Sunday, 30 August 2009

A New Englander’s view of Old England

A US-born writer who has settled in Devon and become of the county’s best known historians will be holding a local history workshop in the picturesque village of East Budleigh on 5 September. (Left: East Budleigh's prettily twisting High Street with its many ancient thatched houses, looking down from the church)

Dr Todd Gray was born and raised in the Massachusetts towns of Ipswich and Gloucester, and first came to England on a school trip in 1973. He now has dual nationality.

He returned in 1978 to complete his undergraduate studies and in 1989 was awarded his Doctorate in History from the University of Exeter. He remains an Honorary Research Fellow of the University.

Dr Gray has written more than 40 books on the history of Devon and Cornwall and more than a dozen scholarly articles. He is Chairman of the Friends of Devon’s Archives, and a past Chairman of the Devonshire Association.

He has not shied away from awkward subjects in his writing. His Blackshirts in Devon studied the history of Sir Oswald Mosley's fascist followers in the county between 1933 and 1940, and won the Devon History Society’s ‘Devon Book of the Year’ award in October 2007.

In Devon and the Slave Trade he used local and national archives to provide examples of the ways African slavery was part of Devon's history. The book was chosen as the winner for ‘outstanding contribution to black heritage in 2007’ in the South West by the Black History Foundation.

He also courted controversy with his discovery that the Cornish pasty is in fact a Devonian delicacy, having discovered in a Plymouth document dating back to 1510 that the earliest recipe for the dish pre-dated Cornish accounts by a clear 200 years.

Dr Gray’s workshop will explain how to use local document resources to conduct research into local history subjects. The workshop, in East Budleigh Church Hall on 5 September from 10.00 am to 12.30 pm, has been arranged by the Otter Valley Association as part of the formal launch of OVApedia, its historical archive.

OVA, based in the Lower Otter Valley, is in the words of its website “an amenity (Civic) society formed to interest residents and visitors in the history, geography, natural history and architecture of the area.” For more details, see

Friday, 28 August 2009

RNLI sea rescue at Budleigh Salterton

[Budleigh beach is generally reckoned to be a fairly safe place for swimming, and the River Otter estuary (pictured left) can look like a beautifully tranquil playground for kids. But even in mid-summer the currents and tides can suddenly transform it, as this story a few days ago of the dramatic rescue of a father and daughter shows. Even a fit adult – the father is a member of the Army Air Corps – can get into difficulties.]

Exmouth RNLI volunteer crew were tasked by Portland Coastguards on Tuesday 25 August 2009, to rescue an eight-year-old girl and her father after they got into difficulties in the sea off Otterton Ledge, Budleigh Salterton.

The young girl, Kerys Nash, had been boogie boarding in the River Otter when she was swept out to sea. Her father rushed into the sea to help, but with the strong outgoing tide they were both swept further out to sea. The alarm was raised by his sister-in-law who had been watching from the beach.

Dad, Adam Nash, 29, from Exeter explained: “When I saw Kerys was in trouble, I just stripped off to my jeans and went in to get her, thinking it would be about five yards in and I would be able to drag her out. But it was choppy water and it was quite hard to see where she was. I realised I was going to have to swim to reach her.”

By the time Adam was able to reach his daughter, the current had taken her about 100 yards out to sea. He said: “I could feel how strong the current was and it was too difficult to get her and me back to shore, as much as we tried. We lay on the board and paddled, hoping we could make it back to shore further down the beach but the current didn’t take us that way.”

Adam found a rock beginning to stick out of the sea as the tide went out and they used that to cling onto until help arrived. The RNLI Exmouth inshore lifeboat was tasked at 12.26 pm and the volunteer crew reached the youngster and her father within ten minutes.

Seeing the RNLI inshore lifeboat crew coming in the distance, Adam used the white underside of the boogie board as a reflector so they could be found. The RNLI volunteer crew took them on board the lifeboat, but the conditions were very bumpy and they were unable to land them ashore due to the dumping surf at Budleigh. The RNLI all weather Mersey class lifeboat, Margaret Jean, was launched to transport the cold and shaken casualties back to Exmouth in the warmth of the wheelhouse of the lifeboat.

Happy to be back safe on dry land, Adam said: “I was relieved my sister-in-law is level-headed enough to have contacted the Coastguards when she did. The response time was quick and it’s great to see that the system works so well. We thank everyone involved.”

Exmouth RNLI has been tasked four other times since August 19 2009. The Exmouth station has been operating since 1858. Its recently completed new site is pictured left. To learn more about the lifeboat stations past and present go to

The RNLI is the charity that saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. It operates over 230 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and has more than 140 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824 its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 137,000 lives. For more information on the RNLI please visit

Text credit: Jo Damsell, Volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer
Pictured above: A relieved Adam and Kerys Nash safe on board the Exmouth lifeboat.
Photo credit: D. Perkin

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Murder, Mayhem and the NHS in Budleigh Salterton

I should point out to my American readers that the title is nothing to do with the current political furore that has arisen from President Obama’s proposed reforms to the US healthcare system and the inflammatory contributions to the debate made recently by certain politicians on the right wing of the UK’s Conservative Party.

‘Murder, Mayhem and the NHS – Three one act plays’ is simply the latest production by the Salterton Drama Club.

‘Bang, You're Dead’, by Paul Reakes, is a comedy thriller, set in the lovely home of Lydia and Theo Spink which is about to be burgled. Lydia knows this because she has planned the burglary with Marcus, her boyfriend. However, the arrival of her husband, Theo, with his secretary, Miss Trim, throws the plan into confusion. Or has it? Not everything is as it seems in this play full of surprises, laughs, sadness and a little gunplay. The only thing it lacks is scruples.

