Thursday, 27 October 2011

Arts Cafe a great asset to town

A RECENT visit to the Arts Arts Cafe made me think what a wise investment the Old Courthouse was for the people of Axminster.

The former police station and court was acquired by the old Axminster Parish Council for £4,000 in 1973, purchased from the former Axminster Rural Council who paid £2,750 for the building in 1964.

It’s not been an easy building to maintain over the years and there have been times, I am sure, when Axminster Town Council have considered whether to dispose of the building. I’m glad they didn’t.

Today The Old Courthouse provides a home for Axminster Museum, the Senior Citizen’s Centre, the Tourist Information Centre and the excellent Axminster Arts Cafe. It also provides a wonderful quiet area where people can sit an relax, one of the few green areas in Axminster, and get away from the traffic.

I recently visited the Arts Cafe to have a look at the model for the Webster’s Garage art project which was positioned in one of the old police cells for the people of Axminster to see and leave their comments.

The Arts Cafe is a superbly run asset for the town. I well remember when it was officially opened. I think it was on a Monday and after the opening ceremony I spent a very convivial hour or three in the company of Steve Black and Deep Purple rock star Ian Gillan and embarrassed myself when, after a few too many glasses of red wine, I told Ian that “nothing goes on in this town without me knowing about it”.

He dismissed my bumptious behaviour with a generous but curt, “Whatever you say, Pip!”

I WAS delighted that Stuart Hughes, one of East Devon’s most colourful characters, took the time and trouble to attend The Weekender’s first birthday party.

It was good of him to spare the time, especially as he’s chairman of Sidmouth Town Council, a Devon county councillor and portfolio holder for Highways and Transportation (a big job) for Devon.

My first meeting with Stuart was when he was a leading light in the Monster Raving Loony party. When I was editor of the Sidmouth Herald Stuart was always the source of a good story. He was refused planning permission to put up a flagpole in his garden in Temple Street so he painted the front of his house like a Union Jack.

In those days we would never have believed that Stuart would end up a leader of the local council. Sidmouth council was known in those days for its stiff upper lip and conservative (with a small c) approach.

I was pleased to see that Stuart’s lost none of his sense of humour over the years and he continues to serve the people of Sidmouth with great enthusiasm.

We had a good chat about his involvement in the local radio scene and I look forward to meeting him soon as we continue to build our Sid Vale edition.

AS PART of our first birthday celebrations, reported in last week’s issue, we gave away some free advertisements in a raffle.

A free full page advertisement went to Les Haynes who immediately donated it to the great love of his life - the Cloakham Lawn Sports Centre.

Local councillor Douglas Hull won a half-page, part of which he has already donated for Guide Dogs for The Blind, a charity close to his heart, and local dental technician Ian Spiller, husband of town councillor and former mayor Sue Spiller, won himself a quarter page.

Recognition at
last for Blacky

CONGRATULATIONS to Axminster singer- songwriter Steve Black on his success at the British Country music awards.

As reported in this week’s Weekender on page 4, Steve picked up the award for the song of the year, a huge achievement and richly deserved.

Steve, of course, does not need any introduction from this column. He has been one of the most popular entertainers in and around Axminster for over 30 years and with partner Alan West is still in much demand far beyond the West Country.

Steve and Alan are highly respected in the British country music scene and many among its supporters will be delighted that Steve’s talent as a songwriter has at least been recognised at a national level.

As well as being an accomplished guitarist and singer, Steve’s real talent lies in producing rock musicals. Who can forget those memorable shows put on by the Axe Valley Rock Music Society (ARMS) a few years back and Steve is currently hard at work putting the finishing touches to his latest show 'Biggles Flies Undone' to be staged at Axminster Guildhall, November 3rd-5th in aid of Hospiscare.

Don't miss it!

This is the kind of service we want

RAIL staff come in for a lot of stick but I have nothing but praise for staff at Weymouth railway station after one recent incident.

I’d driven down there late at night to collect my wife and daughter who were returning from a trip to a far flung university open day.

The site was dark and pretty deserted as I reversed into one car space only to hear a loud bang.

So I got out, walked round to the back of the car and found someone had discarded an empty beer bottle which had gone off like a bomb when I reversed over it.

There was a great chunk of glass embedded in one tyre and I cut my hand removing it and trying to shift other pieces of glass away.

