Wednesday, 25 April 2012

140 days to my own 
personal celebration

IN case you don’t know, it is now less than 140 days until the Olympics and Paralympic Games are over.

I say this because the 100-days-to-go landmark was recently celebrated with much delight and sandcastle building, so I felt it only fair to put things in perspective by holding a balancing celebration to mark the finish of the double games period.

My delight was every bit as heartfelt as the 100-day celebrants although my budget didn’t run to building a £5,000 giant sandcastle because Olympic bosses have way more cash than me and because the sandcastle would have made a right mess of my lawn.

Instead I opted to draw a giant smiley face across my garden’s finely tilled courgette patch and settle for that. At least people could see my display for longer than they could see Weymouth’s sandscastle.

That was because the nation’s television recorded the sandcastle but also that it no longer existed except in photographs. - dismantled five days before the 100-days-to-go landmark because of what local Olympic leaders described as “an organisational decision”. 

This was council-speak for preventing anyone suing them if the structure collapsed and damaged their hair-do.

The 40-day difference between the council’s start and my finish celebrations took on fresh significance over the Easter period when the town’s much vaunted “intelligent” traffic light and transport system got its first real taste this year of a major influx of traffic.

Civic leaders told me that seafront traffic was backed up from the Jubilee Clock right out on to Preston Beach Road and that traffic trying to get on to Swannery Bridge was backed up towards Southill.

But, even with vastly more visitors expected for the Games, the county council assures me that the transport system works, that they are “confident” ahead of the Olympics and that they are looking forward to showcasing Weymouth and Portland to the world.

That’s all right then, isn’t it?!

A health and safety watchdog 
for health and safety!

THIS is just too good not to share with you... a department is being formed to tackle some of the more ludicrous excesses of health and safety scaremongers.

They will be tasked to try and prevent any repeat of such mind boggling interference as suggesting children are banned from playing conkers unless they wear protective eye masks.

A list was recently published of the top ten most bizarre bans on health and safety grounds, which began with children being banned from taking part in a school sports day sack race!

Next came an H&S ban on school football games unless the football was made of sponge while at No 8 – and this one is my favourite – the eminently sensible H&S ban on using pins to secure commemorative poppies!

Other madness has ranged from bans on kite flying at a beach, carnivals with fancy dress parades and even one holiday camp being banned from allowing its dodgem cars to bump into each other – and don’t forget Weymouth losing its motorised carnival floats for a while in a row over staying “green” and soaring insurance costs caused by H&S fears.

The mind reels not at people coming up with this safety conscious piffle but that they are being paid to do so, the argument being that, in our litigation-minded society, people lose no chance to sue for the slightest injury and you can’t be too careful.

That happens to be true but there have to be limits and hopefully this new department will weed out some of the more over zealous suggestions.

Terrified high flier 
just grins and bears it

EVERYONE has heard the jokes about airline passengers being told their pilot is scared of flying, but sometimes these tales have a grain of truth.

British Airways recently unveiled their funding support for new solar panels being installed at Osprey Leisure Centre on Portland.

Smiling, immaculately groomed flight staff were thick on the ground and, unbeknown to me, that was exactly where one cabin staff member wanted to stay.

He is very scared of heights but is fine serving passengers 30,000ft up in the air because he cannot see the ground.

So when Press members including myself arranged to have triple Olympic sailing gold medallist Ben Ainslie shake hands with BA environment head Jonathon Counsell next to the solar panels all watched by BA staff and other guests we thought nothing of it.

Unfortunately the solar panels were mounted on the roof and to get everyone there they had to climb several vertical metal ladders bolted on to the side of the centre.

By the time we got to the top we were some way up and had a very clear view indeed of what the ground looked like way beneath us, so credit where credit is due to the BA staff member scared of heights.

He tackled the ladder and somehow made it up. Much more importantly from his point of view, he also made it down safely although, judging by his pale complexion, he could have done with a stiff shot of “in flight” refreshment!

A compliment by any other name...