Cast in order of appearance:
Lydia Spink - Jenny Roberts
Marcus Harwood - Daniel Wilson
Amelia Trim - Liz Wadhams
Theo Spink - Richard Gomm
Directed by Diane Nicholls


The second piece consists of two scenes – ‘Plaster’ and ‘Magic’ – from ‘Visiting Hour’
by Richard Harris. The theme of a hospital visiting hour provides fertile ground for these comedies.

In ‘Plaster’ Helen talks to her husband, who is immobile in plaster, about his car accident. Whilst she appears to believe that the circumstances are entirely innocent, the audience soon realise they are not....

‘Magic’ is also a comedy. Visitors are supposed to help cheer up those they visit, but some are just a pain!

Cast in order of appearance:
Helen - Pam Terry
Eric - David Holt
Ron - Steve Andrews
Joan..Sue - Clare Morris
Brenda - Rosemary Williams
Sandra - Rebecca Palmer
May - Christine Tyler
Arthur - Alan Ford
Directed by Wendy Gomm


In ‘Last Tango in Little Grimley’, by David Tristram, Little Grimley Amateur Dramatics Society is in trouble. The membership has dwindled to four – the audiences aren't much bigger and if they don't come up with some rent money soon, they're going to be thrown out.

“There’s only one thing that sells tickets these days”, argues Gordon the chairman. “Sex!” Thus begins the chaotic and hilarious build-up to an evening of extraordinary home-grown drama – an evening the locals would never forget!

Cast in Order of appearance
Joyce - Julia Gould Smith
Margaret - Elaine Wilson
Gordon - John Sullivan
Bernard - Mike Terry
Directed by Gordon Elliott


Performances run from Monday 7 - Saturday 12 September 2009
Tickets are available from:
Budleigh Salterton Tourist Information Centre
Fore Street, Budleigh Salterton EX9 6NG
Office open: Monday to Saturday 10.00 am to 5.00 pm
Tel: 01395 442208
Payment can be made via credit card over the phone and tickets collected from the theatre on the evening you are attending the play.

Book sale at Salem Chapel

East Budleigh's historic Salem Chapel will be open to the public over the weekend for a sale of second-hand books. Entry is free on Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 August, from 2.00 pm to 5.00 pm. The Chapel, dating from 1719, is located in Vicarage Lane at the junction with B3178, close to Bicton Cross.

Proceeds from the sale will go towards maintenance of the ancient building, which was saved from dereliction when it was acquired by the Historic Chapels Trust in 1998 and underwent a £700,000 programme of repair and upgrading.

Salem Chapel is now available for bookings and for suitable community events such as concerts, exhibitions and meetings. It also retains its wedding licence. East Budleigh resident Kathy Moyle, a key figure in the campaign to restore the building explained that although the main cost had been met by the Historic Chapels Trust, donations and revenue from events like the book sale were vital for the day-to-day maintenance.

For further information please contact Kathy Moyle on 01395 445236.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

The Dove Brothers at Brewster Baptist Church

Brewster Baptist Church’s final Gospel concert for this year will be held on Saturday, August 29, at 7.00 pm in the sanctuary, and will feature The Dove Brothers, a talented group of five men who specialize in Southern Gospel music.

Formed in 1998 by brothers McCray and Eric Dove, The Dove Brothers Quartet has quickly become a household name in Southern Gospel music with their unique throwback style and current Southern Gospel sound.

The group is best known for their hit songs, Didn’t It Rain, Get Away Jordan, and their biggest hit to date, I Can Pray.

The group was awarded Horizon Group of the Year in 1999 and Favorite Traditional Male Quartet at the 2002 Singing News Fan Awards and hasn’t missed a beat since. Their recording, Never The Same, is the group’s most critically acclaimed and groundbreaking album to date.

Earlier this year they were named Favorite Male Quartet at the 2009 SGM FanFair Awards in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, having won the same award in March 2008.

The group’s latest album for Sonlite Records – titled Hold On – was released a few months ago.

Current members of The Dove Brothers Quartet include: McCray Dove, Eric Dove, Jerry Martin, Jerry Kelso and David Hester.

For more information:
Brewster Baptist Church
1848 Main Street
Brewster, MA 02631
(508) 896-3381

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Ageing or Aging?

[It’s not just the way we spell the word that’s different when it comes to looking after old people.
In almost every country of the world, the proportion of people aged over 60 years is growing faster than any other age group, as a result of both longer life expectancy and declining fertility rates.

But across the Atlantic they handle matters very differently from the UK when it comes to dealing with issues faced by the elderly.

Here in the UK, we have private organisations like the Centre for Policy on Ageing and charities like Age Concern Help the Aged which have recently decided to work together. There is no Government ministerial involvement, although a year ago the broadcaster and writer Dame Joan Bakewell was appointed an unpaid champion of the elderly by the government. And in July this year Health Secretary Andy Burnham unveiled proposals to set up a new National Care Service to help cope with the UK’s ageing population.

In the USA the Government has been accustomed to taking a more hands-on approach, with its Federal agency, the Administration on Aging, responsible for advancing the concerns and interests of older people and their carers.

Run by the Department of Health & Human Services, the AoA, set up in 1965 following the passing of the Older Americans Act (OAA), has its own website at In addition there is the National Council on Aging a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC.

US town administrations like those on Cape Cod have for many years had their own Councils on Aging with Executive Directors. Brewster’s is currently advertising the vacant post of Director for its COA to manage the operations of the Town’s Senior Center and programmes for approx. 3,650 older people and residents with disabilities. A salary of between $43,940.99 and $57,121.43 with benefits is on offer.

In the following article, Jean Sears, (pictured right), Brewster’s retiring COA Director, looks back on 29 years of service.]