Frustrated, I went and found a member of staff and warned him of the problem.

Not only did he immediately get a dustpan and brush and sweep up as much of the glass as he could get but he also offered me a plaster for my cut hand, logged the incident and said if there was a problem with my car tyre and I needed details of the incident then he had recorded it on the station’s register.

He also told me that discarded bottles and other even more dangerous objects were a problem at the station caused by drunks and drug addicts who left such rubbish about.

Another check and a polite question whether I needed anything else and he went on his way. Now that’s the sort of public service level many people all over this country never see, so we should thank our lucky stars in Weymouth that our rail staff are a cut above usual levels of helpfulness.

An act of such callous stupidity

OVER the 20 years I have lived in our road I thought I’d seen just about everything that could be dumped by idiots, drunks or people who just don’t care.

Regular sprinklings of sweet and crisp wrappers are rife, we also get plastic and glass bottles tossed into gardens and only this week I had to retrieve an isotonic drink can which had presumably been discarded by some athlete too exhausted to take it home with them.

I’ve seen road works barriers, double glazing signs, flowers and even bricks dumped in the road by people who you never seem able to catch in the act, possibly because a lot of this sort of thing is committed by people stumbling home in the wee small hours.

But I hit new heights the other day when chatting with a neighbour of mine who showed off an object she’d had to clear away.

When she pointed to the side of her garden I initially thought she was indicating some plant or shrub in a pot, but she was actually pointing to what was partially concealed by the greenery.

It was a wheelchair and we both shook our heads at the mentality of those who could first take a wheelchair, perhaps from a point where it was really needed, and then simply dump it when the novelty had worn off.

She said she’d informed the police who should be able to track down the owners via various information on the wheelchair itself, but that’s not the point.

Surely those who took the wheelchair must have some grain of humanity if not sense left in their brains because there are pranks and then there is callous stupidity and this act falls firmly in the latter category.

Where’s that bridge we used to have?

INTERESTING that a new bridge for pedestrians and cyclists is being put across Newstead Road in Weymouth.

It will bring to an end people using the Rodwell Trail having to come down the old embankment, across a dangerous road and up the embankment on the other side to continue on their way.

Just goes to show how certain actions can have their consequences since there used to be a perfectly good railway bridge on the same site, but the line closed and the stone arch bridge was demolished for a variety of reasons in 1987.

Now the county council has backed what it terms “a simpler design” for the new bridge which will cost nearly £1 million.

At that rate the money could have paid for maintaining the old bridge at a rate of £801.28 per week for the entire 24 years and we’d have had a much sturdier construction as well.

IT was love at first sight and there was nothing the man could do about it. His giant St Bernard dog probably outweighed him and there was no way he could stop its surge across a busy pedestrian thoroughfare to check out a female dog about ten feet away.

Tail waving like a banner, the St Bernard simply stepped over swiftly leaving his owner flailing behind on the end of his lead and looking slightly embarrassed by the whole scene.

And the female dog? Well she wasn’t too sure about suddenly being dwarfed by an admirer and grinning passers by were treated to a cautious touching of doggie noses before the female dog trotted off down the street with her owner.

Fortunately for shoppers the St Bernard decided not to follow.

Honeymoon is over for new council

THE big decisions are coming thick and fast now for the new-look Lyme Regis Town Council.

The honeymoon for the new councillors is over and it seems to me they are relishing the opportunity to get stuck into some meaty matters which will have a big influence over the town and could define their first term of office.

The biggest decision of all will be whether to take back the lucrative Monmouth Beach car park from West Dorset District Council.

This land is owned by the town council but leased to the distrct for car parking. It brings in tens of thousands of pounds every year.

On the face ot it, this should be a no brainer. The land is owned by the town and it makes sense in these straightened financial times that the town should get the full financial benefit. But things are rarely that simple, especially when dealing with the district council.

Two exploratory meetings have already been held with district officials and a third is in the offing before a final decision is made. It was made clear in notes provided by town clerk Mike Lewis at last week’s Strategy and Policy Committee that these are not easy negotiations.

This is what the town clerk wrote: “Lyme representatives were left in no doubt that loss of considerable Monmouth Beach car park revenue would have serious consequences for the future of both the Tourist Information Centre operation and public conveniences in Lyme.”

