Thursday, 26 June 2014

Tombstoning off Shoreham's harbour arm; worth the risk?

Hello and welcome to my blog. The summer is definitely here and I've had my first swim in the sea. I adopted the normal drill; hobble to sea, gasp upon entering, wade in before chicken out, and swim furiously to restore blood circulation.  Mad? Well, certainly not as mad as tombstoning.
      If you haven't heard of it before, tombstoning is, "the practice of jumping into the sea or similar body of water from a cliff or other high point, such that the jumper enters the water vertically, like a tombstone." Think Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. 
     The RNLI know that some people can't resist that jump, so they've issued guidance to try to minimise the risk of serious injury, paralysis or death.
     Inexplicably, in Shoreham, some tombstoners go one step further. They jump off one of Shoreham's harbour arms and try to swim to the other.  In those cases no amount of guidance can reduce the risks for they are jumping into the entrance of a busy commercial port and the exit of the tidal Adur river.
    Back in summer 2010, I spoke to Barrie Turner, the NCI's Station Manager at Shoreham about the particular dangers to those tombstoners who try swimming across the harbour mouth. 

"Assuming they land safely, the distance between the harbour arms is deceptive and swimmers cannot swim straight across the harbour mouth due to a combination of tidal and river water flowing in and out. 
   They are therefore forced to swim in a horse-shoe shape, increasing the distance they have to cover, exhausting themselves, and leaving them exposed to danger for longer. Thus, in reality a quick fun dash across the harbour mouth is really a long, slow, dangerous slog.  
     On average a swimmer swims at 2 knots. Commercial vessels travel at 6 knots. They may look slow on the horizon, but certainly not close up.  Jet-skis can travel at 60 knots. A swimmer is too slow to swim out of the way of either.
     Also, once in the water, swimmers look just like flotsam. Boats don't often sail around flotsam; they sail over it. 
     If a skipper of a fishing boat, for instance, realises that what's ahead of him is not flotsam but a swimmer, he may take evasive action by slamming the engine into reverse. Sadly that can suck the swimmer into the engine's propellers.
      Even if a swimmer reaches the other side safely, they either have to swim back across the harbour mouth, or face a 3 mile walk to collect their stuff."  
     Shoreham Port tries to discourage tombstoning by educating local school children about the inherent risks, but some will do it regardless, presumably on the basis that accidents happen to other people. I say don't chance it. Do the hobble, and gasp instead. It may not look cool, but it's a lot cooler than visits to hospital, or worse still, a crematorium.
      NEXT WEEK I hope to bring you another in the series of a day in the life of. I know I've been promising for weeks and I assure you, it'll be worth the wait.
Thanks for dropping by and see you soon.
Ta-ra for now.

This blog was based on an earlier blog "Tombstoning= natural selection at work" published on 9th July 2010. 

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Looking back at Adur Festival 2014 and forward to BEACH DREAMS!

Hello and welcome to my blog. Summer’s here, so it’s all go in Shoreham. The Adur Festival and Art Trail have ended and Beach Dreams is about to start. 
As we wait for our turn in the spotlight, I spoke to Mella Faye Punchard about this year's festival.  

“We managed to do a couple of things that we really wanted to achieve based on last year’s feedback, which was to involve places such as Sompting, Fishersgate and Lancing and to increase awareness of and support for the festival.
Historically, its barely done anything in these places, so it was really exciting to see that it made a noticeable impact in there. 

Fishersgate Recylo Exhibition

    And,  for the first time, people were travelling across the district to take part in events. A third of the participants at the Sompting local hub, for instance, came from Shoreham. 

Pop Up Pet Shop at Sompting local hub

     This year, more groups got involved, there was an increase in the number of residents who turned out and if someone had missed an event, they were asking about it in the social media.
One of my big jobs this year was to engage families because, recently, it has been a much older persons festival.  Although we engaged the schools, (1,500 pupils had contact with free festival artists), and moved the start to the beginning of half term, as soon as the holiday arrived, I discovered that parents, teachers, and pupils just wanted to get away from school. They weren’t interested in being tied to an obligation to do something for an extra day. Having talked to the schools and families since, it seems that half term could be a really great time to do preparation work, with the festival starting when the schools go back.
This year, one of my big festival highlights was being able to create a paper programme that actually did each event justice.  Last year, I found it really frustrating having to put 50 events into tiny writing, especially because the older generation, the really big audience, couldn’t even read it! To finally have a standard font size in a programme, with most events supported by images, was a massive highlight for me, and a relief.
The other big highlight was the street parties. They were really well attended and everything that I’d intended them to be.