Jean Sears retires as Brewster COA director

Jean Sears is retiring as director of Brewster’s Council on Aging but she isn’t going far, just next door. Sears has lived next to Brewster’s old town hall, which is now the council on aging building, since 1950.

“We moved here when I was 10 years old, from Hingham, and bought the big house next door,” she recalled. “At that point there were 13 acres out back and my parents made it a campground, Shady Knoll Campground.”

Sears and her husband, Henry, an ex-Brewster firefighter, live there now. Their three children, William and Paul Sears, and Melody Woods, all live in town with six grandsons so she’ll be busy and will continue to volunteer at the COA. Her husband is the bus driver, the very position Jean started with at the COA 29 years ago, in 1980.

“Then I started in outreach and right away took over as director because the person moved on,” she noted.

It was a quick rise to the top but she’s always loved the job.

“There’ve been a lot of changes, a lot more people needing a lot more care,” she explained. “We’ve made the council a friendly place. There’s a little shed out back full of medical supplies and people come here on a daily basis to borrow them.”

Sears and her husband ran what is now Gill’s Sunoco in Orleans before she took the COA job. The COA was located in what is now the thrift shop at town hall. The current town hall was a community center and the COA ran their programs there.

“We moved into this building in 1987,” Sears said. “When we first moved here I made a commitment to the town that I wanted to make this place feel like home and to this day people come in and say they feel so comfortable here.”

They run three or four exercise programs a day, lunch five days a week, entertainment on Thursdays, card games several days a week and day trips to museums.

“We have the b-bus that brings people here for lunch, takes them shopping, to the post office, doctors’ appointments or the hairdressers. We take over for people when they have to give up driving,” Sears said. “Transportation and home care have always been our two most important projects.”

Sears started an annual cookout and barbecue and has organized an Octoberfest for this fall.

“We also started a St. Patrick’s Day brunch. Henry and I used to cook the whole thing with the girl who worked here. Corned beef and vegetables we’d cut up the night before at home,” she said.

Sears keeps a couple of huge folders full of home care aides information and contact numbers.

“When someone calls and says grandma is coming home from the nursing home and needs 24-hour care, I just fill the places. It’s continuous. Sometimes people call every day of the week,” Sears said.

The council can even provide a driver to Boston, although Sears would like more volunteers.

“I’ve enjoyed this job so much because there’s so much variety,” she reflected. “Every day is different.”

The days will be different now too, and some will still involve the COA.

“I’m going to be working here at least one day a week,” she promised. “What I’ve always liked about work is meeting with the people and helping people. I feel good when I go the bed at night and I’ve helped somebody every day. I go to bed with a clear conscience. That’s why I’ll still keep going to work, I’m so used to being here. Everybody comes in and wants to discuss their problems. I will miss that the most. I know I will.”

But Sears is a dedicated Brewsterite and glad she’s here.

“We were a struggling family when we moved here but had a good time and did a lot of things,” she commented. “I like it because it’s stayed pretty much the same, other than a lot more people. When we first came here there were just 900 people in town. You could go to the post office and know everybody you saw. The post office used to be where The Scoop is now. I used to work there for Donald Doane and he had an old antique cash register and you had to write everything in.”

Now she works on computers.

She hasn’t thought much about her retirement. Her last workday is Aug. 21, and she has five weeks vacation time after that to use up.

“I’m looking forward to staying home with my little dog for a while,” she said. “But I will always keep involved with the COA. I know that because it’s been my life for a long time. I never knew my own parents as seniors because they died young. But a lot of people I dealt with knew them and were friends of my parents."

Text and photo credit: Rich Eldred
Reprinted with permission from The Cape Codder newspaper, Orleans, Massachusetts USA;

Monday, 24 August 2009

Budleigh Salterton Art Club Summer Show 2009

Established in 1979, Budleigh Salterton’s Art Club is in the words of its website “a vibrant and active forum for the professional artist, the competent amateur or the budding wannabe” who live in the local area. I was told that there are currently 110 members, and newcomers are welcome.

With its 75 exhibitors the 2009 summer show – the Club’s 31st – offers an impressive display of talent in Budleigh’s Public Hall. There are 244 items on view and they cover a wide variety of subjects in different genres. All are for sale, although many have already been snapped up.

This is the artwork most famously associated with Budleigh. ‘The Boyhood of Raleigh’, painted by the Victorian artist Sir John Millais in 1870 when he stayed in the town. I’ve always admired it, and often thought about how it might be viewed, as in

The first item on view was outside the Public Hall, by the steps which lead to some closed doors. Art Club member Jed Falby wittily created this figure inspired by the famous painting as a sign to guide visitors. That iconic arm pointing towards the north door of the Public Hall certainly worked, but I felt the scene was missing something.

Budleigh resident Charlotte Strawford, 17, and her friend Tom Woodley, 16, from Exmouth, happened to be sitting on the bench nearby. So I removed the empty Coke can from the steps and invited them to complete the picture, which they do rather well. A pity they’re not in Elizabethan dress…

But I digress. The Public Hall is an excellent location for the Art Club’s exhibition, and visitors receive a comprehensive catalogue as they arrive. The images that follow are based mainly on local scenery: a bit limiting, I know, in view of the wonderful range of subjects tackled by the artists. Maybe next time I’ll try a different theme. So here we go… (Apologies for the odd layout of some of the first captions; I did try, several times.)

James Lester
‘Night tide in the Otter estuary’,
watercolour £250

J. Jones,
'White Bridge River Otter',
acrylic, £30

R. Rockett, 'Aspects of Budleigh', line and wash, £45

A. Emery, 'Passing storm
Budleigh Salterton', oil, £85

G. Whittle,
'Fore Street Hill',
acrylic, £65

Jed Falby,
'The road to East Budleigh',
watercolour, £200

A. Holden, 'Otter Head',
gouache, £50

Terry Duggan,
'Marine Parade',
Watercolour £70

Neil Rogers, 'Occasional Table',
medium: mixed, £250
Priscilla Hull award for three-dimensional work.
I just had to include this striking piece.
My friend Annie thought
it should have been titled ‘Topless Waitress.’