In other words, the district are saying “take back the car park and you will have to run the TIC and toilets yourselves”.

And if that happens it will bring into play the vexed question of double rating. The cost of running the TIC and most of the toilets in town are financed through the community tax to which the people of Lyme contribute.

If WDDC decided to stop financing the TIC and give up the toilets, will our district council tax be reduced accordingly? No-one believes that will happen for one moment. If the town council take them on, we will be paying twice for them.

The district are insisting that any changes have got to be cost neutral to their coffers. That means if they lose revenue from the Monmouth Beach car park they will have to effect savings elsewhere in Lyme.

It seems to me that Strategy and Policy chairman Mark Gage and his negotiating team are going about this in a very measured way, making no rash statements or promises.

He told councillors last week that they were hoping to make progress when the two parties meet for a third time.

Let’s hope the final outcome is fair to the council taxpayers of Lyme Regis.

If the town council is to continue giving ongoing financial support to the Marine Theatre and The Hub, and the many other calls on their finances, increased revenue from car parking could prove to be crucial.

Other big decisions on the agenda? One has already been taken. The old council had reservations about leasing land to the museum for their extension, but the new members wasted no time in granting an 80-year lease over the Guildhall car park last week.

And then there’s the question of imposing fees on the traders on the Marine Parade for displaying their goods or putting out tables and chairs for customers.

This is a decision that has been long coming but could not be resolved until the tripartite agreement on the future management of the parade had been sorted.

Cobb traders have been paying for their al fresco arrangements for some time and the council is anxious to bring other seafronttraders into line and to ensure easy passage along the parade for pedestrians.

Traders turned up in force at last week’s council meeting, calling on councillirs to be fair and not to price them out of business.

This is one subject that we will be hearing much more about in the coming weeks.

As I say, the honeymoon is over.


IT'S good to see the relationship developing between St Michael’s Parish Church and the musical community in Rogaska Slatina, the town where our magnificent new church organ was built.

On Saturday evening the church played host to the Rogaska Slatina Ladies Choir of Slovenia, who are celebrating their 30th anniversary. Last year their male counterparts also visited Lyme to give a concert, among them Anton Skrabl, the organ maker.

The ladies choir presented a delightful musical programme which included a number of national Slovenian songs with some of their members dressed in national costume. They even brought their own accordian player.

It was a flying visit with the choir arriving at Heathrow on Friday and then being driven down to Lyme in mini-buses by organ appeal chairman Andrew Nicholson and his wife Linda. They stayed in the homes of church members but were assembled for a traditional English breakfast in the Church Hall on Saturday morning with the Vicar, the Reverend Jane Skinner, helping with the cooking.

The ladies of the choir returned to London on Sunday for their flight home on Monday. They have now extended an invitation to St Michael’s Church choir to visit Slovenia in the future.

During the concert I was able to present Andrew with a cheque for £500, making a total so far of £1,000 from the publishing of my book, 'From Slovenia With Love', which chronicles the story of how a small town in Dorset was able to commission and pay for one of the best organs in the UK with our old organ finding its way back to Bosnia.

After the concert the ladies of the choir hosted a traditional Slovenian supper to round off an enjoyable evening.

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Louise Hodgson

AUTHOR Louise Hodgson, 64, has recently been busy launching her latest book - Secret Places of West Dorset. Born in Sussex and brought up in Cheshire, Louise went on to live in some of the world’s most interesting cities, spending time in London, Amsterdam and California. Despite travelling the globe, Louise has spent most of her life in the westcountry and she currently resides in Corscombe, near Beaminster. Having graduated from the Manchester College of Art in her younger years, Louise still enjoys painting and is also a big animal lover and, as her latest book suggests, is a fan of the Dorset countryside. Louise spoke to the View From this week about her own favourite reads, her top tips for new writers and why she would like to have Ian Hislop round for dinner.

WHAT do you like most about West Dorset?
The huge variety of landscape features – sea, coastline, hills, streams, meadows and woods. I also find intriguing the ancient hollow-ways and myriad footpaths that criss-cross the countryside. I love exploring and my recently published book 'Secret Places of West Dorset' covers many of these special places.

