Wednesday, 3 April 2013

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Chris Lovejoy

HISTORY enthusiast Chris Lovejoy first moved to Lyme Regis in 1997 and has lived between the seaside resort and Axminster in East Devon ever since. Originally from Newbury, Chris grew up in Kent and London before travelling overseas and spending seven years in an ashram in Pune, India. After varying careers, from lawyer to furniture restorer, he now runs history tours of Lyme Regis and this summer is taking on the town’s popular ghost tours. Chris lives with wife Judy and their two cats.

WHAT did you do before running the Lyme Regis History Walks?
I have had many jobs in my life – lawyer, prison probation officer, therapist, creative arts administrator, furniture restorer, ESL teacher, to name just a few. I used to think it was a defect of my character that I always wanted to do different things rather than sticking with one career, but now I’m grateful for all the knowledge and experience I’ve gained over the years. 

WHY did you start up the history walks? 
One day, walking along Sherborne Lane, I had a sudden overwhelming impression of hearing the tramping of heavy boots and deep gutteral voices. Although over in a split second, this strange “vision” inspired me to look deeper into town history and I later discovered that this area was one of the front lines of combat during the Siege of Lyme in the Civil War. The more I read the more I was amazed at the richness and variety of Lyme’s past and realised that, while its literary heritage and palaeontology was well represented by others, no one, at that time, was presenting the broader history of the town to our visitors. So I started Lyme History Walks. This will be our third season.

TELL us a little about the walks... 
The walks take place on Mondays and Saturdays at 11am from March to September, last an hour and a half and are suitable to anyone with average walking ability. Visitors can now pre-book a walk through the museum. From a humble medieval settlement of monks to a great Elizabethan port, through its subsequent decline and 18th century resurrection as a fashionable resort up to the present day, we meet many of  the remarkable men and women who played their part in Lyme’s evolving story. I tell tales from their lives, recount key events, introducing smugglers and buccaneers, artists, rebels, scientists and philanthropists, the humble and the fashionable who all left their mark on the town.

WHAT’S your favourite Lyme Regis historical link or story?       
I love to talk about Thomas Coram and the Foundling Hospital, and tell the story of Lassie, the Pilot Boat dog who saved the life of a sailor. Henry Fielding’s attempted abduction of a local lass is also a great story.

WHY did you decide to take on the ghost walks this summer?
I decided to take on the ghost walks as an exciting challenge. Despite the great training and support he has given me, I know Carl Salter will be a hard act to follow.

WHAT can those taking part expect from the Ghost Walks? 
The ghost walks are above all good entertainment for all the family. Participants can expect a blend of local folklore, scary (but not too scary!) stories, spooky jokes, sound effects and slapstick. They will start in May, every Tuesday and Thursday from 7:30pm for an hour throughout the season from the museum or other named venue.

WHAT are your other personal interests?
Meditation is my greatest joy. I can’t imagine my life without it. I play the piano and keyboard and enjoy all kinds of music alone. I also love being around most kinds of animals.

WHAT do you like about living in this area?
I love the warm, easygoing nature of the local people and the soft blend of rural and ocean landscape, so good for walking.

WHAT would you add to or change about the area if you could?
I would revive the old Axminster to Lyme Regis branch line, closed in 1965. I believe this could solve a lot of our traffic problems.

WHAT would you do if you won the Lottery?
I would start a foundation for teaching meditation in prisons and open an animal rescue centre.

WHICH three people would you invite to a dream dinner party?
I would invite three of my favourite comedians/comic actors - Lenny Henry, Sandy Toksvig and Giles Brandreth.

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