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By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: February 21, 2013

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I love it when I hear people talking about stories they've read in the Journal.

This week in particular there have been two stories that seem to have got everyone's tongues wagging.

The first involves Ilfracombe's favourite modern artist Damien Hirst (though judging by the state of the pavements lately I'd say dog owners are probably bigger fans of Gilbert and George, if you catch my drift).

It seems Mr Hirst has managed to buy himself quite the monopoly on the quay having purchased four properties in a row.

Before we know it he will be upgrading to a hotel, collecting £75 for a tax error in his favour and swanning off to Mayfair in an old fashioned convertible.

Of course the topic of his latest acquisitions has been the talk of the harbour for many weeks now but it's always nice to see these things confirmed in print. Then the real speculating begins.

Most people seem to think the sheep-slicing entrepreneur is angling towards creating some sort of modern art gallery, though whether he is planning to knock all these buildings together into one or retain the similarly small shop front as the Driftwood is anyone's guess.

It was always rumoured that Damien's big plan was to build a gallery at the foot of Capstone on the old theatre site but, as with so many Hirst rumours, we are at the whim of a multi-millionaire man who pickles dissected animals as a pastime – it's never going to be straightforward.

My sentiments on this matter are, to be honest, much the same as everyone else's.

I am delighted he is continuing to invest in the town, his on-going connection with Ilfracombe can only be a good thing.

Equally I'm gutted to see the Driftwood Gallery floating helplessly on a sea of temporary homelessness.

Councillor Bert Gear hit the nail on the head when he said that the gallery marked the turning point in the regeneration of our town.

It brought a spot of much-needed culture to a road which has perpetually been infested with the very worst kind of tatty tourist shops, the likes of which we could certainly do without.

I only hope the gallery's owners find somewhere to continue running the business in the town (hopefully still on the sea front).

And finally I have to agree with Facebook user Kate Barnard who said she hopes he doesn't leave the property derelict and stagnating.

I mean look at the old Captain's Cabin building which he owns, empty and rotting for a good few years.

And while I'm on the subject, at the time of writing I see Verity is still surrounded by scaffolding, despite the council telling us the work would be finished by the end of January. Crack on Damo, let's get this bugger finished shall we.

The other story which has got the town's proverbial gums gabbing is the latest twist in the saga of Connor Mackay, the blind man who was targeted by thieves three times in a week.

This week a guitar belonging to one of Connor's friends was nicked from the very address where Connor has been staying.

Sounds a bit too much like a coincidence to me.

Opportunist thieves of this calibre make my blood boil but it takes a particular brand of lowlife to actively target someone with such an obvious disability.

However, I wouldn't want to be the culprit in question when people in the town inevitably find out.

Facebook has been rife with people offering support for Connor and guitarist Harvey while some have even promised to rip the thief limb from limb – all of a sudden a short prison stretch doesn't sound so bad, eh?

One thing's for sure, they won't get away with it.

However, in among all this doom and gloom it's been great to see Ilfracombe's powerful community shine through once again.

Musicians from all over the town and further afield have organised a benefit festival in Connor's honour to help him replace his stolen possessions.

Such sterling spirit in the face of adversity is the reason I'm proud to say I live in Ilfracombe and I hope the whole town will turn out to support the cause.

Freedom of speech is the cornerstone of any developed society and while I don't wish to dwell on this matter for too long (mainly because it makes me extremely angry) there is a group of people in this town who are being denied this basic right.

As you will see in this week's Journal, Ilfracombe's firefighters are being dictated to by their superiors who are now trying to tell them exactly who they can and cannot speak to and what they must and must not discuss publicly.

They want them to sit quietly in the corner while a sweeping tsunami of cuts which will directly affect their jobs and lives washes over them.

If you feel as strongly as I do about this then I would urge you to get online and sign the Journal's Save Our Station campaign and help put an end this nonsense once and for all.

Visit www.thisisnorth devon.co.uk

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