have always stayed in coastal locations since then, it became a massive inspiration to me. You can’t help but be inspired by it. I’ve painted the Cobb so many times and it never ceases to amaze me how beautiful this area is.

WHERE are the best coastlines to paint?
The three favourites at the moment are here in Lyme Regis, and right across the Dorset coast as well, up to Lulworth Cove. Then down to Cornwall and St Ives Bay, there are lots of great coastlines down there. Also the Gower Peninsula in South Wales, there are lots of amazing features along there.

ARE there any places you would like to visit and paint?
I spent some time travelling around Australia and New Zealand and I always thought I would go back and do some paintings there and maybe get represented by galleries over there. It has always been in the back of my mind to go back.

HOW would you describe the style of your work?
It has sort of evolved. I’ve created this signature of iridescence and texture. My style is not naturalistic, I try to capture the essence of the place. How you feel when you sit by the ocean, and that lovely feeling you get. It would probably be considered expressionist or romantic.

WHO are the artist that influence you?
My most recent collection is based on Michael Turner because I just love the way he paints light, he is known as the painter of light. I get very inspired by the way he has used light and captured it and that is what I tried to do as well. I try not to follow too many artists though because I think it’s important to have your own style and a lot of people do say that I have my own style. I think that is because of my conscious effort not to copy anybody else.

WHAT made you come back to Dorset?
Well when I was doing my degree in London every weekend I just wanted to get back down to the coast. I felt quite claustrophobic living in London, I loved the lifestyle, there was a lot going on but I feel most alive when I am stood next to the ocean and that lovely expanse of space. So I couldn’t wait to get back.

WHAT advice would you give to young aspiring artists?
When I started at university I never thought in a million years that I would become an artist. I never thought you could make a living out of it and I just thought you’ve got to get a job and paint on the side. It was only the confidence I got from when my work started to sell that I started to think it was something I could do for a living. You’ve just got to have the confidence to go out there and show your work. I know it’s hard because I have had galleries turn me down and it is heartbreaking when that happens but there will be galleries that do love your work and who will find the clients that love it too. And there is nothing better than selling a painting.

IS IT sad to see a painting go?
Kind of but then I think that they have obviously bought that because they are going to get pleasure from looking at it and that makes me feel great that they are filling their home with my work and enjoying it. Sometimes there is the odd painting I fall in love with and its sad to see it go.

WHO would be your three dream guests at a dinner party?
Ruth Jones, for some dry comedy value. Maybe as her Nessa Character from Gavin and Stacey for part of the evening. The Dalai Lama, for some wisdom and inspiration on life and Banksy, I am intrigued to find the mystery behind the artist even though his style is complete opposite to mine.

WHAT was the last book you read, CD you listened to and film you watched?
The last book was Charmouth author Sallyann Sheridan’s book If Wishes Were Horses. It’s brilliant; she has a fantastic way of making you think about things. You think something negative and she turns it into a positive.
I was listening to Florence and the Machine last night, I do quite like her and she’s got an amazing voice. The last film I watched was Cemetery Junction, I really enjoyed it.

DO YOU find a different pressure now you are a professional artist?
Obviously there are times when I have to create and it’s difficult at times to get into that mood but at the end of the day how lucky am I to be getting up every day, sitting down, being inspired by my area and creating something that someone might want to put on their wall? Yes it’s a job but I don’t see it like that.

HOW did the launch of your latest exhibition go?
I went in on Saturday and I was actually painting in the Blue Lias Gallery while people came and looked at my work and talked to me about it. It was really lovely, often I am represented by galleries and don’t get to meet my customers and a lot of the people who came in were either following my work or had bought my work, it was really lovely to meet them. I’ve been in the gallery now for four years so people could see the progression.

A mound of historic rubble

HISTORIC buildings deserve to be looked after, cared for and displayed as prominently as possible for the public to enjoy.

So imagine my interest when a pensioner I know said that one lot of historic buildings in Weymouth had been put on show for the public… by being dumped in the harbour!

