Friday, 25 November 2011

Stand by for another record

IF you thought this year’s Axe Vale Festival was good, just wait until next June. The 2011 show was a record-breaker with the organising committee reporting this week that a fantastic profit of £43,000 had been achieved - but, as they say in the most refined circles, “you ain’t seen nothing yet!”

The 2012 festival, which will be the 18th annual event, promises to be a real bumper affair and will feature a showcase marquee to celebrate Axminster Tool Centre’s 40th year in business, as well as Axminster Carpets marking their 75th anniversary.

To this add a 100 feet track and train from Pecorama, likely to be a big attraction, and a mobile bowls mat which Cloakham Lawn sports centre plan to bring along to the festival to promote their activities.

The festival usually attracts between 14,000 and 15,000 visitors but that total will surely be exceeded next year.

The friendly festival has come a long was since its very first show in 1994 which was organsed to raise money to help finance the Flamingo Pool in Axminster. Up until last year the pool had received £166,000 with a further donation being made this week.

With the £23,000 allocated to worthy local causes at the annual meeting this week, the festival has now raised a staggering £300,000 since its formation.

Many of those who served on the organising committee have been with the festval since its inception and that is probably one of the reasons why the show has been such a storming success.

They have got it down to a fine art and the Axe Valley Festival is not only one of the most popular one-day shows in Devon - it’s also one of the best organised.

Ron Cross stood down as chairman at Wednesday’s annual meeting, having seen the show reach new heights under his stewardship, but will stay on the committee. The role of chairing the festival committee now falls on the capable shoulders of Claire Morgan who has been a festival helper for many years and has served the Axminster community well in many capacities.

It’s a daunting task but with such an experienced and committed committee behind her, I have no doubt that Claire will be a worthy successor to Ron and the festival will continue to go from strength to strength.

The 2012 festival will undoubtedly be yet another record-breaker.

Celebrating a long and fruitful life

I MADE sure I got to the church early for Marjorie Rowe’s funeral at The Minster in Axminster on Monday. I arrived a good half hour before the thanksgiving service was due to start and virtually every seat was taken by then.

Rector John Streeting said he had never seen the church so full and the large attendance was recognition of the esteem in which Mrs Rowe was held.

I had seen the church as full but only on one occasion - the funeral of Mrs Rowe’s husband Frank in 1994. Frank, of course, was “Mr Axminster” and a large attendance was expected.
It was good to see that Mrs Rowe, who concentrated on bringing up their three children whilst Frank built his auctioneering and cattle market business, made her own impact on the community.

It latter years, of course, she was not only the matriarch of the Rowe family but also revered in the local agricultural circles, not only in Axminster but in the Bridport area where she lived in latter years, allegedly to “keep an eye on son Jim”!

Son-in-law Mike Harvey did a splendid job, delivering a touching but humorous eulogy, and afterwards the congregation were invited back to the Guildhall where Mrs Rowe’s long and fruitful life was celebrated in suitable fashion.

THIS week, as reported on page three, we intoduce a fourth title to our stable of Weekenders in East Devon with the launch of our Ottery St Mary edition.

More good news next week; we are splitting our Axe Valley Weekender with separate editions for Axminster & Colyton and Seaton & Beer to provide an even better local news service as well as introducing more dedicated pages for our Honiton and Sid Vale papers.

This week also sees a record 64 pages, another milestone in what has been an hectic 2011. Thanks for your continued support.

Winning back some favour for Weymouth

JUST a week or so and it will be time for us all to collect a rebate on our annual bill for car parking in Weymouth and Portland.

That is because we're are all being given several hours free parking on eight days in December at all council owned car parks and on-street sites.

The council committee debate that awarded this seasonal windfall made much of handing back something to the community and no one can say this is not a laudable sentiment.

But cynical old me did raise a wry smile at one snippet of the debate which dwelt on the boost to the town from its new relief road.

One councillor beautifully summed it up by saying that the relief road has been hailed as a vast improvement to allow people swifter access to shop or visit the town . . . but it also provides people with a faster way to get out of town!

It seems that those fed up with never-ending roadworks and a new traffic light system which impartially delays everyone are now increasingly voting with their feet and dumping Weymouth in favour of going shopping in Dorchester.