And finally, on the way out of the exhibition I was easily persuaded to buy two strips of raffle tickets for a good cause. The prize is this fine pastel work by Paul Hardy, ‘River Scene.’ Proceeds from the raffle are going to Alzheimer's Society

So, an enjoyable and absorbing Sunday afternoon with Budleigh Salterton Art Club. For further information about the Club and its activities see

The summer 2009 Art Club show is open in the Public Hall, Budleigh Salterton, until Monday 31 August, from 10.00 am – 5.00 pm. Admission is free.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Lions’ Bank Holiday event to get off the ground

Budleigh Salterton seafront will be the setting for the Lions Club’s 11th annual balloon race on Bank Holiday Monday 31 August.

The spectacular event which takes place by the Longboat Café, complete with barbecue and stalls from 10.00 am until 5.00 pm, will raise funds for the Lions’ campaign to provide Medic Alert pendants and bracelets.

MedicAlert® is the only non-profit making, registered charity providing a life-saving identification system for individuals with hidden medical conditions and allergies.

This takes the form of body-worn bracelets or necklets – known as MedicAlert Emblems – bearing the MedicAlert symbol on the disc and supported by a 24-hour emergency telephone service.

MedicAlert® was founded in America in 1956 by Dr Marion Collins and Mrs Chrissie Collins after their daughter almost died following an allergic reaction to the horse serum used in a routine tetanus antitoxin test. From this small beginning, MedicAlert® has grown to a worldwide membership of over four million from around 40 different countries.

The Lions Clubs and MedicAlert® have a long and proud history of working together. In fact MedicAlert was brought to the UK in the early 1960s as a special project of the British Isles & Ireland Lions Clubs.

The biodegradable balloons at the Budleigh Lions’ Bank Holiday event cost £1 each and there is a prize of £100 for the person whose balloon travels the furthest. The winner’s balloon last year was returned from Switzerland.

Above left: Budleigh Salterton Lion Alan Lowe raising money for Medic Alert at a previous balloon race. Photo credit: Ray Ambrose of Randa Creative and

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Mini Grummage Sale at Fairlynch

Whatever a grummage sale is, it sounds interesting, as if it’s a chance for a good rummage both for donors wanting to clear out their attics and for bargain-hunters on the day. Budleigh Salterton's Fairlynch Museum grummage sales have been an annual event for many years and one is coming up this Bank Holiday Monday 31 August 2009.

From 10.00 am onwards you have the chance of grummaging through piles of bric-à-brac, jewellery, china and brass, linens, small kitchen equipment and garden tools, books, garden ornaments, plants, cakes and any other collectables.

Proceeds from the sale go towards the upkeep of the Museum (pictured above).
Good hunting!

Further information about Fairlynch Museum is at,com_mumancontent/task,view/sectionid,12/

Not a loopy idea at all

The crime rate in Budleigh Salterton is fairly low, but you can’t be too careful and local police are helping the public to protect their property against pickpockets with a novel but simple scheme.

Yesterday PCSO Malcolm Maguire was visiting the town’s charity shops to distribute blue nylon lanyards which can be looped through bag handles and clipped to wallets and purses to keep them safe.

Here at Oxfam, where the picture was taken, volunteer staff reported that the lanyards – which are free – were being taken at a brisk rate by the public.

A great run for a great cause in Budleigh Salterton

“Fantastic scenery”, “a challenging course”, and “a good friendly atmosphere” are just some of the comments that have been made over the years by runners in Budleigh Salterton’s Jurassic Coast Run 10K.

The 2009 event on Saturday 22 August is likely to continue a successful tradition, with an anticipated 250+ runners from all over the UK taking part.

As in previous years, the Jurassic Coast Run has raised money for Exeter-based cancer charity FORCE and is again being organised by Exmouth’s Jane Newman.

With a course embracing coast, cliff, river and rural paths the Run offers amazing views as well as some tough challenges. Starting at 11.00 am at Budleigh’s Lime Kiln car park, it follows the River Otter before turning on to the Jurassic Coast path as far as Crab Ledge, where the route turns inland. It then follows beautiful country tracks before turning back along the River Otter and ending at the Lime Kiln car park where the runners are rewarded with a barbecue.

The male and female winners for the 2007 event were 21-year-old Tom Merson with 00:34:44 and 35-year-old Juliet Knowles with a time of 00:42:10. Last year the organizers took a break, but are looking forward to welcoming runners old and new this Saturday. Many participants plan their holidays around the event.

FORCE fund raisers have helped to finance improvements in patient care through research, the purchase of advanced equipment, and the new Information and Support Centre conveniently located within the grounds of the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital in Barrack Road, Exeter.

Open every weekday, the Centre offers a relaxed and comfortable environment where you can just drop in, sit quietly, chat with friendly volunteers, take light refreshments or meet with experienced staff to ask questions and discuss your needs.

FORCE was first registered in 1987, and thus celebrated its ‘coming of age’ in 2008 - having kickstarted that achievement with ‘Classics Galore!’ in November 2007. Since then, numerous events have taken place in way of celebration.

During those 21 years FORCE has become a well-known and popular local charity, and that is exactly where it has its greatest strength – being a local charity. Also during that time, the research work carried out all over England has meant a rapidly changing world of cancer services on offer. That, of course, means more equipment, more medical staff and more support for patients and their families.