WHAT would you like to change?
The uninspiring housing developments that blight our lovely countryside and the fact that many villages have lost their original Dorset inhabitants and are now filled with second homes that are empty for most of the time. I would like to see some law brought in that allows Dorset families to retain the family homes that Death Duties render untenable. Due to demand from outsiders, simple cottages are valued at hugely high prices and cannot be handed down to descendants but have to be sold. When the local families go, so does the soul of a place.

WHAT inspired you to start writing?
My love for this part of Dorset and a desire to share my enthusiasm and to inspire people to explore this beautiful area.

DO YOU believe everyone has a book in them?
Yes, everyone’s life has elements that can be shared with others. However, writing a book requires skill, dedication and hard work.

WHAT top three tips would you give to an amateur writer?
Enthusiasm, research and dedication.

WHO is your favourite author and why?
Ithell Colquoun, because of her varied talents in both writing and art, her vision and her ability to go ‘looking round corners’.

WHAT is your all time favourite book and why?
Daimonic Reality by Patrick Harpur. It brilliantly conveys the fact that there are other dimensions other than just the physical world.

WHERE do you see yourself in five years time?
Writing and presenting television documentaries on countrylife and the beauties of the landscape.

WHO would be your three dream guests at a dinner party?
King Charles II, Lord Byron and Ian Hislop. The latter to prick pomposity, Byron for poetic intensity and glamour and King Charles because I’ve a love for majesty.

WHAT was the last book you read, film you watched and CD you listened to?
The last book was 'Shamanism and Sacred Landscapes' by Chris Trwoga, the last film was The Search for Tony Blair and the last CD was Entroducing by DJ Shadow.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Putting the fun back into work

IT’S not so much fun running newspapers these days - probably a combination of advancing years and these difficult financial days.

When I edited the Sidmouth Herald back in the 1970s, after we had put the paper to bed on a Thursday evening all of the reporters and a few of the girls from production (they were always up for a night out) used to converge on the Cat & Fiddle on the Exeter Road for their midweek

They were riotous nights and we usually ended up in a circle on the dance floor chanting “Hi Ho Sidmouth Herald” to the tune of Jeff Beck’s 'Hi Ho Silver Lining'.

Pathetic, I know, but did we have some fun. Headaches all round on a Friday morning, though!

With The Weekenders coming up to one year old next week, and the boss in a generous mood, we thought we’d bring a bit of fun back into our otherwise busy lives by throwing a party.

And we would like to say a heartfelt thanks to those 100 or so people who helped us celebrate a year in which we have launched seven new titles in Devon and Dorset, especially the civic and community leaders who travelled over the Devon-Somerset border to join us for supper and a champagne toast.

We held our first birthday party in Axminster Guildhall, one of my favourite public halls where caretaker Geoff Enticott did us proud as always.

Steve Downton managed to sneak in from the opposition to help Geoff behind the bar and I’m sure I saw him making copious notes as I was making a presentation on our plans for the future, which will include the launch of two new titles in Ottery St Mary and Yeovil in the coming weeks.

It was great to see so many old friends at the party, people like Michael Steer whose enthusiasm for all things Axminster has not diminished over the years, and Cloakham Lawn stalwarts Phil Spong and Les Haynes. Les and I suddenly realised that we first met 40 years ago at a trade exhibition in the Guildhall which I organised in my early Pulman’s Weekly News days.

And we are indebted to the Mayor of Axminster, Councillor Andrew Moulding, who offered a few well chosen and generous words in proposing the toast. Andrew helped our director Jerry Ramsdale cut a Weekender birthday cake which was especially made for the occasion by my daughter Francesca, a member of our editorial team.

We have since received a number of letters and emails from guests who attended the party, thanking us for a great night and wishing us well in the future.

I’ve spent most of my working life launching newspapers, or trying to revive ailing titles, with varying degrees of success, but the readers’ response to the Weekender concept outstrips any of my past experiences.

After it was all over a few of us adjourned to the Axminster Inn for a couple celebratory drinks. I had an early morning breakfast meeting but I knew we had celebrated in style when Jackie phoned me to say she had just sent one of our staff members (who shall remain nameless but doesn’t live a million miles, or steps for that matter, from the Ax Inn!) home as he was nursing a sore head.

“Hi Ho silver....” - oh forget it!