The road to Dorchester — if not Hell — is clearly paved with good intentions and the town may yet rue the road and Olympics work.

Giving people several bites of free parking in the run-up to Christmas will help long-suffering residents and traders have welcomed the move, but it will take more than a few hours free parking to heal the wounds in residents’ memories from what has gone before.

Don’t tarnish the image of the torch

WHEN I first saw details I thought it was some sort of sick joke being foisted on this country’s long suffering public.

It seems that the purity of the Olympic ideal has now been bastardised so much that the torch relay for the Games can be hijacked into the script of Eastenders!

Is nothing sacred? I appreciate that, for millions of discerning viewers, the antics of various cast members perfectly reflects modern life, but there are limits.

If a sacred symbol such as the Olympic torch can now be viewed as something commercial to cash in on - and that has to be the reason for storylining it since ratings will rise sharply for that episode - then where will it end?

Can we all now look forward to Weymouth and Portland’s Olympic sailors appearing on Masterchef to whip up a quick omelette cooked over the Olympic torch?

The possibilities seem endless in a world where everything is there to be exploited and God alone knows I’ve sat in on enough recent meetings where Olympic marketing opportunities were discussed.

But the question is this. How far do we allow marketing to go? I’d suggest using the Olympic torch in a programme like Eastenders cheapens its image.

It tarnishes the majesty for which the torch stands because, whatever else Eastenders may stand for, majesty it does not. BBC take note.

Mind the gap!

IT is the measure of a determined politician that they can soldier on even when faced with a complete lack of support.

Such was the case with Weymouth and Portland management committee chairman Councillor Mike Goodman, a seasoned veteran of life and many a political clash.

He didn’t allow lack of support to affect his commitment to the items being debated by his committee and manfully stuck to his position in the seat of government despite very trying circumstances.

So what point of view was he propounding that saw him get so little support?

Well, it wasn’t so much a view as the fact that his chair was collapsing around him.

Perish the thought that Mr Goodman might have a weight problem – which he doesn’t – but I have to confess to a certain morbid fascination as I watched the joint in his hardwood chair take on softwood proportions.

Wider and wider gaped the gap, Mr Goodman being saved by the closure of the meeting if not the joint of his chair. It was clearly one piece of furniture missed in the recent “minimalist” upgrade of Committee Room Number 1.

Number one son

WELL, my son is now officially a graduate and entitled to have the letters BA (Hons) after his name.

Fatherly (and motherly) pride was much in evidence when we attended the awards ceremony at Worcester Cathedral whose stunning stained glass interior was packed with close to 1,000 people.

Son’s ten seconds of fame was just that... ten seconds, because hundreds of others were also graduating that afternoon and the degrees fairly rattled along.

Still, that ten seconds meant all the world to his parents who had ruthlessly arrived early to get good seats, guarding them carefully for nearly two hours in the run up to the ceremony.

Well done, son, for three years hard work and well done Budmouth for seven years schooling ahead of his degree.

A true philanthropist

MUCH interest has been aroused by the piece in this column last week about the possible renaming of the central pavilion in the regenerated Marine Parade shelters.

The matter came to the fore when the working group organising the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in June wrote to the council asking if the pavilion could be renamed after Her Maj in honour of her 60 years on the throne.

Town councillors were not over-enamured with the idea, pointing out, quite rightly, that as a big chunk of the £1.3 million shelters cost would be paid for by the people of Lyme Regis, they should be the ones who decide whether the pavilion should be renamed.

Quick to put pen to paper was Geoffery Mann to sugest that the pavilion should be renamed 'The Owen Pavilion' after town councillor Owen Lovell, the only councillor who questioned spending so much on the revamp of the shelters.

A more serious suggestion came from Bernard and Molly Spencer who have an interest in all matters Lyme. They suggested that the pavilion should be named after an 18th century philanthropist who did much for our town but has never been recognised.

Molly and Bernard wrote as follows: “This gives the town council a wonderful opportunity to honour a man who did so much for Lyme Regis but is neglected to the extent few people remember him. I write of Thomas Hollis, 1720 - 1774, the man who gave us the Marine Parade and the Assembly Rooms.