AT a council meeting last week this newspaper was described as “colourful” with “imaginative” content.

The words came from Strategy and Policy Committee chairman, Mark Gage, arguably the most powerful member of the council and highly respected by the newly-elected members.  

His description of the View was not intended to be a compliment.

Councillor Gage was prompted to stray into such euphemisms by a direct if not tongue-in-cheek question from fellow new councillor George Symonds who asked him: “Did you apply for the council’s works supervisor job?” 

Councillor Gage emphatically denied that he had, pointing out that he did not have the skills for such a post (salary £22k-£26k) which has still to be filled.

He assumed that Councillor Symonds was asking the question following a piece that appeared in this column when I commented on a rumour rife at the mayor’s civic night that a senior councillor had enquired about applying for the post.

But if Councillor Gage cares to read that piece again he will see that I did not name him as the prospective job-seeker and, indeed, said I did not believe it either. And I went on to explain that it couldn’t happen in any case as a councillor has to be off the council for at least a year before he or she could work for the authority.

There was no intimation, direct or otherwise, that Councillor Gage was interested in the job. Why would he be when he is clearly the rising talent in the new-look council with an increasing influence over his fellow councillors?

Councillor Lucy Campbell was also upset with this newspaper after a comment from a reader, Geoff Mann, one of the founders of the Lyme Regis Development Trust, who questioned whether LymeForward, set up by the trust, should “hold the purse strings” if a Community Land Trust was established in Lyme Regis. 

She said she was tired of being attacked in the local press (i.e. the View) in this “passive but aggressive” manner. Mr Mann’s comments were far from “an attack” and certainly not aggressive; all he did was to highlight her comment that it would be a “waste of resource” not to use LymeForward in the setting up of a land trust. 

Mr Mann’s letter is answered fully elsewhere in this issue by development trust chairman Wendy Davies. 

We encourage our readers to express their views but they are not necessarily those of this newspaper and contrary to the opinion of some members of the trust, I don’t publish every letter that Geoff Mann sends to me. Probably just one in six makes it into our columns. 

I decided to publish this particular letter because Mr Mann was not the only person to question Lyme Forward’s involvement in the land trust. At a previous meeting district councillor Daryl Turner suggested that the people of Lyme should be consulted on “who holds the purse strings”.

Lucy Campbell is the youngest member of the council and did not have it easy when she was first elected. In fact, she was treated quite disgracefully by some members when she first took her seat but won great support from this column in her efforts to bring a fresh, younger perspective to council affairs.

But having been a member now for six years she holds a much more influential position as vice-chairman of the all-powerful Strategy and Policy Committee and is now a combative debater on all the main issues, one of the most prolific and eloquent speakers in the council chamber, as well as fronting one of the council’s leading projects, the delivery of a skateboard park which generates strong opinions on both sides.

With a much higher profile in the new council comes greater scrutiny and accountability, not necessarily by this newspaper but by the electorate. 

In the last election Lucy topped the town council poll and she should draw great confidence from this when public opinion is sometimes out of kilter with her own views. 

In local government you cannot win every battle. The secret is to win the big ones. And if she delivers a skatepark in the life of this council, that will be a massive one.

ONE job that all mayors detest is chairing the annual town meeting. It’s the one occasion the electorate get to air their grievances and complaints and there’s been some very lively and uncomfortable meetings over the years.

It’s where the council committee chairmen give a review of their work, which is usually very boring and no one takes much notice. 

The interesting bit comes when the meeting is thrown open to the floor.

Last Friday’s annual meeting ran true to form with mayor Sally Holman being given a particularly hard time on staffing matters (usually a taboo subject at pubic meetings). 

Resident Derek Hallett refused to sit down when asked by the mayor and new councillor George Symonds also stood his ground on the same subject.

The meeting was attended by just 22 members of the electorate in addition to councillors and officials. That’s less than one per cent of the voting pubic.

Such a poor attendance means that, generally speaking, the electorate is pleased with how the council is running the town... or they couldn’t care less.

I suspect it’s the latter.