As part of our first birthday celebrations we made a donation of £250 to the fund set up to
pay for the art project at Webster’s Garage organised by Axminster Arts.

The project is costing £5,000 with half that amount still outstanding. By the end of our evening two other local companies had made similar commitments which leaves another £1,750. I am sure the business folk of Axminster will rally round to see the full amount raised.

Freedom honour much deserved

I POPPED over to Seaton on Friday evening to see a bit of history in the making - the conferring of the Freedom of Seaton on Ted Gosling, the first such honour ever to be awarded.

When I first introduced some Seaton pages to Pulman’s Weekly News a few years back I would meet Ted once a week at Hugh’s Cafe, just down from his beloved museum, and within an hour I had enough copy to fill two pages.

No one has a better knowledge of Seaton or more appreciation of the town and its history. As Ted says, “your identity comes from the town where you were born”.

Ted was surrounded my family members and most of his friends as the Mayor, Peter Burrows, presented the Freedom certificate to him.

I have rarely seen Ted at a loss for words, but he was clearly moved by the honour, richly deserved, and admitted in his thank-you speech that he was overcome by emotion.

It’s good that Seaton should honour one of its most high profile and respected citizens.

Where would we be without the likes of Ted Gosling?

Jedward fans dish out the stick!

LAST week was one of the most bizarre in my long association with newspapers.

I’ve long come to the realisation that the celebrity culture dominates the lives of many young people, although being a bit of a dinosaur I can’t quite come to terms with it.

The arrival of singing duo (and I use that description in the loosest sense of the word) Jedward in Lyme Regis left me rather depressed.

We put up all our news stories on our website every week and readers are able to leave their comments.

When we heard that the brothers Jedward were in town I despatched daughter Francesca to track them down and get a photo. She’s no Jedward fan but I thought it would make change from covering boring council meetings.

They immediately clocked her as being a member of Her Majesty’s Press and were less than co-operative in having their picture taken.

Francesca caught up with them later when they were mucking about in the harbour by which time their presence in town was causing quite a stir.

She wrote a humorous piece about how the infamous twins had snubbed her twice - a definite low point in her short journalistic career.

Anyone with a grain of intelligence would have immediately recognised that it was written with tongue placed firmly in cheek and many locals commented on how much they enjoyed the article. The same could not be said of Jedward fans from around the world.

Francesca’s story soon found its way onto Google and suddenly the comments, most of them highly critical and insulting, came flooding in. In short, she took a real kicking, much to the amusement of the rest of the office journos.
It won’t have done her any harm. I’m always instilling into her the need to understand that whatever you write in a local newspaper ends up upsetting someone. This column is testament to that!

To be fair to her, she took it all in good spirit and it will contribute in no small measure to the process of acquiring a thick skin, so essential in journalism.

But we were amazed by the number of comments left on the website and the fact that we received 126,000 hits over the next 48 hours, the most ever. I kid you not!

I suppose this says much for the loyalty of Jedward fans, but it says much more about the times in which we live in that the antics of these two bizarre young men with dubious talent can generate such venom in such numbers.

By contrast, the terrible tragedy at the Cobb in the same week generated just one comment, although many hundreds went onto our website to read the story as it unfolded and before the paper came out.

As I say, it left me feeling rather depressed that today’s celebrity culture dominates so many young lives.

Dealing with The Hub ‘teething problems’

FEELINGS are running very high in Church Street over the rowdy behaviour of some attending the new Hub youth club.

Describing the opening night antics as “teething problems” was probably a bit of an understatement, underlined by the impassioned plea made at a recent council meeting by Maureen Wheeler, who was dining at the Italian restaurant opposite when a few kids were clearly endangering their lives in the street.

This led to a meeting last week between youth leader James Ward-Rice and neighbours. James was surprised to see a reporter present but we are unable to report on what went on because we weren’t invited to the meeting by the protesting neighbours.

The issue has prompted a few letters in this week’s View. One of our correspondents, Geoff Baker, suggests one way of dealing with the misbehaving youngsters which will bring a smile to many faces. “If only...” I can hear them say.

The disturbance caused on the first night is unlikely to be repeated but what is surprising, considering the high profile support The Hub has received to date, is the lack of volunteers, referred to by Hub development group chairman Mark Gage when he apologised in the council chamber for the “teething problems”.