“Lyme Regis owes a large debt to Thomas Hollis for he did much to improve the town. He cleared away the old buildings on what is today, Cobb Gate, enabling an area attacked by the sea to be rebuilt. Purchased and cleared the old buildings in the centre of Broad Street and in Pound Street. Cleared and paid for the site of the Assembly Rooms; handing them to the town. Paid for the removal of the old fort that blocked the seafront, putting in railings and steps to the beach; all of which made the Marine Parade possible. And so much more.

“He was also a benefactor of Harvard College in America and sent the struggling university shiploads of books. Harvard thought so highly of Hollis they named their Information system in his honour - “The Harvard On Line Library Information System.”

“Thomas Hollis was a true philanthropist. Lord Chatham wrote of him that ‘he is the happiest of beings by dispensing continually happiness to others’.

“Another friend, Augustus Toplady, composer of the song ‘Rock of Ages’, is recorded as saying that, ‘Thomas Hollis went about doing good and helping the poor for all of his life’.”

Their letter concluded: “Perhaps Thomas Hollis has been passed by in the past because he apparently referred to himself as a Republican?”

So this is a suggestion that could win the support of at least two of our town councillors.
I must admit I had no idea who Thomas Hollis was or how much he did for the town.

We’re all doomed if it snows in January...

STROLLING along the seafront on Sunday afternoon it was difficult to imagine that this time last year the town was gridlocked by snow.

Many were out enjoying the winter sunshine and there were kids galore playing on the sand.
Lyme, unusually, has been hit by heavy snow three times in two years and the inadequacies of our preparedness for dealing with snow was very evident.

To their credit, the town council have got their act together and provided many more grit bins and supplies of salt.

But the county council are refusing to budge when it comes to extending their griting programme in Lyme. Only the main road through town will be gritted in inclement weather, despite the fact there were several accidents in Woodmead Road and other steep hills last year.

And now we hear that Church Street will be closed for eight weeks in January. That means that Woodmead Road will provide the only by-pass to the town centre.

We can only hope and pray we have a mild January.

Local talent to the fore

WEDNESDAY evening of last week was spent in Axminster Guildhall where the local operatic society were staging Irvin Berlin’s 'Annie get Your Gun'.

I’ve covered Axminster Operatic Society shows, on and off, since 1968 and on this occasion I was reviewing 'Annie' for our Axe Valley paper - The Weekender (see it on our website -

I gave it a good write-up but at one time I thought I was watching Lyme Regis Operatic Society.
The more accomplished singers in our area travel around taking part in the various shows and there were many familiar faces on stage.

Two of the leading parts were taken by Lyme residents Nicky Sweetland and Brian Rattenbury, who were both brilliant as usual, and I was delighted to see two stars of my Lyme’s Got Talent shows - Ben Hills and Amy Street - also being trusted with principal roles.

They did us proud, I can tell you that.


CHARMOUTH born Tom Summers returned to his Dorset roots last year after escaping from seven years in the London rat race.

As a child, Tom attended Charmouth Primary School and Colyton Grammar School before, inspired by the Heritage coast, going to Reading University to study Physical Geography.

After finishing university Tom found he wasn't qualified for much so moved to the capital where he fell into a career in marketing, working for the likes of Red Bull, Innocent Smoothies and Magners Cider.

After enjoying the excess of his London lifestlye for seven years, Tom returned to the area to help his mother with her own business venture, Felicity’s Farm Shop in Morcombelake. Tom is now Deputy Manager of the shop or, as he puts it, general dogsbody and minion to his mother.

On his return Tom became Chairman of Charmouth First Cubs and Scouts group and has recently ventured into the realm of pig keeping with his Uncle, John Summers.

WHAT made you return to your Dorset roots?
I'd had enough of being in the rat race and, when you're born here, the West Dorset countryside just gets into your heart, it’s such a beautiful place to be. I can't really explain it but it just has a real magnetic draw for me, it’s home.

YOU'VE been back for a year, do you plan to stay longer?
I think so, my mother has done a really good job setting up the farm shop and I’m sure she doesn't really require me anymore but if she'll have me, I'll stay. I have responsibilities now, I’ve got the pigs to look after, so we shall see where the future takes me.

ARE you pleased with how the farm shop has developed in its first year?
I'm really pleased, mum and her staff have worked really hard. Our customers have been really supportive and lovely and our suppliers have really been understanding, patient and lovely as well.

