Wednesday, 29 May 2013

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Chris Boothroyd

UPLYME resident Chris Boothroyd is originally from Worcestershire but a career in teaching, as well as self-employment in education and commercial website design and management, took him around the UK and to New York. He moved to the area in 1998 to build a home to share with his elderly parents, and has since thrown himself into community life in Lyme Regis, as a member of many local organisations and most notably through his involvement with the recently refurbished Marine Parade shelters, where he now leads volunteers in the Jubilee Pavilion information and welcome point. He has been married to Ann for 49 years and they have two sons living in the North West and two granddaughters. 

HOW did you become involved with the Marine Parade Shelters and Jubilee Pavilion?
By accident! In 2006 I joined the group that helped Lyme Regis Town Council by running the first public consultation on restoring the shelters. Much public engagement, tortuous planning, arduous fundraising and seven years later, it’s still part of my life, now leading the volunteers who staff the Jubilee Pavilion during the season.

WHAT do volunteers in the pavilion do?
We’re a small part of Lyme’s effort to welcome visitors and to help them make the most of their time here. Like everyone involved with the town’s tourism, we want people to return - and to spread the word about how good a place it is, which should encourage a steady flow of new as well as repeat visitors. So we engage people in conversation, provide answers and information, and encourage them to explore (and spend money in!) the nooks and crannies of the town that they might not otherwise find. What we do supports the Tourist Information Centre - we work closely with the professional staff there.

WHAT do you enjoy about working in the Jubilee Pavilion?
It’s a pleasure meeting visitors who are nearly always very positive about Lyme, often comparing it favourably with larger and more high-profile holiday spots. And it’s an equal pleasure co-ordinating the team of over 50 volunteers. They share a love of Lyme and the wish to promote it positively; they’re a cheerful and co-operative bunch who make it easy to keep things running (relatively) smoothly.

HOW would you encourage more volunteers to come forward?
Word-of-mouth is pretty effective - most of the new helpers this season were recruited by existing volunteers. It would be good to have a wider age-range - probably many volunteer-dependent organisations in Lyme would echo that. What I’d love to see here is plenty of senior school students, and people not much older, involved as welcoming “ambassadors” for their town. It’s something we’re trying to work on in the context of the Jubilee Pavilion.

ARE you a member of any other local organisations?
Ann and I are members of Lyme’s Amnesty International group. We’re active with letter-writing and campaigning in support of people around the world who are unjustly imprisoned, and frequently mistreated, because they’ve voiced ideals and beliefs contrary to the wishes of those in power. For several years I was a miller and trustee for the Town Mill, leading its educational work. Creaking bones have brought my milling to an end, but I remain an enthusiast. The Mill is a great place, with so much going on that appeals to many different tastes, literally as well as metaphorically. We’re also members of The Lyme Regis Society, the local U3A, and the Friends of the Museum - splendid organisations that each do a lot for the community and bring fascinating activities and speakers to the town. Turn Lyme Green and Lyme Regis Development Trust are other organisations that we enjoy supporting. Being retired in Lyme is a full-time job!

WHAT do you like about living in Lyme Regis?
What more could you ask for? A perfect balance of harbour and town, wedded to the sea and to entrancing countryside; a small but amazingly energetic and creative community; friendly residents and delighted visitors; a place that looks forward while preserving its inherited values. Importantly, in our experience, “incomers” can quickly be made welcome and to feel part of the place - something that’s often not the case in small towns.

WHAT would you add to or change about the town if you could?
An aerial railway from Holmbush down to the harbour! Seriously, though, there’s plenty of good work going on in an effort to make Lyme an even more pleasant place to live and work, despite those real challenges - shortage of affordable homes, narrow streets, restricted parking and so on - that we all know about. We’d all gain if more responsibility and authority over purely Lyme matters could come back from the district to the town council. And when the town council loosens up, becomes less formal and bureaucratic, more responsive and less inward-looking, more cohesive and focused, that will be even better. (None of those improvements, incidentally, will be one jot assisted merely by the superficial creation of a chairman of the council separate from the mayor.) 

WHICH three guests would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Richard Feynman, the most stimulating natural scientist of the last century; William Shakespeare, the sharpest observer of human nature, ever; and Michael Gove, though I wouldn’t in advance tell the first two about the third! Then I’d try to get Dick and Bill to persuade Michael that education is about learning to do, to notice, to think and to judge - abilities that form the basis of knowledge and understanding. I fear that Michael wouldn’t grasp this, and it might turn into a nightmare dinner, but worth a try.

WHAT three items would you like with you on a deserted island?
Michael Gove, the National Curriculum, and Ofsted - then I’d swim off and leave them there.

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