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.

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