WHAT do you think is the secret to its success?
I think the staff. Hopefully we all radiate a happy positive vibe and make it a nice place for people to come. We like to think we are part of the community, a place where people can roll up for a chat, to hang out and have fun with us.

YOUR first batch of pigs will be ready for Christmas, will you be sad to see them go?
I try to be brave and not think about it. It is tough because they are so happy to see you, probably because you turn up with the food, but that is life and the nature of the business unfortunately. I will be sad to see them go but life goes on and we will get more pigs. My comfort is knowing that they have had a fantastic life, they've got a huge paddock to roam around so they are happy pigs.

WAS it sad to see the first Charmouth Cubs and Scouts struggling?
It was because it was a huge part of my upbringing here, it gave me a huge sense of community involvement and a sense of adventure. From the age of seven I was in the Cubs and we used to go camping, kayaking, orienteering and just having good fun really. Loads of the guys and girls from the village were part of it and it was a great way to mix with people of all ages.

ARE you glad to see them going from strength to strength now?
I'm really glad, but I can't take any of the credit for it, The hard work has been done by the scout and cub leaders. Kevin the scout leader and, Tony and Maggie, the cub leaders have done a wonderful job. They have done wonders planning a really good programme, they've doubled the cub numbers and really put some energy into it, it’s a great service for the youngsters of Charmouth.

WOULD you recommend it to all young people?
Absolutely, it's free to try it out so just pop down for a couple of sessions. In the last few weeks they have entered a go-karting competition, they took part in a swimming gala in Bridport, there is a 24 hour camp coming up next year and all sorts of Christmas parties and fun activities.

WHAT were some of the highlights of your marketing career?
It was outrageous, it was rock and roll and completely daft, but great fun. We went skidooing in Antarctica, partying in Moroccan palaces, rally car driving, I learnt to wakeboard on a lake in Austria. Lots of good fun and hi jinx, but it’s lovely to be back here, it feels a bit more real. I couldn't go walking in London, I couldn't climb golden cap or keep pigs, it’s not better or worse it’s just a different chapter of my life that I want to embrace.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Heartening to see such support

I MAKE no apology for the comprehensive nature of our coverage, on several news pages this week, of the Remembrance Day events throughout East Devon.

I am also proud that we had a representative present at all the parades and services in the 12 main towns covered by The Weekender and our sister View From papers in Dorset.

I have never served in the Armed Forces but I am a member of the Royal British Legion. And it’s one of my favourites organisations, as important as it’s ever been in this dangerous world.

Wherever we had reporters there was a record turn-out for the Remembrance activities, surely a reflection of a greater appreciation and understanding that our troops are putting their lives on the line every day in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.

I went over to Colyton on Sunday morning to attend the Remembrance service in St Andrew’s Parish Church, followed by the laying of wreaths at the War Memorial in the churchyard.

As you would expect in Colyton, the church was full to capacity with a large crowd also witnessing the wreath laying by representatives of local organisation. It was the same story at Seaton, Beer, Honiton and Sidmouth.

Among the wreath layers at Colyton was 37 year-old Steve Collins, a chief petty officer in the Royal Navy, first son of John and Monica Collins. Steve had just come back from his fifth tour of Afghanistan and wanted to be present at his home-town ceremony.

Ironically, Steve left Colyton to join the Royal Navy 20 years ago, leaving Axminster station at 11 am on November 11th (Armistice Day).

The Poppy Appeal this year is expected to top £40 million for Royal British Legion funds, a record. Despite the fact the it has been 66 years since the cessation of World War Two, the work of the Legion goes on unabated and often unrecognised.

It is a sobering thought that there has been only one year - 1968 - when a member of the British Armed Forces has not been killed in the service of their country.

It was heartening to see so many people supporting the Remembrance Day services and parades, especially the young, a clear indication that all those who made the supreme sacrifice will not be forgotten.

Always striving for stage excellence

I’VE waxed lyrical in this column before about the plethora of talented stage performers in this area. How lucky we are.

A visit to Axminster Guildhall on Wednesday to see Axminster Operatic Society’s production of 'Annie Get Your Gun' has not persuaded me to change my opinion.

The first show I saw performed by Axminster Operatic Society was 'Carousel' in 1968 and down the years they have always been prepared to stretch their talents to the limit by staging the big musical shows, rather than sticking to the more traditional operettas.