That is where FORCE comes into its own, for the support offered at the Centre is nothing short of superb. It is important that anyone who is going through the trauma of having cancer, or being close to a person who has cancer, can be assured of support by a dedicated team.

“FORCE is not government-funded, but relies totally on voluntary financial contributions,” says the charity. “Thousands of pounds are raised by the wonderful people who organise events for FORCE each year, and all of this money goes towards the day-to-day running of the Support Centre. Every penny is vital.....and gratefully received!”

Departments helped by FORCE to purchase valuable equipment for oncology treatment include Radiotherapy, The Centre for Women's Health, Breast Cancer Care, Urology, Cherrybrook (Oncology Day Case Unit) and the Oncology Ward at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital Wonford. Equipment has also been purchased for Torbay Hospital.

Also funded by FORCE are two Research Studentships whose work is focused on ovarian cancer and lung cancer at the Peninsula Medical School.

More information is available at:

FORCE Cancer Charity
Corner House
Barrack Road

Phone: 01392 402875

Images of the Jurassic Coast Run 10K courtesy where more information is available.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Reel deals in Budleigh and Brewster

After its successful launch last year with the showing of nine films, Budleigh Salterton Film Society’s second season will be starting in September with new members queuing up to join.

The original target of 250 members for the Society has been exceeded to such an extent that an additional session had to be arranged, and the 2009-10 season will follow the previous pattern, with monthly screenings on Wednesdays.

Early sessions start at 5.00 pm for those with white membership cards. Doors open at 4.30 pm, and tea is available. The later sessions are at 8.00 pm (cream membership cards). Doors open at 7.30 pm, with wine available. ‘Early’ and ‘Late’ cards may be exchanged between members.

The price of membership has been kept as for last year – £24 per person for existing members, £29 for new members (includes a one-off joining fee of £5)
People interested in joining should contact the membership secretary, Kirsten Goodesmith, 11a, Westfield Road, Budleigh Salterton. Tel: 01395 446257; Email:

Below is the 2009-10 schedule for Budleigh’s Film Society.

Across the Atlantic cinema clubs are just as popular. In 2002, Brewster resident Rebecca M. Alvin (pictured right) introduced the Cape Cod Film Society Screening Series to audiences in Chatham, Massachusetts, in the basement of a Unitarian Universalist church. The idea was to show films that she had seen as a film teacher, writer, and film maker in New York to audiences in her new home - Cape Cod. The series is no longer offering eight-week series in the church, but Ms Alvin has been working with other organizations to programme interesting film shows geared toward each particular audience. It is, she says, “a film series on Cape Cod that aims to show interesting independent work to local audiences who would otherwise not get to see these films.”

Rebecca Alvin is eminently qualified to guide the Film Society. A native New Yorker, she started out working toward a career in music, studying at the prestigious Berklee College of Music, when she got sidetracked from a Film Scoring major there to a Filmmaking major at Emerson College in Boston. After her intensely personal student film, Untitled (No.1) won finalist honours at the 1994 Visual Artists Film & Video Competition in San Jose, CA, Rebecca moved on to edit and produce numerous corporate and medical tapes in New York, before returning to more creative pursuits with the 1996 film, Voices, which screened at the Utah Short Film & Video Festival and elsewhere.

Ms Alvin started Belly Girl Films, Inc. in 1996 as a production company for her various film and video projects. The primary focus of the company now is the production of media projects which give voice to under represented groups and individuals, promote charitable organizations in their fundraising and public awareness campaigns, or express independent visions. In the past, this mission has been fulfilled with her films depicting the aged, the mentally ill, disenfranchised women, young women in transition, and other disempowered people and causes.

“We work in film, video, Internet, and multimedia formats, on projects that are thought-provoking, that encourage positive change, that inspire, that really matter,” she says.

Her first documentary, Our Bodies, Our Minds (Distributor: The Cinema Guild) , a feature-length exploration of feminism and sex work, premiered in 2001 at the 20th Annual Women in the Director's Chair International Film & Video Festival in Chicago and has gone on to screen worldwide, from Berlin to San Francisco. Shortly after that, she completed her Master of Arts degree in Media Studies at the New School for Social Research in New York City and relocated to Cape Cod in 2000.

After completing a tribute documentary about Broadway actress Rose Inghram (commissioned by the Rose Inghram Trust), she began work on a film about women and the Catholic Church. This latest documentary, Women of Faith, was just completed in October 2008 and has been screening at various venues around the United States, Canada, and elsewhere. She is currently working on a commissioned film about the town of Truro, Massachusetts.

In addition to being a filmmaker, she teaches film at The New School, Curry College and Cape Cod Community College and writes for numerous publications, including Cineaste and the Journal of Film and Video. She is also editor of Provincetown Magazine.

Ms Alvin presents provocative, entertaining, and stimulating independent films to Cape Cod audiences year-round, as well as a selection of workshops in film making and film studies topics. From abstract video art to highly charged political documentaries and moving fiction features, the Cape Cod Film Society Screening Series seeks to showcase motion pictures as an art form that can inform, entertain, provoke, and inspire. See or email

Rebecca Alvin has written an interesting piece for Cineaste about the microcinema movement at
Further information about her work can be found at

Budleigh Salterton Film Society 2009-10 programme.
The Society’s website is currently under construction.

Wednesday September 23th 2009
Australia/UK 2002 90 minutes
Director: Phillip Noyce
Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Everlyn Sampi

In the 1930s the Australian Aborigine Act resulted in the setting up of ‘training’ camps for aboriginal children, where, separated from their families, they could be taught western values and behaviour. This film, based on a true story, tells how three children made a daring escape from their camp and set off on a 1500 mile journey home, guided by the rabbit-proof fence which stretched across the country. In a gripping game of cat and mouse they are pursued by a native tracker and the government’s ‘Chief Protector of Aborigines’, Mr A O Neville, chillingly played by Ken Branagh.