We’d been chatting together opposite the council offices on North Quay when he pointed into the harbour at a huge mound of seaweed-covered rocks, boulders and blocks.

Apparently that debris used to be part of ramshackle old houses, some of which may have dated back to Tudor times.

Conservation in about 1970 wasn’t what it is now and the problem of the old houses was solved by simply demolishing them, some of the debris being dumped in the harbour while more lorry loads found their way under various other developments in town.

As the pensioner said: “Back then it was just getting rid of some run down houses nobody seemed to want, but do it now and there’d be public outcry at destroying important history.”

At least the council offices, which were built on the old houses’ site, won’t be missed when their time comes to face demolition because the whole structure has less architectural and historic charm than the mound of harbour rubble it replaced!

To do or die on Weymouth’s roads

A NEW open air art exhibition in Weymouth - Brain Dead: A Way of Life - is attempting to answer the mystical question of whether some pedestrians have a pulse.

The exhibition pulls no punches and approaches this challenging task by using real pedestrians in real situations where motorists are invited to choose whether they live or die.

It is quite a startling art form because the first I knew of it was when I practically met it head on while driving slowly round a corner in the town centre.

In front of me was a group of about five or six men and women holding a conversation in the middle of the road.

I crawled towards them, expecting to be noticed and see them step out of the way but not a bit of it.

The worst of them, a woman, failed to blink an eye even when I got so close she could have sat on my bonnet. What’s more, her friends just carried on chatting.

Thinking I was in some surreal dream, I briefly waited for them to come to their senses but was eventually forced to drive slowly round them, up a low pavement and down on the far side beyond them.

Still they didn’t move and, incredibly all conversation seemed to have stopped as well and they were just stood there, looking vacantly about.

So, to help my fellow art lovers in case they are unlucky enough to go to the same exhibition, I hereby post its first review with the suggested answer that, No – some pedestrians don’t have a pulse although they could perhaps win the Turner Prize as an exhibit!

Just so you know . . .

YOU saw Christmas floats in Weymouth Carnival and you can now see several examples of Christmas goods in the shops.

Already I am being sent holiday offers for as far ahead as autumn 2011 and to cap it all I’ve now been sent various press forms to do with the Olympic Games which are still nearly two years away.

Organisations seem to look so far ahead that I thought I’d join the bandwagon by alerting you all to the completion ceremony for the new Weymouth Pavilion complex in 2073.

The structure will be made by nailing together recycled beach huts.

It is already being hailed as a potential cost cutting and architectural triumph to rival the five roundabouts at Boothill, Westham and King Street which - I’m sure you know - are due to open in 2038 when they will replace our old computerised traffic lights.

Both developments are bound to attract more tourists to a town already famous as the home of the National Queue Museum which, I’m sure you remember, opened so successfully back in the summer of 2010.

A cheeky tattoo!

YOU can hear all sorts of conversations in the street but rarely do you have to listen to chat about the merits of a buttock tattoo.

What’s more, this was for a woman who already had a few tattoos swirling along her arms and down her calves.

Let’s face it you can’t exactly, ermm, face a tattoo on your buttock to see it, so I suppose there had to be an element of discussion to ensure she got the one she wanted.

She was quite open about it as she enjoyed a drink at a town centre street table and debate flowed freely through a Red Indian portrait to a fairy as her friends tossed in their suggestions.

The would-be canvas couldn’t make her mind up and opted to make a final decision when she got under the needle.

Let’s hope she gets a decent standard of work unlike one tattoo I saw recently which had a Hell’s Angel skull and crossbones motorcycle and underneath it the spelling gaff: Reading Chaptor!

Mayor survives - for the time being!

IT was never going to be an easy debate - and so it proved when Daryl Turner attempted to downgrade the role of mayor to a ceremonial one only.

I am happy to report that he found no support whatsoever for his suggestion that the role of mayor and chairman of the council should be separated, so ending a tradition going back hundreds of years.

