Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Police chief ‘a pretty straight guy’

THE people of Lyme Regis became the first in the county to meet Dorset’s newly-appointed Chief Constable, Debbie Simpson.

Her appointment was only confirmed last week - but she was the surprise guest at a gathering at the Woodmead Halls organised by the local Liberal Democrats to champion the cause of democracy.

She accompanied one of the main speakers, Dorset’s first Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill. 

Mrs Simpson, who lives at Ottery St Mary, chose not to sit on the top table with the panel of speakers but decided instead to sit in the audience. So should we consider her one of us?

Her appointment has been clouded by a rumpus over her 10 per cent pay rise on taking office, but she did not receive any awkward questions on this. Those present were far more interested in why the A35 was closed for most of a recent Sunday, causing great disruption in the Marshwood Vale, where traffic was diverted, after a man was found dead in Chideock.

Whilst that might have been easier to answer than questions about why her salary had been increased by three time as much as inflation, the packed audience was not wholly satisfied with her answers.

But it was a fairly innocuous introduction to the perils of public meetings.

To quote Tony Blair, Mr Underhill seemed “a pretty straight sort of guy”, but I have a feeling his is not going to be an easy job. But he did his best to explain why he had secured an extra £1 million in funding to put more Bobbies on The Beat and to recruit 250 additional Special Constables by increasing the precept for the police by a penny a day per household. 

At the same time he had inherited a budget that reflected the loss of around 50 police officers through natural waste (retirement, etc) so I still wasn’t sure whether we are getting any extra police or whether the reduction in staff was now 30 instead of 50.

No matter, he seems determined to ensure that the people of Dorset will have a greater say in the policing and he plans to return to Lyme again in the spring for a Police Commissioner’s forum.

This was essentially a political meeting with Lib Dem members of the district council (Andy Canning) and county council (Trevor Jones) both playing their part.

Virgin Care, now running the Lyme Medical Centre, and Lyme GP Dr Forbes Watson, were on hand to talk about medical matters and the audience, which included a few high profile local Tories, agreed the gathering had been a worthwhile exercise. 

Only two town councillors bothered to turn up - Chris Clipson and George Symonds.

Summer of 2013 is shaping up nicely

LAST week in this column I wrote about Geoff Baker’s idea to stage an attempt on the number of musicians playing the same guitar tune at the same time.

To snatch the record from a town in Texas the event needs to attract around 2,000 guitar players, which if achieved should provide be a huge boost to the local economy.

The event - Guitars On The Beach - will be part of the Lyme Regis Food Festival, being fronted by chef Mark Hix in September.

And this week I learnt of another late summer music attraction which could also attract many hundreds to the town.

I had a coffee with two keen folk enthusiasts from Uplyme who wish to stay in the background until their plans are firmed up but who have already laid the foundations for the first Lyme Folk Festival which will be held over the weekend of April 30th to September 1st.

I am no folk afficionado but even I know that their line-up includes some pretty big names in folk music, including fiddler Dave Swarbrick, formerly of Fairport Convention.

The main events will be held at the Marine Theatre but there will be a lot going on all over the town as well.

So with Guitars On The Beach, a new walking festival, a jazz weekend, several food festivals, the fossil festival and the ArtsFest, as well as the usual Lifeboat Week and Regatta and Carnival, the summer of 2013 might not be quite a dull as we thought.

I POPPED up to London last Thursday evening to attend the launch of an exhibition in the gallery beneath Mark Hix’s Tramshed restaurant featuring work by a number of Lyme artists.

Among the 200 who attended were several local faces, including Georgina Bedford whose unusual Oxo cube piece was on display and a number of familiar views of Lyme from a whole host of local photographers and artists.

It really did demonstrate what a strong and talented arts community there is in our town.

The exhibition was staged by the locally based Shed Photography, which promotes the works of a number of local artists through its website, run by Chelsea Davine and Ben Whittington.

The response from those at the launch was very encouraging with Mark Hix saying it will be one of the most successful to date at his gallery.

If you are in London pop over to Shoreditch (now very trendy) to see some local talent on show.

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