Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Guitars raise the bar once again

THE conversation went a bit like this: “So your council has a full-time promotions manager and staff to put on all these events?”

I was talking to a visitor from one of the outer London boroughs, one of thousands who had rocked up (literally) on the beach with a guitar strapped to his back.

“Well, no,” I replied.  “All this is organised by volunteers.”

“You are kidding?”

“No. This town is no more than a village in the winter. Our council does not have those sort of resources.”

We are talking about Guitars On The Beach here, surely the most spectacularly enjoyable event staged in Lyme since, well, last year’s Guitars On The Beach. And, of course, it is the volunteers who make Lyme a very special place - the volunteers about whom my fellow columnist, Chris Boothroyd, has written so eloquently in recent weeks.

The town council benefits greatly throughout the summer months with increased car parking and excellent business for their various concessions. But to be fair to the council, they do support most events either financially or by allowing their outside staff to help out where possible. 

Operations manager Elliott Herbert is always willing and keen to lend a hand when asked.
And it was good to see Councillor Rikey Austin and town clerk John Wright joining in the Guitars On The Beach world record attempt and not boycotting the event as some of their colleagues were rumoured to be doing last year.

The event attracted 3,000 registered guitarists and probably a similar number of non-players on the beach - the biggest crowd I have seen since the Radio One roadshows (remember them?) visited Lyme in the late 1970s/80s, possibly bigger.

The brainchild of former rock PR Geoff Baker, GOTB is probably the most unique and exhilarating summertime event on the south coast. Hell, let’s make that in the UK.

Geoff’s unrivalled contacts in the rock business, his media nous and sheer determination to do some good for his home town are the cornerstones behind the success of this event. And you know what they say about behind every successful man... Geoff’s partner, Jill Newton, took on board a massive organisational task so important to the success of any large event.

They will be the first to admit that they received fantastic behind-the-scenes support from so many people - not to mention  the musicians and technicians that made up the house band, which was brilliant on the day.

What a thrill it must have been for those local musicians to share a stage with rock legend Ian Gillan, who has a home in Lyme. Not only did he pay for the erection of the stage but agreed to put in an appearance to sing Deep Purple’s most famous hit, “Smoke on the Water”.

And what a moment it was when suddenly he was joined on stage by his daughter, Grace, who was appearing later on the bill with popular local band, Papa La Gal, and then smoke really did rise from the water where a flotilla of local craft let off their flares.

Great spectacle, great theatre.

As a close colleague of Geoff and Jill, I know how much they personally put into this day, how much blood, sweat and (yes) tears. 

To those of us on the outside, the day ran like clockwork. As with any big event, I’m sure there was a hiccup or two but nobody noticed.

This was a day to let your hair down (difficult for me!), turn back the clock and believe that you were a rocker once one. 

The quality of the musical entertainment was outstanding - from seven-years-old Darci Street (how many tiny tots have played before such a big audience?) to the great man himself, Gillan; it was a day that rockers young and old will never forget.

  • A WORD of praise also for Mark Hix and his team for staging the Food Rocks festival to run alongside GOTB. The various cooking demonstrations and food and drink stands attracted many people to the town adding greatly to the overall atmosphere of the weekend. Lyme, you did it again!

TWO acquaintances of mine who have had cause to attend council meetings in Lyme Regis in the past - and were unimpressed by the standard of debate - went along to a recent meeting of Uplyme Parish Council.

What was their verdict? That officers and councillors from Lyme Regis should attend one of the village meetings to see how a proper council should be run.

Their words - not mine.

THE crass habit of certain town councillors in the Lyme Regis Town Council chamber chomping their way through meetings by tucking into bags of sweets laid before them continues.

This doesn’t happen at county hall, nor at West Dorset District Council. In fact, it does not happen at any other council this newspaper group covers. Why? Because it is not acceptable behavior and it’s time the mayor clamped down on it in the Guildhall.

When new member Cheryl Reynolds attended a recent training meeting she asked a question about the acceptability of eating sweets during council debates. She was told it was totally unacceptable.

When Cheryl questioned her fellow councillors about this, she was told: “We do things differently in Lyme.”

They certainly do.

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