CONGRATULATIONS to Fran Williams and Ayvin Rogers on being invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace in the summer.

They received their invitation in this special royal year for all their hard work in securing the funding from the Jubilee People’s Millions for The Hub youth club. Few will know or appreciate how much work Fran and Ayvin put into the project. They deserve this recognition.

If my experience last year when my family and I were invited to a similar event is anything to go by, it will be a day they will never forget. 

THE Hub is open. Long live The Hub!

After all the frustrations in securing the building, the worry of finding the money and the bad publicity when a few over-zealous youngsters ruined the first opening nights, all was forgotten at Saturday’s’ official opening by the Mayor Sally Holman.

You only had to see the smiles on the faces of the kids present to know it was all worthwhile.

Let’s hope The Hub fulfils the aspirations of all those close to the project and provides the town’s young people with a meeting place they deserve.

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Hannah Garner

HANNAH Garner has always enjoyed getting a ‘pizza-the-action’ and no more so than now she is working at ‘The Stable’ pizza and cider restaurant in Weymouth. The restaurant opened by the harbour in Weymouth 10 weeks ago and is already proving to be very popular. Hannah has always enjoyed working with the general public and has done a number of interesting jobs which led her all over the country, but eventually brought her back to Dorset. Besides her new job, Hannah is enjoying being back beside the seaside and she also loves playing and hearing live music. Hannah is 26 years old and lives in Weymouth.

WHAT kind of jobs have you been doing?
I originally moved straight to London after doing a degree at Southampton University because it was the ideal place for getting into the music industry, which is what I thought I wanted to do. I did some work experience at Ninja Tune – one of my favourite record labels.  I also did piano teaching, bar work, work for music listing companies, work with disabled students… then I started working on a market stall in Broadway market selling bread. In my holidays I used to work at music festivals for Tom Hunt’s catering business, ‘The Shisha Lounge’. All this experience led me towards events mangement work for a clothing company in Leicestershire. Doing events meant I got to travel round the whole country selling clothes at different venues and all my festival experience came in really useful. 

SO why did you come back to Weymouth?
After a number of years of that lifestyle, I realised I’d had enough of travelling round and when a job came up at The Stable in Weymouth I thought that was the ideal opportunity to get more settled whilst still doing the sort of work I enjoy.

WHAT is it about you that makes you particularly good at that type of work?
Meeting new people and enjoying new experiences. Then there’s the sale element – it’s important to be passionate about what you are selling, which is why I left the clothing company. I realised the industry wasn't quite right for me.

SO are you passionate about pizza?
Yes! And I like the way the business is run. I like the people who set it up and I like the way it’s a family run business and that everything is original and simple but it works – nothing too complicated. It’s about making sure everything is of a high quality, and something that you can really believe  in, so when someone asks: ‘What’s so great about your pizzas?’ we can say with conviction that it’s because we use organic ingredients and local suppliers,  and that even the dough is made to our own recipe , by hand right here in Weymouth. You can watch the chefs preparing everything from scratch – it’s just a great atmosphere to be working in as well.

WHAT else is on the menu besides pizza?
Pies… local pies like the Dorse Oggie. There are also salads and desserts - you can even have a Nutella and mascarpone pizza as a dessert. And of course there are lots of different ciders, at the moment I think there are about 64 different ones to choose from. 

DO you have a favourite pizza?
All of them! I couldn’t have a favourite because they’re all delicious. This week I’ve been mostly eating the Bucky Doo which is a vegetarian pizza - although I’m not actually vegetarian. 

AND what other interests have you got?
My previous job gave me a fishing rod when I left so I've been out a couple of times with that! I love the sea and as soon as it gets a bit warmer I'll be jumping in before I start work each morning. I'm really into music - my parents have Bridport Music on South Street - and I try to go to lots of gigs, although I haven't been to any since I've been back down here.  I also play the piano and the flute, something which I’ve done for most of my life.