Wednesday October 21st 2009
Israel 2008 106 minutes
Director: Eran Riklis
Starring: Hiam Abbass, Doron Tavory, Ali Suliman

Salma, a Palestinian widow, owns a productive lemon grove near the green line ‘border’ between Israel and the West Bank. When the Israeli Defence minister moves into a new house opposite the grove, the Israeli security forces order it to be uprooted. With the help of a young Palestinian lawyer, Salma tries to fight this decision, and in the process an invisible bond develops between her and the Defence minister’s wife, who feels trapped and unhappy in her new home. This is a powerful and moving film which brings the Palestinian-Israeli conflict into sharp human focus, whilst being remarkably even-handed in its approach.

Wednesday November 18th 2009
France 2008 115 minutes
Director: Philippe Claudel
Starring: Kristin Scott Thomas, Elsa Zylberstein, Serge Hazanavicius

Kristin Scott Thomas won worldwide critical acclaim for her performance in this award-winning story, playing a forty-something single woman (Juliette) who is slowly reunited with her younger married sister (Lea) after a separation of fifteen years. The grim unmentionable secret behind this separation is gradually revealed as Juliette, living with Lea’s family, rebuilds her broken life and comes to terms with her past. The Guardian’s film critic described it as ‘a deeply involving, beautifully acted and expertly constructed human drama by and for grown-ups.’

For an in-depth preview see
Wednesday December 9th 2009
UK 1949 105 minutes
Director: Robert Hamer
Starring: Alec Guiness, Joan Greenwood, Dennis Price

This delightful black comedy must be near the top of the list of favourite Ealing Studio comedies. Louis D’Ascoyne Mazzini (Dennis Price) should be heir to a dukedom but has been cut off by the snobbish D’Ascoyne family. Eager for revenge, he sets about systematically eliminating all ten of the family members standing in his way, with increasingly ingenious ways of entering their lives and gaining their confidence before despatching them. Amazingly, eight of the ten doomed D’Ascoynes are played by Alec Guiness, an acting tour de force which adds considerably to the film’s charm. A pleasant run-up to the Christmas season.

Wednesday January 13th 2010
Germany 2003 120 minutes
Director: Wolfgang Becker
Starring: Daniel Bruhl, Katrin Sass

Alex Kerner’s mother, a staunch and active supporter of the East German Communist Party, falls into a coma just before the fall of the Berlin wall. Eight months later she starts to recover, but doctors warn that she could suffer a fatal heart attack if she discovers that the Cold War is over. Thus begins an increasingly hilarious series of attempts to hide reality from her, from finding old East German products to faking TV news broadcasts. Alex’s (and his sister’s) efforts to keep all historical changes from his mother are both funny and poignant. ‘Goodbye Lenin’ was voted the best European Film by the European Film Academy at the Berlin awards in 2003.

Wednesday February 10th 2010
South Africa 2005 94 minutes
Director: Gavin Hood
Starring: Presley Chweneyagae, Mothusi Magano

Nineteen year old Tsotsi is the leader of a gang in the Johannesburg township of Soweto, living a life of violence, robbery and even murder (‘Tsotsi’ is ghetto language for ‘thug’). His life takes an unexpected turn when he shoots a woman in a wealthy suburb and steals her car- only to discover a baby on the back seat. The film follows the next six days in Tsotsi’s life , as he struggles between his violent nature and a growing feeling of kindness for the infant and its future welfare. Based on the novel by author and playwright Athol Fugard, it tells a life-affirming story with touches of humour, but it never descends into sentimentality.
(Pictured above: a scene from Tsotsi; image courtesy of The UK Film & TV Production Company plc)

Wednesday March 10th 2010
USA (India) 2007 91 minutes
Director: Wes Anderson
Starring: Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody, Adrian Brody

The Darjeeling Ltd (actually the name of a long-distance Indian Train) is an idiosyncratic tale of three squabbling brothers who have not spoken to each other since their father’s funeral. The eldest, Francis, has organised a journey through India to their mother, who has disappeared into a convent in the Himalayas. His hope is that the brothers will be reconciled, and their individual personal problems solved. On the journey the brothers argue, sulk, fight and have a series of bizarre adventures, tinged with quirky humour. These culminate in their being thrown off the train and forced to complete their pilgrimage by road.

Wednesday April 7th 2010
USA 2007 108 minutes
Director: Thomas McCarthy
Starring: Richard Jenkins,Hiam Abbass, Amir Arison

Walter Vale is a sixty-two year old professor, an authority on the economic problems of Third World countries, tired in his job and leading a dull life of routine. He discovers a young couple of squatters in his New York pied-à-terre and, after initially ejecting them, takes pity on them. A bond develops between this unlikely trio, then suddenly the young man (Tarek) is picked up by the police for being an illegal immigrant. Walter’s dry academic interests become acutely personal as he wrestles with the bureaucracy of the immigration authorities, desperate to save Tarek from being deported to Syria where his father had died in prison for expressing his political views.

Wednesday April 28th
As in 2008, not the title of the last film of the season, but a short selection of titles for your choice.

