Thursday, 1 December 2011

Event of the Week

Now for the streaking Santa

EVENT of The Week is elevated to the top of the column this week, for the first time ever.

The reason? Quite simply because the switching on of Lyme’s Christmas lights on Saturday evening, proceeded by the lantern workshop and parade, was such a marvellous event.

It was 11 years ago that Barbara Austin, the First Lady of Lyme, decided something had to be done about Lyme’s pathetic Christmas illumnations.

She formed a committee, started raising money and persuaded the town and district councils to give generous donations.

Since then, Lyme has had, arguably, the best Christmas lights for miles around with the switching-on ceremonies attracting hundreds of visitors to the town.

For hundreds, now read thousands. I can’t remember too many occasions when I have seen more people in Broad Street than there were on Saturday evening.

And it was absolute bedlam at the Baptist Church where 70 children took part in the lantern making competition, twice as many as the previous highest number.

With the Majorettes giving some stunning displays as they marched down Broad Sreet, followed by their new troupe members and cute mascots, the fire engine in attendance and Father Christmas distributing sweets to the kids in the crowd, it all made for a very special atmosphere.

As soon as the parade was over, I posted a tweet on the success of the event and received a number back from people outside of the town commenting on how Lyme was one of the few places left with such a special community atmosphere.

I’ll drink to that. In fact, I did afterwards in a packed Royal Lion with Geoff Baker and his partner Gill Newton, an enjoyable hour during which we discussed some crazy ideas for attracting more people to Lyme over the Christmas period.

I’m not sure Geoff’s idea of a streaking Santa race down Broad Street will meet with wide approval - but it would certainly attract the crowds!

The cost of this year’s lights came to around £6,500 and it becomes increasingly more difficult to raise that sort of money, year in, year out. The town and district councils give generous grants but Barbara and her team still have to fundraise throughout the year.

The last year has been a very difficult one for Barabra, health-wise, but with sterling support from people like Judith Pothecary, Alan and Lynn Vian, and a few others, the money was raised.

I’m notoriously curmudgeonly in the run up to Christmas, the result of 40 years of impossible deadlines.

I don’t start thinking about Christmas until the last edition goes to press (and that’s usually the day before Christmas Eve), but I must admit to be in a surprisingly festive mood on Saturday, having covered eight events during the day, including St Michael’s Christmas bazaar earlier in the day where there was a lovely atmosphere.

Lyme traders, led by town councillor Rikey Austin, are now about to embark on the organisation of late-night shopping events on the four Fridays leading up to Christmas, the final one (December 23rd) being on the same night as the Rotary Club’s Christmas Carols Around The Tree, my favourite Lyme Christmas event.

It is doubtful these will attract anywhere near the numbers we saw on Saturday but I hope their efforts will be worthwhile and will add to the overall seasonal spirit in the town.

MY admiration for the Royal British Legion is well known to regular readers of this column and I’m pleased to report that the Lyme branch is in fine fettle, despite declining Legion numbers nationwide.

It was interesting to hear long-serving President Cecil Quick recall at last week’s annual meeting how Lyme was judged the third best branch in the country back in the 1960s, urging his members to keep working hard to maintain their reputation as one of the most active branches in the country.

It was also good to see that Poppy Appeal organiser Sylvia Marlar received the coveted Jack Loveridge Trophy for her services to the branch over the past year.

The Legion, of course, is working all year to support our Armed Forces, not just at Remembrancetide.

You no longer need to have served in the British Forces to be a Legion member these days.

It costs just £13 to be a member of the Lyme branch, a relatively inexpensive way of supporting the Royal British Legion in all they do.

Update on the battle to save Lyme from the sea

THE creeping cliffs of Lyme Regis still loom large in the work of West Dorset District Council’s engineering department.

I went along to last week’s meeting of the Coastal Forum when district engineer Nick Browning, a good friend of Lyme Regis over the years, gave an update of phase four of the ongoing coastal protection scheme to protect Lyme from the ravages of the sea.

The meeting also saw the return of a familiar face - former district engineer Geoff Davies, who now works for a firm of consultants advising the district council on the plans to stabilise the East Cliff area of Lyme.

The £20 million-plus scheme to build a new seawall and stabilise the eastern cliffs is deemed necessary to prevent that whole area from falling into the sea, including the disappearance of Charmouth Road, over the next 50 years.

Government funding is crucial to the whole scheme and a decision on this is expected next March. If favourable (the alternative does not bear thinking about), work will start in 2013 and should be completed within two years. Nail-biting times.

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