Which three famous people would you like to invite to dinner and what would you eat?
I’d have pie with Fearne Cotton because she looks like she needs a pie or two, and she’s quite good fun. I’d have a salad with James Cordon because he’s a little bit fat but he’s hilarious and he’s my secret crush. And I’d have a pizza with the person who set up Pizza Hut so I could show them what a proper pizza should be like!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Old school or open shirts

PETER Halse, chairman of East Devon District Council, is old school. 

Mr Halse has an impressive record of public service to his town, Honiton, and to East Devon and has asked his councillors to wear ties at council meetings. 

He has also asked councillors not to bring hot drinks and refreshments into the council chamber. 

Being elected chairman of East Devon District Council is the pinnacle of long service in local government. He believes in standards.

But local government is not what it used to be.  

When I first started out, nearly 50 years ago, covering council meetings in Honiton and Axminster, there was a definite dress code. 

Ties and smart lounge suits were the order of the day. No one flouted that code and I can imagine what the indomitable D.F. Baker, chairman of the old Axminster Rural District Council, would have said had one of his councillors turned up without a tie.

Having spent thousands of hours over the years covering council meetings at all levels – from the most humble Devon parish meeting to Tower Hamlets Council in London when the first BNP member was elected, I suppose I’m a bit old school myself. 

I wore a suit and tie on first day at work for the Express and Echo in Honiton. It was expected. I still wear a suit on most working days, but not always a tie.

As I say, these are changing times. Ties are definitely a thing of the past in the media world, especially in London.  My son works for a national newspaper and is now allowed to wear smart jeans to work.

Douglas Hull started his long career in local government at the same time as I became a cub reporter. He too wore a suit and tie at all meetings.

But Douglas has always been a bit of a non-conformist when it comes to  fashion (and indeed beard colours!) and he has jumped to the defence of his fellow councillors at the Knowle who are not dedicated followers of fashion.

His argument is that you don ‘t have to wear a tie to be a good councillor or participate in stimulating debate. And of course, he is right about that.

During my career in covering local councils, I have seen councillors turn up in shorts and on one occasion a councillor came dressed as Dracula as he was going to a fancy dress party after the meeting.

That, I think, is going too far and had I been chairing that meeting I would have sent him home to change. 

Very few people see councillors at work. Not that many are interested in local government and rarely if ever attend a council meeting. However, when our elected representatives are meeting the public,  I think it is important that they look smart. 

IT’S been a popular misconception since local government was reformed in 1974 and the newly created district council decided to base itself in Sidmouth, East Devon’s premier resort.

For years the inland towns argued that Sidmouth always seemed to get the best deals. There are those who still think that way.

So can Honiton look forward to becoming East Devon’s favoured town if and when EDDC move their offices on land  the council already own at Heathpark?

Mural will smarten up 
entrance to the town

A FRIEND of mine who does not live in Axminster phoned me last week to say: “I see they’ve started work on that horrible eyesore”. He was, of course, referring to Websters Garage.

People who live outside Axminster cannot understand why the Websters debacle has been allowed to go on so long. Let’s be frank. The people of Axminster can’t believe it either.

My pal was referring to the hoarding that has gone up outside the garage in readiness for the art project being planned by Axminster Arts. As an outsider he knew nothing of the art project and was rather disappointed that the site was not being redeveloped.  Many people feel the same.

But it has been made clear that until Axminster emerges as a vibrant commercial centre rather than a rather quaint country town, little is likely to change at Websters. That won’t happen until the long-awaited and much need north-south relief road is built and the proposed explosion of housing takes place.

We could be in for a long wait.

That’s why I believe it is important to give Axminster Arts full backing for their endeavours to improve the exterior of the former garage site with a mural depicting the colourful history of the town.

Tim Leat is fronting the  project for Axminster Arts and he tells me that every effort is being made to complete the mural in time for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in June.

Now the hoardings are up and a start will soon be made by artist Steve Fisher and volunteers on the mural.

I think it will make a huge difference to the entrance of Axminster town centre.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

The Riviera feel-good factor

IT WAS former mayor Victor Homyer who coined the phrase that the Marine Parade was the “shop window of Lyme Regis”.