Jubilee plans taking shape

A SECOND public meeting was held last week to progress Lyme’s plans to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee next June.

At the invitation of the Mayor, Sally Holman, I’ve agreed to act as co-ordinator for the celebration and a steering committee made up of representatives of local organisations was set up.

Sally and I also paid a visit to Deputy Lieutenant of Dorset, Minnie Churchill and her partner Simon Bird, who have pledged their support and who will be joining in as many of the events as Minnie’s hectic schedule elsewhere in the county will allow.

I’m delighted with the support to date with over 20 local organisations having committed themselves to organising an event or helping out in other ways.

Following the first meeting of the steering committee, a draft programme will be published to which further events can be added as the months progress. We will also be launching our own website to keep people informed of what is happening.

The celebrations will be totally self-financing as we have decided not to go cap in hand to the town council for financial support.

However, for the modest sum of £10, we will be asking people to become patrons so that we will have a small fund to offset expenses. Watch out for further details of this and and other information in the View in the coming weeks.

Reverting back to Dickensian building fails to meet house buyers’ Great Expectations

HOW interesting it is to see the housing market seemingly reverting to values previously criticised as Dickensian and not fit for purpose.

In olden times, homes for ordinary people were almost thrown up with families packing into cramped houses with pokey bedrooms and tiny kitchens.

The end of the Victorian era saw a change with some really sturdy terrace houses built - we lived in one for ten years - where rooms had much more space.

A few decades on and the term “jerry built homes” appeared to denote those built in a hurry for the working classes and we also went through a time of rush building to replace bomb-damaged homes after the Second World War.

But there appeared to be a period of grander homes through the 1960s to 1970s before developers began to slowly tighten the screw to generate the maximum number of homes for the land they had.

Now population is still climbing, there is only a finite amount of land and a simple stroll round some of the smaller ordinary developments in Weymouth and Portland reveals that developers are really packing in homes like sardines in a can with tiny rooms and gardens.

One development I saw contained half a dozen homes on a site I would have said struggled to support three or four, another seemed to be building homes but for rabbits, not people, while a third had gone the way of so many recent developments in the borough – flats, flats and more flats.

Planners do their best to set standards and control the more aberrant schemes, but homes have to be built because people need somewhere to live, so perhaps the overall machine has lost sight of the one thing which should be paramount – what is built will still have to be lived in by human beings not battery chickens.

Housing pressure is undeniable but it seems to me that people’s Great Expectations in Hard Times all too often see buyers perhaps end up with a Bleak House.

Are increased rubbish bin collections money well spent?

RUBBISH bin collection hardly ranks in discussion terms with the nuclear debate, civil rights or divided opinions on the existence of God... but it is starting to come close.

Government pledges to spend hundreds of millions of pounds on ensuring a weekly collection of food waste from homes is pretty emotive stuff at a time when every penny is being watched like a hawk.

Fortunately a comment by one Weymouth and Portland councillor during a committee debate sent thoughts on the matter down a wholly different channel.

The member pointed out to appreciative laughter that everyone could soon have a weekly collection “just not the same stuff every week”!

Now you could view this in several ways including the possibility that one type of waste food could be collected one week and something else the next or it could be a tongue-in-cheek remark that there could be weekly collections but it wouldn’t necessarily be food every week.

If our politicians know something we don’t then may we soon look forward to the news that tin recycling will be made every week of the month but it will be beer cans on the first Friday, vegetable and fruit cans on the second Friday, pet food cans on the third Friday and all those fiddly cans with the key that always breaks on the fourth Friday.

Perhaps we could see waste newsprint split into weeks for the Times and Telegraph, a different collection day for the other broadsheets, another for most tabloids and one on its own for The Sun and the Daily Star, which would have to be put out for collection in opaque bags in order not to sully children passing them by on the way to school.

Surely the issue here can only be - is spending nearly a billion pounds on increased collections for waste a bill which is money well spent?

People must make their own minds up... and I must stop here because it’s Friday tomorrow and I’ve got to put out the beer cans.

Teetotal Andy enjoys real ale at Octoberfest

REAL ale is growing in popularity all the time and this year’s Octoberfest at Weymouth Pavilion Ocean Room was a sell out.

