Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Time to put animosity to one side

THERE were a few raised eyebrows when the civic party paraded from the Guildhall to St Michael’s Parish Church on Sunday for the mayor’s annual civic service. 

Apart from the mayor, just four councillors were in attendance and with nine councillors not on parade it was the poorest turnout I, or anyone else who cares about such matters, can recall.

As we peered over the crumbling church railings (another disgrace), a prominent member of the congregation tapped me on the shoulder and asked: “Whatever is the problem with the council?” 

“I don’t know,” I lied so that I did not get into a heated discussion at an event which should command respect for the office of mayor.

The poor attendance at the civic parade follows a number of absentees at the Civic Night and only half the number of councillors attending the mayor-making. 

It prompts the question, “are the civic traditions of Lyme dying?” or is it just that our councillors are so immature that they cannot put their differences behind them for the wider good of the town as has mostly happened in the past?

I certainly can’t remeber a time when there was so much obvious apathy among town councillors. I am sure there were those who had a genuine reason why they were not able to attend the civic service but a worrying pattern is starting to emerge and it seems to me that some councillors have no intention of supporting any of the traditions that have been part of Lyme’s civic life for hundreds of years.

I wondered whether the Vicar, the Reverend Jane Skinner, had also noticed the trend when, in her sermon on Sunday morning, she urged the town council to work as a team.

In the past councillors have usually been able to put their differences to one side and come together for the colourful civic occasions which have peppered our history. The current council seems incapable of doing this.

The obvious split was much in evidence at a recent meeting when the council chairmanships and vice-chairmanships were voted upon. 

One disappointed councillor even went as far to referring to fellow members as “two-faced backstabbers” on Facebook, although the posting was sensibly removed pretty smartish, perhaps for fear of contravening the councillors’ code of conduct which states that they treat each other with respect at all times.

This council has two years to run after which the electorate can decide whether supporting civic events is an important part of being an elected representative.

In the meantime, is it too much to ask the councillors to put to one aside their obvious dislike for one another and work together for the reason we elected them to office - to serve the town?

NEWS that broke after the View from Lyme went to press last week - that £500,000 was to be spent on improving the quaity of bathing water on Back Beach - has been welcomed by town councillors and local environmentalists.

The money comes from £20million allocated by South West Water to improve the quality of water before new European standards are introduced and the sum set aside for Lyme will carry out essential works further up the valley to reduce the amount of effluent that flows into the River Lim which eventually makes its way, via The Buddle, into the sea.

Not so long ago the town council was being advised to de-desiginate the Church Cliff beach for swimmers but they refused to do so, saying they would rather work with the authorities to get the problem solved. That is no longer an option. 

The council are to be congratulated for sticking to their guns, especially Strategy and Policy chairman Mark Gage, who has negotiated hard in making sure Lyme was not left out on a limb when the funding was dished out. 


THE annual jazz festival has been part of Lyme’s summer scene now for more than 20 years but in recent times has struggled financially to survive.

Following the demise of the festival committee who had worked so hard over the years to establish the event, local businessmen Tony Colston and Jerry Ramsdale took over the organisation and added a blues and beer element in a bid to make it more popular. 

Last year’s event made a significant loss, met by Mr Colston and Mr Ramsdale out of their own pockets, and it was clear that if the jazz festival was to continue more dramatic changes would have to be made.

This year it was decided to do away with the multiple venue format, with jazz sessions in a number of locations around the town, and to concentrate on just one venue - the Marine Theatre.

The theatre directors, Tim Bell and Harry Long, who are always brimming with ideas, were drafted in and managed to secure two headline acts that attracted sell-out audiences this past weekend - Geno Washington and Ginger Baker.

The popular umbrella parade went ahead as usual with good support and a large crowd watching, there was open-air jazz on the seafront and a real ale festival was also staged at the Marine on Saturday and Sunday.

The consequence of these changes, some of which were not popular among the jazz aficionados who support the event every year, resulted in the festival covering its costs which should enable it to continue in future years.

I popped along to the theatre on Saturday evening to see Geno Washington who last appeared at the Marine Theatre in 1967 with his Ram Jam band, although he had no recollection of it. 

The Ginger Baker gig was just as popular and the jazz events held in the theatre throughout the weekend were all well supported.

So the jazz festival lives on thanks to the efforts of a small band of individuals who did not want to see it die. Well done to them. And a special mention for the staff and volunteers at the Marine who worked so hard to stage the events.

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