No one who has worn the mayoral robes has spoken a truer word.

We are fortunate that the unique appeal of our seafront has been retained over the years, despite the many changes of recent times.

Strolling along the parade on Sunday morning to do my volunteering bit in the recently named Jubilee Pavilion, I commented to Francesca how lucky we were to live in Lyme.

“The Riviera of Dorset” was how I described it because there is now a real continental atmosphere about the seafront.

There was much huffing and puffing in the council chamber last week over the issue of tables and chairs on the seafront.

Down at the Cobb end, the traders have got used to the idea of paying for their al fresco dining facilities.
But because of the protracted discussions over the ownership of the Marine Parade, which has been going on for years, businesses at the other end have enjoyed free access to the great outdoors.

But now that the town council are firmly in charge of the seafront, licenses will be granted to all those placing table and chairs on the parade and a fee levied, making it fair for all (well, that’s the intention).

If my maths is right (and it rarely is) the council coffers will be boosted by around £8,000 a year.

But don’t expect your council tax to go down. With the responsibility for running the seafront they will also have to maintain the surface and railings and that could be quite costly.

The conclusion of the ownership issues also means that the town council will be able to manage the seafront more efficiently to ensure free passage for pedestrians.

There are those who would like to see all tables and chairs removed from the parade. I am not one of them.
The fact that people can sit out in the summer sunshine enjoying a meal, or just a drink, is a great attraction, particularly for visitors.

Providing such facilities is not a walk in the park, however. The two prime locations for al fresco dining are Largigi cafe and Thai restaurant and the Bay Hotel’s Bay Leaf restaurant, both housed on the former Bay Hotel site.

Both have had their problems with planners and getting the necessary permissions.

The Bay Hotel occupies the best location in Lyme with glorious views across the bay.

At the end of its days the former Bay Hotel with its unkempt extension became a bit of an eyesore and was crying out for refurbishment.

Since then hundreds of  thousands of pounds have been invested in the adjoining businesses, with a distinct benefit to the local economy.

Now the council are getting to grips with the management issues on the seafront, hopefully to the advantage of all.

Town must retain its unique appeal 

I’VE not come across one person in Lyme Regis  who has greeted the pending arrival of High Street giant WH Smith with anything other than disappointment.

I suppose we should be pleased that such a big store sees Lyme capable of sustaining such a business, and of course any new shop that offers permanent employment should be encouraged.

But there are real fears that this could be the start of the changing face of Broad Street.

Certainly, Acorn, the family-run shop that occupied the premises before being priced out of the town in a huge rent hike, will be greatly missed.

There are rumours that Costa Coffee and at least two other multi-nationals are interested in moving to Lyme, but do we want them?

No one wants Lyme’s main street to look like every other shopping centre in the land; it’s the quaintness and quirkiness of our shops that the visitors love.

It’s almost impossible to escape the march of commercialism these days but let’s hope that Lyme will always retain its unique character.

Twitter ye not...

THE use of mobile phones at council meetings is generally frowned upon but as this is the age of social networking I decided to tweet the main decisions taken at last week’s town council meeting as they were happening for the first time.

I’ve been using twitter to release Lyme stories as they happen (no personal stuff) for over a year now. In fact, I’ve tweeted over 800 different items which just goes to show much is going on in our town.

I’ve currently got 320 followers and if you want to join them go to


IT was back in September that we held the first public meeting to discuss the possibility of organising a weekend of activities in June to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

There was a consensus that we should mark this historic event and since then a steering committee has been meeting every month.

The time has just flown by and I can’t believe that the Jubilee weekend (June 2nd-5th) is just six weeks away.

Having years ago organised the Lyme 1200 celebrations and Charter 700 events, I have relished the opportunity of putting together a programme of over 30 different activities for the Jubilee.

I think we will be doing Her Majesty proud and the weekend will be a great coming together of the community.

The programme was officially launched by the Mayor, Councillor Sally Holman, who has led the steering group, at a supperdance we organised at the Woodmead Halls on Saturday evening.