I thought last year’s production of 'Showboat' set new standards; it was one of the best amateur shows I had ever seen.

That, of course, put pressure on what to stage this year and I think 'Annie' was a good choice. I’m not sure it was better than 'Showboat' but as I say in my review in our Life section, it was a close-run thing.

I didn’t particularly like the big screen but admire the society’s desire to try out new things. I just did not think a show of this calibre required any gimmicks.

The standard of those playing the leading roles was quite remakable yet again, bordering on the professional, with great support by an enthusaistic and happy chorus line.

CASTING my eye down the list of officers elected at the recent annual meeting of Axminster Cricket Club, I was struck by the fact there was one familiar name missing - Phil Spong.

Phil has been one of the driving forces in the cricket club and at Cloakham Lawn sports centre for several decades.

An excellent all-round cricketer who went on to play for Devon Over 50s, Phil dedicated much of his adult life to the promotion of cricket in general and Axminster CC in particular.

He has received many accolades over the years from the cricketing authorities, particularly in relation to his groundsman skills and the promotion of youth cricket, and has held many club posts down the years.

I will never forget his sheer commitment and hard work put into the day the Lord’s Taverners sent a team to Axminster a few years back.

Philip is now at an age when he has decided it’s time to step away from the game and club which has played such an important role in his life. But his contribution cannot be underestimated.

Phil will not appreciate me making these comments - that’s the sort of bloke he is - but some things have to be said.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Renaming the shelters pavilion

IN A bid to create a lasting legacy for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in Lyme Regis, the steering group organising the event has suggested to the town council that the central pavilion of the new-look Marine Parade shelters should be renamed the Queen Elizabeth II Pavilion, or perhaps the Jubilee Pavilion.

Mayor Sally Holman, who leads the steering group, put the idea to the town council at last week’s meeting.

There was little support for the idea, however, with the majority of councillors arguing that as much of the cost of the £1.3 million regeneration of shelters was financed from the public purse, it should be down to the people of Lyme Regis to decide what the shelters should be called in the future.

That’s a wholly worthy argument; after all, it’s the people of Lyme who will have contributed to the cost through their council tax.

The councillors decided that the public should be consulted through the town council’s newsletter and also be asked to come up with other ideas for a jubilee legacy.

Some thought that as the clock on the front of the shelters was originally dedicated to those who had lost their lives in two world wars, their memory should be further perpetuated in the naming of the central pavilion.

It is doubtful that the town council would have come up with the idea of renaming the central pavilion had the jubilee steering committee not suggested the idea.

“Central pavilion” is a fairly bland title for such a grand piece of architecture, now restored to its former glory, and as programme co-ordinator for the royal celebrations in Lyme I’m obviously in favour of renaming it the Jubilee Pavilion.

However, I agree that the people of Lyme should have the final say and they may, of course, vote in favour of the renaming the pavilion after the Queen.

I’m pleased, however, the our other suggestion of creating a number of Honoured Citizens who have served the town with distinction during the Queen’s reign was met with slightly more enthusiasm with councillors agreeing in principle to the idea and setting up a working party to explore the suggestion further.

This is not a new idea with other local councils honouring their citizens in this way.

Christmas boost for the traders

I WISH the town council well in their efforts to boost Christmas trade in Lyme Regis by organising four late-night shopping events in the run up to Christmas.

It’s refreshing to see that the councillors, led by the enthusiastic Rikey Austin, are adopting a pro-active approach to making use of the £3,000 that West Dorset District Council has given to promote local business.

Late night shopping in Lyme has been tried on many occasions in the past with varying degrees of success. But never on such a wide scale.

Such nights have never attracted big crowds but the council is planning to spend £2,000 of their £3,000 windfall on a local and regional advertising and public relations campaign.

It will be interesting to see whether this is money well spent.

Jubilee update

PLANS to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, I am pleased to report, are progressing well with the first draft programme being approved by the steering group, led by Mayor Sally Holman, on Monday evening.

A number of other events are being planned which will be added to the programme when final details have been confirmed.

I think we already have a programme which will do the occasion proud, providing yet another opportunity for the community to come together.

For details go to


IT wasn’t so long ago that the church was half empty for the annual Remembrance Service and very few organisations supported the parade. But these are very different days.