The Giant Snail at Shoreham's street party

The Insect Circus at Shoreham's street party 

The Black Eagles at Shoreham's street party

Next year, we’re going to apply for more Arts Council funding. I think that they can see that we’re regenerating the festival so it makes sense to keep increasing the investment, particularly because a sense of expectation and excitement is beginning to develop around it.
For those wanting to put on an event in next year's festival, registration is open from January 1st until March 2nd 2015. It’s worth beginning to think about it in October/November so that by the time it comes to register, you’ll know details like, where it’s going to be and how much it’s going to cost.
On a more personal note, this is my second year in the job and I feel like I’m just finding my feet. I’ve got lots more learning to do to make it as good as it can be, and with the new found support of West Sussex County Council, local artists and community players, there is a sense that the Festival may develop into a tourist destination rather than being just a local celebration.”  

            That brings me neatly back to our annual celebration of music and community here on Shoreham Beach.  Everyone is invited to Friday 20th June Launch Party on Beach Green at 5.00pm. The event kicks off the following day, Saturday 21st June, with parades starting from Shoreham Beach Primary School at 10.45am and the Church of the Good Shepherd at 11.00am.  
     The two parades will shimmy and jiggle west along Old Fort Road and east along Kings Walk respectively until they converge on Beach Green for the official launch of Beach Dreams, basically two days of lounging around listening to live music with family, friends and a picnic.  
     The mood will be chilled, except, of course, on the roads.  That will be pandemonium.  Therefore, if you are new to Beach Dreams and live on the beach, I'd suggest you walk. If you need to drive, avoid parking between Ferry Road and Mardyke and ideally park on "your side" of the beach so you can make a quick getaway.  If you need to drive off the beach, leave yourself at least 30 minutes extra time or park in town the night before and walk back to it in the morning. Yep, it really gets that busy.
Thanks for dropping by and have a great Beach Dreams.
See you next week. Ta-ra

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Serbia defied all my expections.

Hello and welcome to my blog. I hope you enjoyed the Adur Festival. Sadly, we missed most of it because we were in Serbia.
     Before our visit, the only thing I associated with Serbia was Milosevic, Karadzic and Srebrenica, so I expected a ruined country populated by swaggering thugs. The truth made me feel disorientated and embarrassingly ignorant.
     We stayed in the capital, Belgrade, and it felt just like a small European City.

Skadarlija Street

     It lacked the piazzazz of most Western capitals, but it was clean, safe and the main public space, Kalemegdan Park, was welcoming.

Kalemegdan Park 
There was a vibrant cafe culture.

Knez Mihailova Street 
The food was delicious.

                                                 Cheesecake with berries at Klub Zabar

     And the people? Apart from the cabby who thought gay people were mentally ill, everyone was professional, friendly, hard-working and thoughtful. They seemed tennis mad and there was a playfulness about them. Indeed, a group of giggling middle-aged men came bouncing into our restaurant one night to hide from their friend outside.
     However, after being asked by the umpteenth person, whether we liked Serbia, I began to suspect a collective sense of insecurity.  Our reply always elicited the same response, even by our homophobic taxi driver, relief and delight. Were my preconceptions common then? I hope not, because the Serbians were lovely. That's why I don't want to put the boot in about Belgrade Zoo, but it lets them down.
The wolf pit at Belgrade Zoo 

As always, it was spotless. The day we went, school parties were visiting and the kids cheerfully mooched from one enclosure to the next. A steep path led to the back of the zoo and there, wolves, a lone lion, horses and bears were kept in hot, deep concrete pits, some tastelessly overlooked by an expensive restaurant. Further along, a cat constantly paced along the edge of its small cage, only breaking step when a neighbouring feline came out to hiss at it. Apart from the leafy, spacious Cheetah enclosure, it was grim, and our trip left me with a lasting sense of disquiet.
     Talking of which, were you one of those who felt that Shoreham Airport should not have allowed the Nazi flag to be flown there last week?

Filming Woman In Gold at Shoreham Airport

     They were only up a day, but I understand that there were lots of complaints because it coincided with the eve of the D-Day commemorations.  Yes, it was chilling to see them, but I thought them neither disrespectful nor offensive because it brought home the reality of what the Allies were fighting for, to stop that flag flying in this country. Seeing the Swastika, made me recall the words, "for their tomorrow, we gave our today," and it made me feel more grateful to the Allies than ever.
     NEXT WEEK, Mella Punchard will share her thoughts on this year's Adur Festival and the week after, I'll return to the third in the series of, "a day in the life of."
Thanks for dropping by and see you next week.