We decided from the outcome that we would not burden the town council, particularly as some councillors are anti-royalty,  with paying for the various activities so we have set about raising £1,500 to meet the expenses.

We still have a few hundred quid to raise but I have no doubt we will get there.

Thanks to all those who supported Saturday’s supper dance. A nice occasion.

Giant hoopla - the new Olympic sport?

FINALLY someone has come up with a useful idea for the awful “car boot” sculpture at Littlemoor.

The work, which spent £335,000 putting some rocks on metal poles, claims to depict birds in flight or a shoal of fish but it has been pilloried nationally as “waste on an Olympian scale”.

Now there may have to be a change of view because it can no longer be described as a total waste after a councillor came up with a great idea for its use.

He and colleagues on the planning committee had just finished heaping criticism on another less than world-beating “legacy” for Olympic year.

This involved taking sections of old “sewer pipe”, colouring them, sticking some wood in for seating and information areas and touting them as wonderful viewing points ideally designed for ruining some of Weymouth and Portland’s most beautiful and historic areas.

Common sense prevailed and the scheme was thrown out, but not before a councillor suggested a way of giving the sewer pipes a more useful new lease of life in tandem with the sculpture.

He wondered if, in Games year, it might be possible to create an Olympic-sized hoopla challenge where attempts were made to toss the sewer pipes over pegs created by Littlemoor’s rocks-on-poles.

I think this is a wonderful idea and clearly a win-win situation.

If it works then two useless schemes will actually provide entertainment and if it doesn’t work then – with luck – they’ll destroy each other.

Light sabres on the foreshore

A LONG time ago in a galaxy far, far away Weymouth and Portland was wondering how it could send a ray of hope out proclaiming a New Freedom against the evil Empire of Recession.

So the borough thought long and hard and, with a devastating swish of its seafront regeneration sword, came up with...laser lights!

These futuristic creations will send coloured beams of light out to sea or into the sky from columns along the Esplanade showing that businesses may be closing down, jobs may be being lost but the town can still shine a light in dark side places.

Never mind mutterings of rebellion about “bring back the fairy lights”. These unwelcome comments were brushed aside by replies that the old lights were in poor condition and much more expensive to run.

So we can now all look forward to nights filled with lights spectacularly lighting up a legacy rejuvenated and regenerated Weymouth.

Impressive, most impressive.......but let’s hope they have enough shillings for the meter.

What point in public consultation if decisions have already been made?

ANYONE who has enjoyed the green and pleasant spaces of Weymouth’s Markham and Little Francis area will be feeling a bit liverish at the moment.

That is because a last minute tweak to suggestions contained in the draft Weymouth, Portland and West Dorset Plan saw it go out to public consultation not with its original suggestion for 200 homes to be built on part of the site with a nature reserve for the rest but for a whopping great 500 homes.

We’ll draw a veil over the bewildered expressions on some councillors faces, their obvious uncertainty at the time over exactly what they had just narrowly voted 5-3 for and the sight of other faces stunned with disbelief.

I want to concentrate on the arguments trotted out to justify this massive hike in housing.

Essentially some councillors felt that the way new housing was being allocated at the expense of Littlemoor and Redlands was “disproportionate” and that by increasing possible new housing at Markham and Little Francis it would even things out a bit.

All well and good even if the proposed housing increases at Littlemoor and Redlands are linked to large nearby employment areas. I don’t have a problem with public consultation showing that increasing housing at Markham is fair, right and acceptable.

What I have a massive problem with – and so did several members of the council’s management committee – is changing the allocation before public consultation.

Some members were quite right to point out that any change should be the view of several thousand people not eight councillors sat round a committee table.

Worse, now this proposed increase to 500 homes is potentially enshrined in the draft plan it will be much harder to shift than if the plan had gone out with 200 homes and people had been asked for their views on an increase to 500.

Nothing like getting your kicks in early and it will be interesting to see how people who use Markham and Little Francis or live near it react to this proposal. I think the reaction of developers can already be guessed at.