On Sunday, St Michael’s Parish Church was filled to capacity with standing room only and it was one of the best supported parades I can remember.

My reporters confirmed that there was also brilliant support at the remembrance activities in other towns and villages where we publish newspapers.

In Lyme, the local branch of the Royal British Legion has enjoyed an upsurge in profile and support in recent years, due to excellent leadership from President Cecil Quick and chairman Ken Whetlor, backed by an enthusaistic committee, and with all that is going on in the world at the moment, with our Armed Services putting their lives on the line every day, the significance of the Poppy has taken on a new importance.

I am a big supporter of the Royal British Legion, being a member of the Lyme branch, although I have never served in the Armed Forces. And for the first time I took part in the parade as the Mayor, Sally Holman, allowed me to walk with the civic party as a former First Citizen.

This year there was no Junior Band to lead the parade but sole drummer Warren Jones, a former Woodroffe School pupil, did an excellent job.

The parade was marshalled as always by Cecil Quick, amazingly in his 91st year. Despite failing eyesight, Cecil went round all the organisations before the parade was dismissed to thank them personally and had a kind word for all the youth groups present.

He was accompanied by Corporal Daniel Buckley, partner of Cecil’s granddaughter Maxine, and will shortly be leaving the Army after 13 years as a bomb disposal officer. It must have been an emotional day for him.

The parade was the last time he wore his Royal Engineers uniform.

Poppy - a simple mark of respect

THERE can be little obvious connection between football and those who gave their lives for their country.

Yet a huge row developed over the England and Wales teams wanting to wear poppies as a mark of respect during friendly games ahead of Remembrance Sunday.

Inevitably football’s world governing body FIFA tried to give the whole idea not a red poppy but a red card because it claimed poppies would “jeopardise the neutrality of football” by breaching its decree that shirts should not carry political, religious or commercial messages.

FIFA’s stance attracted a storm of protest including comments from Germany in support of what England and Wales were trying to do not to mention anger right across the country including Weymouth and Portland that it was another unwelcome example of political correctness.

I’m bound to say that FIFA’s insensitive remarks bear close resemblance to the constant interference we have to endure from EU chiefs who also feel that their rules are the only ones that matter.

FIFA eventually bowed to international pressure and agreed a compromise for England and Wales to wear poppies on armbands rather than their shirts.

Perhaps FIFA might also dwell on this — but for those who gave their lives there might not be any FIFA while only an idiot divorced from reality would label a poppy as political, religious or commercial when it is clearly a simple mark of respect.

Let’s hope we don’t get our fingers burnt!

WE now have a rough idea of how the Olympic torch is going to make its triumphal passage through the streets of Weymouth and Portland en route to the 2012 Games in London.

I’m sure that many people would like to catch a glimpse of this sporting icon, so I enclose a few notes here to shed a little light on the torch and to help people arrange their diaries.

Believe it or not, Carl Diem devised the idea of the torch relay for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin which were organised by the Nazis under the guidance of Joseph Goebbels, so let us all hope that Weymouth and Portland’s handling of its share of the 2012 route can match German efficiency.

By far and away the best chance of seeing the torch on July 12th-13th, 2012, will be anywhere in the town centre area where drivers won’t be distracted from enjoying the spectacle by anything so mundane as forward progress.

Other promising viewpoints include the Nothe Gardens – if you can get a ticket – from which the transfer of the torch from Osprey Quay on Portland to Weymouth beach promises all sorts of challenging opportunities for spanners to get into works.

This is because the transfer is by sea and, if this year’s July weather is anything to go by, then there is a strong possibility that conditions may be a little choppy, so perhaps a few prayers here to the sea god Poseidon rather than the Olympic god Zeus.

Finally, no guidance on a moving receptacle carrying naked flames would be complete without some advice from Health and Safety who warn that runners carrying the torch should be careful of hot metal.

However, I think local Olympic organisers will be more worried about getting their fingers burnt in a wider sense since the eyes of the world will be on us and we don’t want to be forever after remembered as the town which dropped the torch down roadworks or lost it at sea! Good luck, we’ll need it.

Spirit of Christmas?

VODKA may not be everyone’s drink of choice and it certainly doesn’t rank top of the list for members of Chapelhay Community Playgarden in Weymouth.