Councillor Turner’s argument was based on the premise that in this day and age it is not possible to do both jobs properly, especially as the town council could find itself taking on more responsibility with the present coalition government’s intention to hand more responsibility back to local councils.

Daryl made it quite clear when he made a somewhat controversial return to the town council earlier this year, having previously stood down to concentrate on his district council work, saying it was impossible to do both jobs properly, that change was high on his agenda.

He made it clear he thought the mayor should be elected by the townsfolk and not seven councillors, although legislation prevents this from happening.

At last week’s Strategy and Policy Committee he put forward this argument again, as well as advocating that the council should elect a chairman and allow the mayor to do the “kissing babies” and “opening fete” duties.

Although Daryl chose his words quite carefully throughout the debate, his “kissing babies” comment will be viewed as an insult to all those who have served as the town’s First Citizen.

It was unfortunate that he made his views sat next to Barbara Austin who served six times as mayor, particularly as he cast doubt over how well past mayors had carried out their duties.

The exchange between Daryl and Barbara is published elsewhere in this paper - but no one thought his comments were necessary or did much for his argument.

When I was mayor Daryl was a youngster but I am sure I would have fallen into his category of past-mayors who did not do a very good job. I can’t remember kissing too many babies but if he thinks that’s all the mayor has to do I suggest he has a go at the job himself.

I wasn’t too keen on some of the ceremonial stuff and I hated wearing the mayor’s silly hat. But I was only 34 at the time - and I’ve never look good in hats.

But I did enjoy chairing the council and I thought I did a fair job. And if recent mayors think Stan Williams takes some controlling now, you should have seen him in his younger days.

Daryl comes from a different generation than most of his colleagues on the council and genuinely wants to see more accountability. That’s a view I share but I see no point in making change for the sake of change.

Some mayors are better at chairing meetings than others. But all of them are advised and guided by the town clerk and generally speaking cope very well. If the council appoints a chairman as well as a mayor, it will be inevitable that the mayor will be sidelined when it comes to making the big decisions.

And if the role becomes a ceremonious one only, the position might well peter out eventually as I am not sure too many councillors would want the job on those terms.

That means you could end up with the same mayor year after year, as happens elsewhere in West Dorset.

Of course, this might not be the end of the matter as it is rumoured that several senior councillors will be standing down at next year’s election.

Their successors may be up for major change and Daryl will no doubt be able to put forward his views again to a more receptive audience.

For now, however, the role of mayor survives.


I HAVE no musical ability whatsoever - so how come I was accorded the privilege of proposing the toast to Lyme Regis Operatic Society at its 90th anniversary dinner at the golf club on Saturday?

I have written before in this column how I grew up surrounded by the Brooms and Perrys - two families whose names are synonymous with the operatic society.

Back in the late 1960s/early 70s I was entrusted with running the bar (more suitable for my talents) during operatic week. We made around £600 profit a show which went a long way to paying for the productions in those days.

I was always a big fan of the society and was pleased to do my bit. The fact that there was a bevvy of pretty girls in the chorus line might also have influenced me!

So it was great to be able to reminisce about those days at Saturday’s dinner at which the Broom and Perry family were still very much involved.

It becomes increasingly more difficult to finance stage productions but the operatic society has managed to maintain its fine reputation over the years.

These are challenging times for local theatre groups but I have no doubt the operatic society will survive and in ten years will be celebrating its centenary.

President Brian Manners is standing down after many years service, to be replaced by his former teaching colleague David Coates, one of Lyme’s favourite stage performers in past years.

Hardworking chairman Bob Kendrick is also standing down at next week’s annual meeting.
Saturday’s dinner was an enjoyable occasion, well organised by Johanna Hopkins and helpers, bringing together many familiar faces who have entertained Marine Theatre audiences royally over the years.

Next May they will be staging 'Me And My Girl' for the first time - another challenge to which the operatic society will take in its stride.