Haka dance?

ALMOST the entire group in the pub suddenly leapt into the air and began to hastily brush off clothing on their backs.

Spectators might have been forgiven for thinking that this was some version of rugby’s famous haka war dance bearing in mind that this was a group of rugby supporters staying overnight in Weymouth after watching a match.

Not a bit of it. This was pure fear, fear that one of them might have had a peg attached to their clothing where they couldn’t see it.

Apparently anyone caught out after a three second warning had to drink their pint on the spot, hence the leaping about and hasty brushing to knock off any peg.....and they say that culture is dead.

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Claire Shilton

Ever heard of “Frolic”?   
This increasingly popular DJ collective bring a sense of unadulterated fun to their monthly disco. It has everything to do with the fusion of the three DJs and the people who turn up to make it happen on the dance floor. 
Claire Shilton, aka “Crumpet Claire”, is one of those DJ’s and she is also a freelance graphic designer. 
Here she tells us how Frolic came to be and how music and design have shaped her life. 
Originally form Portsmouth, Claire is 47-years-old and now lives in Bridport. 
Frolic takes place on a Thursday every month at the Conservative Club, North Street, Bridport. 

HOW did you become a DJ? 
When I left art college, in the 80s, I worked in a live music venue in Portsmouth. I loved promoting live music and I liked the way the venue was run which was very all-inclusive. I wanted to have a go at DJ-ing  because I was an “indie chick” and the music I loved wasn’t being played in the venue and they gave me that chance.

WHERE did the name ‘Crumpet Claire’ come from? 
At 40 I was living in Ipswich in Suffolk. Again, I found there was nowhere I could go to dance to the music I enjoyed. By then I was a freelance graphic designer and I started doodling about what sort of a club night I’d have and I came up with the idea of “Club Crumpet” which is slightly saucy but still somehow fun and innocent. I fell into a community radio station who gave me my own show with the remit “to play tunes not played on mainstream media”. Here, I was in my element and my programme was called “Crumpet Radio”. It was there I became known as Crumpet Claire.

HOW did you end up in Bridport? 
A friend of mine invited me down to stay and during the four days I was here I felt totally at home, I didn’t know there was still somewhere like this in England. I loved the undulating countryside and walk to the coast, the independent shops, the market days and the vintage quarter at St Michael’s Trading Estate – everything seemed to work in harmony rather than in competition and I made a vow to move here.  

HOW did Frolic come in to being? 
Although there is a vibrant arts scene in Bridport, yet again, I found there wasn’t anywhere for me to go and dance. I was introduced to two other DJs Special KK (Kathy Kelly), and DR Funk (Mitch Norman). When the three of us got together we were trying to think of a name which conjured up the same kind of smile on your face that crumpet did. Frolic popped into my head and the others agreed. We wanted to put the onus on having fun in a place to dance  the night away. The people who come get this and are active in contributing to the lovely atmosphere which, has at times made me ache with laughter. 

HOW do the three of you DJs operate as a collective? 
We all still love music and have the desire to share it with others and we bring different skills; I design the publicity, Kathy makes great props and Mitch provides the equipment and vintage lighting. Alongside our unique collections of music we bring something to the event that compliments each other. I would say I am more comedy/art house/political. As someone who is used to working on her own and making a lot of singular decisions, it’s been a real education and it’s nice to be working collaboratively because you share the responsibility.

WHAT do you do when you are not Frolic-ing? 
I’m also a graphic designer. I love visual communication and I like to promote things that I am passionate about – anything from the environment to mental health awareness, the arts and small businesses and of course live music. That’s where I see value in what I do. 

WHERE can we see your work? 
I got a most extraordinary brief recently to design a banner “to make people smile in my doorway”. It was to promote the fact that there is a new local pet shop, that also sells records in the back room. A dream job that was completely bonkers but very Bridport. There's often a piece of my work on the notice board at Bucky Doo Square usually promoting a gig or two and the arts. I designed the children’s activity sheets for a catering company in all the Tate Galleries. It’s still in print seven years later and I had one thrust in my hand (half finished) whilst in Good News in Bridport.