They turned up to the garden ahead of an event for children to make snowmen and angels as decorations for a community Christmas tree only to find that part of the garden had become a major hazard.

Vandals had decided it would be great fun to have a drink in the playgarden and, when they had finished, they smashed an empty bottle of vodka on the metal top platform of a children’s slide.

Hundreds of pieces of glass exploded over the whole area and helpers at the garden arrived for the Christmas event only to find they had some serious housework to do first.

It took a house broom, a dustpan and brush plus a lot of effort to painstakingly track down and sweep up every shard of glass and put it in rubbish bins before children could be allowed back on that part of the play area.

Residents say that the playgarden is frequently being used at night by groups of teenagers as a rendezvous point for drinking and smoking which is hardly what organisers had in mind when the playgarden was formed.

Hopefully the true spirit of Christmas can return to the gardens... and I don’t mean out of a bottle.

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Chris Anderson

WESTCOUNTRY born producer, songwriter and musician Chris Anderson has recently returned to his roots after taking a break from his glittering career in the music industry.

Having grown up in Lyme Regis, studying 'A'-Level music and completing his piano grades at the Woodroffe School, Chris went on to work with the likes of Cher, Tina Turner and Kylie Minogue.

After graduating from the Gateway School of Music Recording, Chris joined the team that was to become Metro, where in 1996 he worked on Cher’s multi platinum award winning track ‘Believe’.

Chris went on to work with a host of stars and in 2001 became one of the first recipients of the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters - ‘Universal’ Chart Newcomers Award.

In Europe Chris co-wrote and produced the debut single for 2002 Spanish ‘Pop Idol’ finalist Chenoa and in 2003 Chris had a song recorded by the winner of French ‘Pop Idol’.

In recent times Chris has been setting up independently, spending his time working between London and West Dorset. His most recent release was a track on the charity Help for Heroes single ‘We Will Remember Them’.

WHO are the biggest artists you’ve worked with?
The three biggest are Cher, Tina Turner and Lionel Richie. I’ve worked with a few other people as well. I played keyboards on an Enrique Iglesias track and I’ve worked with Belinda Carlisle and Kylie Minogue.

WHO were the nicest to work with?
Lionel Richie is really nice and down to earth. Kylie Minogue was really lovely as well. You tend to find the ones who have got the genuine talent are the nicest to work with, because they haven’t got anything to prove. The ones who come through the door from fame school who’ve got too little talent and too much confidence are the ones who are difficult.

WHAT are the secrets to a perfect pop song?
It’s got to have the standard pop song structure. It’s like the old saying goes, ‘Don’t bore us, get to the chorus’. Also it has to be melodic, something you can imagine the postman whistling, something people can latch on to. Lyrically, if someone can really relate to a song, even if you are misreading what the song is written about, that’s what makes a really strong song.

ARE there any songwriters that inspire you?
All the writers involved in Motown, Burt Bacharach, Lennon and McCartney. It’s not cool sometimes to say you like The Beatles but the bottom line is they were phenomenal writers and they did what they did and, no matter what anyone else does, they can never change that.

DO you think the digital age has ruined the music industry?
The industry is in a very bad state now because of all the illegal downloads. Kids don’t see the value to music anymore. I’ve had a bit of a sabbatical recently but I think I got out at a time when the industry was starting to nose dive anyway. I’ve known so many people who used to make a living from writing and producing music and aren’t anymore.

WHAT would be your top tip for getting into the music industry?
Never sign anything without some legal representation. If you’re under the Musicians' Union, it doesn’t have to cost you a fortune to get. That’s first and foremost, because it’s not until five years down the line when you’ve signed a contract and you’ve learnt a bit down the industry that you realise you’ve been stitched up. It happens a lot.

WHAT do you make of TV talent shows?
They are okay, but to a certain extent they are killing music and making it much harder for new songwriters, as if it isn’t hard enough already. Most of the shows are playing covers until you actually get the winner and they release an album, and even then they sometimes record songs from the old American songbook.

WHAT'S the one pop song you wished you’d written?
I play piano for weddings and events and I always ask people this question and they can never pinpoint one song. It’s tough because there are loads but one song that was very innovative at the time was “When Doves Cry” by Prince.