The event was a credit to the West Dorset branch of the Campaign for Real Ale, but what sticks in my memory most about the festival was the tremendous coup achieved by the branch who signed up Andy White as one of a number of new CAMRA members.

Some of you may say that signing Andy, a regular duty manager at the Pavilion, would be a useful contact gained by the branch, but that wasn’t the achievement which attracted my attention.

That success was down to the fact that Andy had signed up to the branch... and he’s virtually a teetotaller!

He said he doesn’t drink at work and only occasionally when he’s relaxing away from the Pavilion, but the beer festival so intrigued him that he tried a few tastes. Now he is looking forward to a few more!

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Natalie Allen

PILATES instructor Natalie Allen, 41, lives in Uplyme with her husband Neil and son Max. She grew up in London and moved to West Sussex in her twenties, but soon fell in love with the Lyme Regis and Uplyme area after visiting it on holidays and moved to the village three years ago. Originally trained in dance and drama, Natalie first tried pilates in 1986 and soon took a further interest in the positive changes it can bring to the body. She now teaches from her own equipped pilates studio in Uplyme.

HOW did you first get into pilates?
I tried pilates back in the 1986 whilst I was training in dance and drama at The Italia Conti School of performing arts. I went off to a studios to do some pilates training with Alan Herdman who was the first person to set up an equipped pilates studio in London, and it was my first experience of the pilates studio.

WHERE did you train to become a pilates instructor?
After working for a time as a dance teacher then working in the fitness industry I wanted to understand more about the body and movement and the positive changes pilates can bring, so I trained with Polestar Pilates, which is an international pilates teacher training company. The comprehensive education includes manual skills, advanced body awareness and the principles of motor learning. I taught pilates back in Sussex and when we moved to Uplyme I placed an advertisement in the village shop to see if anybody would be interested in taking a class. Three years later my classes have grown to six per week, and I am thrilled that I have managed to keep the interest of my very first participants.

HOW does pilates differ from other keep-fit activities?
Pilates is a very precise, intelligent exercise method where the message is “quality not quantity”. Most people are astonished by the gentleness of pilates. Keep-fit and aerobics classes tend to work more on a cardiovascular workout, but don’t tend to train balanced strength and flexibility. Sometimes they over-train some muscles and under-train others creating imbalances that can lead to injury.

TELL us about your own pilates classes...
Pilates is for everybody. I have worked with teenagers, people suffering from osteoporosis, sports enthusiasts, dancers and many people who have injuries or back problems. Many clients take part just to feel better about the way they look and move. I teach from my equipped studio in Uplyme on a one-to-one or one-to-two basis, and I design the session to suit the individual. Studio sessions are great for improving technique and easing movement discomfort. I recommend that people who are suffering from and/or recovering from an injury work one-to-one with me from my studio, obviously having consent from their doctor or physio. I teach all of my mat classes at the Woodmead Halls in Lyme Regis on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday mornings and provide all equipment mats. I teach a variety of different level classes and I insist that participants start with the beginners sessions despite their fitness level, as this will introduce them to the pilates fundamental exercises.

WHAT other activities do you take part in to keep fit?
I love walking and taking in all the beautiful landscapes which surround us here. I use a cross trainer which helps to keep my cardio fitness (which i should do more often!). Of course I practice pilates which keeps my body feeling great.

WHAT are your other personal interests?
I love going to the cinema and theatre and socialising with family and friends. There is nothing better than a glass of wine, a great chat and giggle.

WHY did you move to Uplyme?
After spending a couple of holidays in Lyme we fell for its charm and beauty. We also have friends who grew up in Lyme and now live in Uplyme and we could see how they as a family have a lovely lifestyle. Our son loves sailing and the beach lifestyle, and we feel that there is a great community spirit in Lyme.

WHAT do you like about living in the area?
Uplyme has a great community spirit and I love the countryside and its closeness to Lyme Regis. I wouldn’t change anything about it.

WHICH three guests would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Comedy duo French and Saunders for a good laugh, and Gary Barlow for a sing song around the piano after dinner.

WHAT would you do if you won the Lottery?
Firstly I would treat my family and friends to the most amazing holiday. I would teach pilates asking people to donate to a charity of their choice rather than payment to me. I most certainly would not give up the teaching or studying. The luxury of a housekeeper also seems rather appealing!

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