WHICH three famous musicians would you most love to “Frolic” with? 
There are so many musicians I respect but I have soft spots for Arthur Lee of Love, Danielle Dax, and Polystyrene from X-Ray Specs. They have all enriched my life enormously. 

Thursday, 12 April 2012

How much longer a green and pleasant land?

ONE of the most disturbing recent pieces of Government legislation will affect every single person not just in Weymouth and Portland but right across Dorset.

Hailed as the most serious planning system changes since World War II, it could be a major threat to treasured Green Belt areas.

For the first time the Government is saying that the default position for a planning application will be to say “yes”, making it easier for major developments to go ahead.

From the Westminster windbags who brought you such successful ideas as the Granny Tax and a chance to meet the Prime Minister for a knock-down “donation” of £250,000, this isn’t reassuring.

The changes to the National Planning Policy Framework, like all roads to Hell, are paved with good intent.

They are designed to create employment and encourage affordable housing, but at what cost?

I’ve seen Weymouth and Portland planners wrestle with thorny development problems for more than 30 years and they can be fiercely defensive of green and pleasant lands.

But that defence gets a whole lot harder when the so called seat of Government develops a split in its planning pants which I’m sure developers will lose no time in exploiting. Let’s hope local planners continue to judge each scheme on its merits.

Still, there may be something a lot of us can do to help the situation. Barely three years to go to the next general election... or may be sooner.

Nothing intelligent about this system

I RECENTLY criticised our glorious new intelligent traffic light system for delaying drivers like me so much that we waste up to two days of our lives each year just waiting for them to change to green.

It led to many other people telling me that they also hate Weymouth’s new system, but our dislike has now turned to disbelief after the Intelligent Transport Society awarded our traffic lights Scheme of the Year!

Fortunately we can have them on this under the Trades Description Act since there is patently nothing intelligent about either the system or, apparently, the society.

The award needs to be put in context because firstly it was made by a group which likes shiny toys like this and secondly it was one of the newest shiny toys in the shop window.

To put it even further in context, the award may be for something provided for drivers but the system clearly isn’t something they want, like or had any decisive input with in deciding to introduce it. If they had then I doubt they’d have backed scattering traffic lights about like confetti.

Finally, when all the clapping had stopped and the award was presented, it was safely collected by Dorset County Council transport spokesman Councillor Peter Finney who is unlikely to use Weymouth’s new stop-go-stop system with any regularity as he safely represents West Moors & Holt... and you can’t get much further away than that!

Be on your guard for breakfast time burglars

ONE of our neighbours got burgled recently and it brought sharply home how important it is to be security conscious.

Police told us that two men had apparently been disturbed in the act having earlier been spotted in the road carrying out what officers believed was a surveillance of the area.

I’m pretty good with home security and regularly check that windows are closed and doors are locked before going to bed.. .but this incident took place at breakfast time.

Many people have already opened up their home for the day by the time tea and toast are ready, getting ready for work, hanging out washing, seeing children off to school.

This can mean that doors locked overnight are now open and police stressed how important it was to always be on your guard.

Don’t make it easy for intruders, keep an eye out for suspicious pedestrians showing an interest in properties, watch out for repeat visits by cars and try and avoid simple mistakes such as leaving the front door unlocked while working in the back garden.

None of us should get paranoid about security. All of us should be aware of it.

I didn’t know she was that old!

ANY father needs some sharp mental adjustment to see his daughter reach the age of 78.

It certainly rocked me a bit when my daughter reached that grand age because her skin looked fresh and she was leaping about our sitting room like a spring lamb.

Fortunately it was only modern technology that had developed a few wrinkles... that and my daughter’s blundering attempts to get to grips with our new Wii games.

She tried tennis and baseball and did so badly that the Wii assessed her fitness performance as that of a 78-year-old!

Unfortunately she somehow got even worse and was later assessed as having the fitness level of an 80-year-old ... just my age.