Tell No-one France 2007
The Counterfeiters Austria 2007
Man on Wire UK 2008
Jean de Florette France 1986
Slumdog Millionaire UK 2008


Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Music at the Mill: 20, 27 August 2009

Music at the Mill: Michael Weston King (20 August) and Corinne West (27 August)

Two star performers in their particular genres will conclude the Music at the Mill summer season on successive dates at Otterton, picturesquely situated on the River Otter just a few miles north of Budleigh Salterton.
On Thursday 20 August 2009 former leader of the Good Sons and now a highly respected solo musician, Michael Weston King brings his trademark vocals and melodic songs back to the Mill. Expect great originals plus stunning interpretations of songs by such stars as Neil Young, The Beatles and Bob Dylan. “One of Britain’s most eloquent singers - achingly beautiful stuff,” was a verdict from a Daily Express reviewer.
Then a week later on Thursday 27 August, Otterton Mill music lovers will have the chance of hearing American artiste Corinne West. This is a very welcome return from one of the most exciting and soulful country/ folk/ bluegrass musicians to have emerged from the US in recent years.
“Corinne sings the story of life unfolding, and delivers strong, focused and emotionally powerful songs, rich with stellar musicianship and expressive vocals,” says the Mill. “We're delighted to announce the line-up for Corinne's Otterton gig will be Corinne on vocals and rhythm guitar, esteemed Canadian multi-instrumentalist Doug Cox on slide guitars and Marie-Jo Dandeneau on bass – this line-up is appearing exclusively at Otterton, on the Bob Harris show and at Shrewsbury Festival!”
Otterton Mill’s music nights always feature menus of fabulous food. Meals are served from 6.00 pm, and the music starts at 8.00 pm.

(Note: ticket prices shown cover the music only).

Tickets: £10.50 (20 August); £12.50 (27 August)

To book, call 01395 568521.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Homeowner lops 157 trees on protected bluff

[Conservationists and tree-lovers are as active in Cape Cod as they are in East Devon when it comes to defending the area’s natural beauty, and Brewster, as seen in the aerial picture, has even more trees to protect than Budleigh.]

A Point of Rocks Beach homeowner has a date with the Brewster Conservation Commission following the topping off of 157 trees on a protected bluff overlooking Cape Cod Bay.

Salvatore and Deborah Vasta, of Lenox, property owners at 83 Dune Road in Brewster, have submitted a re-vegetation mitigation plan to restore the coastal bank where they trimmed the trees without approval from the conservation commission earlier this spring.

Salvatore Vasta cut the trees to between four and eight feet along the crest of the 20-foot-high bank. The property shares a 1,200-foot private beach with 100 other homes around Point of Rocks. A number of the topped trees were on community beach property, the rest were on the Vastas’ property.

Under Brewster bylaws, there’s a no-disturbance zone within 50 feet of a coastal bank, where any activity requires a variance from the conservation commission. The commission’s jurisdiction extends 100 feet from the bank, and the trees were all within that zone.

The house is for sale and is listed by Kinlin Grover Real Estate. Its ad says the property features “amazing sunsets and panoramic views across Cape Cod Bay.” The two-story, four-bedroom, Cape Cod-style home is about 2,000 square feet and is listed for sale at $2.7 million. The house sits on 1.19 acres, and has been rented for $7,000 a week in the past. It was built in 1955.

Brewster conservation agent Jim Gallagher received an anonymous tip that the trees had been cut. When he arrived at the property, Salvatore Vasta was out in the yard. Gallagher showed him a copy of the septic site plan that delineated the coastal bank.

“I explained to him that vegetation removal within a coastal zone is illegal without a permit,” he said. “I asked him if any trees were pruned and with his permission we inspected the site.”

“There was older cutting there,” noted Dan Ojala of Down Cape Engineering, the firm the Vastas hired to develop their mitigation plan, “so in some ways he thought that it was OK . . . he was maintaining something that was there a long time. But that’s a big no-no with the conservation commission. He made a mistake. He thought he had the right and learned it was not the case.”

Efforts to contact the Vastas or their attorney, Duane Landreth, were not successful.

Gallagher, who received his anonymous tip in early May, estimated that 50 pitch pines, 40 oak trees and about 10 cherries had been topped and a later survey lifted that number to 157 in all.

Gallagher issued a cease-and-desist order May 13, requiring the Vastas to submit a notice of intent to the commission to meet all standards and to prepare a mitigation plan by June 19, which they did.

The notice is essentially “an after the fact permit application,” Gallagher noted.

The first hearing was held July 7, and continued to Aug. 4, when it was continued again to Aug. 18. In the meantime the Vastas, with assistance from Hamlyn Consulting, submitted another re-vegetation plan on July 30. The last continuance was granted so the commission can review the plan.

Some of the pitch pines that were cut were already dead and a number of others suffered infestations of bark boring beetles after the trimming and will have to be removed.

“Because of the time of year they were cut, beetles were attracted to the sap,” Gallagher noted.

Others, including scrub oaks, red and white oaks, beach plum and cherry eventually will grow back on their own. The latest mitigation plan will replace the cut trees with mostly smaller shrubs. Also, six red cedars will be planted, in two groups of three, along with three river birch and three sassafras trees.

The cost of the re-vegetation plan is unknown. The town bylaw enables Brewster to levy fines against the homeowner as well.

Text credit: Rich Eldred

Ellingtonia @ Budleigh

The stunning Ellingtonia are set to return to Budleigh Salterton in September, presenting a celebration of Duke Ellington's extraordinary music of the 1920s, 30s and 40s. Those who saw the band at Budleigh's festival last year will know what to expect: classic songs and great swing tunes performed with great style and energy for a 21st century audience.

Formed in 2004, Ellingtonia are the only band in the Westcountry, and one of very few nationally, to specialize in this repertoire.

I'm Beginning to See The Light, It Don't Mean A Thing if it Ain't Got That Swing, Take the 'A' Train, Mood Indigo and Don't Get Around Much Anymore: the band's two-hour show features a stack of well-known songs, ranging from sophisticated ballads to driving dance numbers, from sultry blues to exotic instrumentals.

With a nine-piece line-up of top musicians, the band makes a big sound, performing with a real love of the music. The 'front line' features all the special sounds that Ellington loved to use: growling trumpet, warm romantic trombone, the singing voice of the alto sax and the deep, dark sound of the baritone. A driving rhythm section and the spellbinding voice of Annika Skoogh completes the picture.

In short - an evening of authentic and infectious music recalling the great days of the swing era in Harlem!

Ellingtonia are appearing at the Budleigh Salterton Games Club, Cricketfield Lane, EX9 6PA on Friday 4 September. Tickets, priced at £12.50, are available from the Tourist Information Centre (01395 445275). The show starts at 8pm.

For more information about Ellingtonia please see

Massachusetts cancer group’s triathlon today in Brewster

[With its massive Nickerson State Park on the doorstep, Brewster is an ideal location for sporting events of all kinds. A Quincy-based breast cancer organization, the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition is holding a triathlon today in the Park from 7.00 am to noon to raise money for its educational programmes.]

The Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition’s Against the Tide event in Brewster could feature as many as 400 participants swimming, walking and kayaking for their cause.

“Breast cancer has touched my family,” said Quincy resident Debra Tobin, whose partner, aunt and sister all were diagnosed with breast cancer. “These are all young women who are afflicted with a disease that is preventable.”

Each participant will make a minimum contribution of $150 to the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition, which provides information to women on how to lessen their risk of developing breast cancer.

“It is important to educate people, future generations, on the dangers out there,” said Cheryl Osimo, event coordinator for the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition.

Members of the coalition give speeches on prevention, show films, place education tables at community events and attend conferences, Osimo said.

Osimo, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1991, said informing people of the risk factors will help prevent the disease that afflicts one in seven American women.

“I don’t believe it was one thing that caused my breast cancer, but it was a culmination of things,” she said.

Text credit: Brad Kane

Beavering away to give you a fabulous family day out

It’s not just the beaches of East Devon, including Budleigh Salterton’s, that make the area popular with tourists. The cathedral city of Exeter with its shops, ancient buildings, quayside and guided tours is not far of course.

But Devon is a largely rural county with major visitor attractions based on country estates which are still independent family-run affairs. Bicton Botanic Gardens with one of the finest collection of trees in Britain are just outside Budleigh Salterton. And just outside Exeter is Crealy Great Adventure Park with a huge list of rides, attractions and events attracting up to 500,000 visitors a year.

One attraction with its own special character is Escot (pictured above), near Ottery St Mary and only 30 minutes from Budleigh. Set in 220 acres of 18th century parkland, Escot prides itself on being a place for people who love nature, being uniquely attractive to garden enthusiasts and families alike. There are vistas, places to picnic, things to enchant and delight, and everywhere beautiful flowers, shrubs and specimen trees. With many other features including an Adrian Fisher-designed maze, a letterboxing trail, a ‘Forest Leap’ woodland drop slide and the park’s collection of animals such as wild boar, otters, red squirrels and birds of prey, Escot is a great place for kids.

Godfrey Kent, a Budleigh resident for 14 years, arrived at Escot in 1998 on a two day consultancy. He’s still there. His task is to diversify a traditional, family owned Devon estate without losing its particular spirit, its magic. And so Escot is now a haven for children whose parents value a rather old fashioned kind of play, the kind that may well include a few cuts and bruise and dollops of mud.

And then there are the beavers, writes Mr Kent, who has taken a keen interest in two of Escot’s celebrity residents:

“The waiting is over: the pair of European Beavers at Escot Park has produced two babies, known as kits. The parents were originally from Bavaria and are now three years old. They met for the first time in 2007 when they were introduced to their two acre home of ponds, grassy banks and woodland at Escot Park, since when they have become inseparable. But when would they become parents?

Hopes were raised at the end of April 2009 when they built a new dam on their stream. Beneath, in the deep pool created by the new dam lay the entrance to a well disguised new lodge whose main chamber was up above ground, well covered by branches and vegetation.

At the end of May we heard shuffling within the lodge and just once or twice puppy-like yelps as if someone was vying for a feed. Neither parent was travelling far from the lodge, at least not during our twilight group beaver watches. Just once we saw the female's tummy as she reached up to nibble some willow leaves and we could see that she was lactating. By mid June she was dragging willow branches and soft rushes into the lodge. This meant that the weaning process for the kits had probably begun because beavers are fully vegetarian, eating soft cellulose in summer (grass, bank side water plants and leaves) and then gradually switching to hard cellulose during the autumn (roots, tubers, tree bark, and wood).

Then on 23 June in the early evening their keeper spotted a kit on the edge of the pool immediately outside its lodge. He watched it for ten minutes or so, no parent in sight, before it swam out in front of the lodge. There, after a couple of failed duck dives, he saw it master the technique and disappear back into its lodge.

For several days there were no further kit sightings, although both parents were seen regularly each evening. Then just before dark on 7 July, Escot's owner John-Michael Kennaway noticed what seemed to be the two adults grooming each other on a bank. When the male slid into the water the female remained, and there, now visible, was a kit suckling from her. Watching, enthralled, Mr. Kennaway was suddenly aware that although the male was in the pool in front of him, there was now a fourth, smaller head swimming straight towards him. Within moments this little beaver, resembling a wound up clockwork toy with a flat paddle sewn on behind, scuttled up the bank within feet of him, slid down the other side, and with a 'plop' disappeared under water back to the lodge.

European beavers are extinct in the wild in Britain but there are moves to reintroduce them to our waterways. Meanwhile these endearing nocturnal creatures can be seen an hour before dark by booking an Escot Beaver Watch appointment.”

Photo credits: Beaver pictures by Ben Lee Photo Imagery

Escot is only 30 minutes from Budleigh Salterton by car.

For more details see the website at
Escot, Ottery St Mary, Devon EX11 1LU
Tel: 01404 822188