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Birdman and Rescue Day events cancelled in 2013 due to Ilfracombe's apathy

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: November 15, 2012

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TWO OF Ilfracombe's biggest summer events have been cancelled due to a lack of community support, the Journal can reveal.

Birdman and Rescue Day, which usually take place on Ilfracombe Pier in August and attract thousands of visitors to the town, will not go ahead in 2013.

Both events are organised by Ilfracombe Round Table to raise money for charities and worthy causes in the area.

Last year both events raised more than £8,000.

Birdman has been running for more than 10 years, gaining a nationwide reputation for the exploits of would-be aviators who attempt to fly from the pier.

Rescue Day, a demonstration of emergency services, has been running for more than 30 years and was set up in the wake of a campaign spearheaded by Ilfracombe Round Table to save Chivenor's helicopter rescue service.

Leo Cooper, chairman of Ilfracombe Round Table, said an increased workload and insufficient community support meant the events were too troublesome to organise in 2013.

He said: "It's been a difficult but inevitable decision for us.

"We simply haven't received enough support from the local community to make either event viable.

"There are a hardy few who help out every year and we are eternally grateful for their support.

"But the majority of people, including local traders, refuse to do anything to support the events and many act as though Birdman and Rescue Day are an inconvenience to them.

"Both events bring thousands of people to the town and are a huge economic boost for many businesses, yet many refuse to acknowledge this."

To illustrate his point, this year Leo took a photo of Ilfracombe Quay during the Birdman event and then again at the same time the day after.

The photo taken during Birdman shows the pier bustling with visitors while the picture from the following day shows the area deserted.

Leo said: "Some of the comments we hear when trying to drum up support each year are staggering.

"When asked if he would like to make a contribution of just £50, one Quay trader said the events have absolutely no impact on his business.

"On the day of Birdman this person had customers queuing out of his door, yet I returned the day after to see him having a very quiet day.

"It's this sort of attitude that makes us feel like we are banging our heads against a wall.

"We are all volunteers and do this for the love of the town, to give them two busy summer events and to raise money for local good causes.

"But it is just becoming too hard so we've had to cancel the events in 2013, which is a real shame."

Leo said another reason for ditching the events next year was that Ilfracombe has been selected to host the 2013 Round Table National Sporting Weekend in September.

Leo said: "This will attract more than 600 guys to the town and will give us a good chance to promote Ilfracombe.

"However, the demands of organising such an event mean we simply don't have the manpower to devote to Birdman and Rescue Day.

"We hope both events will return in 2014, but can make no guarantees."

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  • Bayview  |  November 16 2012, 9:24AM

    With Verity attracting more visitors to Ilfracombe than ever, it would be a shame to lose these two great events. Maybe it's just time to thank the Round Table for what they've achieved already by staging them and pass the mantle on to another organisation. The Town Council is currently looking for volunteers to help shape the town's future - perhaps one of these events could be something they take on...

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  • Crabb Contractors  |  November 15 2012, 8:20PM

    @db361. Our (hopefully) more professional page for the event is at nsw2013.co.uk. Bear in mind before you become overwhelmed with excitement and press the 'book now' button, that you have to be a member or ex-member of Round Table! As to 'good news' about Ilfracombe on the front cover, that seems a bit unlikely I'm afraid. (Unless the Dalai Llama pops over to view Verity!) Like it's parent paper, The Daily Mail, the NDJ uses bad news to 'sell' I'm afraid. Apparantly there's a theory about it. You get angry at the headline, and buy the paper to read more. Our crime rates for example, are now much lower than many other local towns, and our community spirit is as strong as ever, but read the last years worth of front pages, and you would think we are all living in Beirut!

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  • DB361  |  November 15 2012, 7:32PM

    Hi Paul, Thanks for taking the time to post more information about the plans for 2013. It now seems that the article is either a poor press release on the Round Table's part or poor journalism from the Journal - without knowing (or wishing to know) the full facts in that respect, I wouldn't want to point the finger specifically at either one. But the article and headline on this weeks front page should never have read like that, and I would like to see a much more positive article about this NSW event on the front page of next weeks Journal! Certaintly the major issue here seems to be publicity. Firstly, I have had a look at the Round Table website just now and the very first thing I see is a huge advert for Rescue Day, with links to more information on that and Birdman. There seems to be no mention whatsoever of NSW or indeed any other events whatsoever - so the first impression (however untrue it may be) is that the Round Table, especially with those events cancelled, doesn't organise much at all. That first impression is then strongly backed up by the quote 'theoseelkent' provided of much alcohol and social occasions. Yes, to attract people you do want it to sound warm and inviting and fun, but I think that's going a little too far! I can't imagine anyone sitting at a major national conference would be too impressed by the Ilfracombe lot turning up drunk, so I would fairly safely assume that drinking isn't the only requirement at a Round Table meeting, but I do feel that needs to be pointed out somewhat! Again on the subject of women joining - if you simply just mentioned the fact that they can join the Ladies Circle, then more people immediately know about it and more people would join. Simple! To those that have asked 'have I seen the size and scale of the NSW?' The simple answer is 'no'. I've not heard of it at all before today, and despite the extra information from Paul I still don't know much about it now. A quick Google search reveals a brief Journal article from July (which reveals that they will be staying at John Fowlers - I thought we wanted to impress them, not scare them away!). But where are the venues for the various sports? Are they open to spectators? If so, will it be advertised to tourists and locals alike? Will there be events for visitors to get involved in? Will effectively closing John Fowlers for a September weekend actually force people away from Ilfracombe rather than into it? All basic questions that I'm sure you know the answer to, but the crucial thing is that nobody else knows the answers to them - and as a result headlines such as that on today's Journal get printed and that's what gives this whole thing a negative vibe rather than a positive one. THAT is why communication, both to the media and the public, is the most absolubely vital thing to get right first.

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  • Crabb Contractors  |  November 15 2012, 5:07PM

    Can I reassure people that this decision wasn't taken lightly. We chose to makie a HUGE effort to bid and win the National Sporting Weekend for 2013. This is an enormous logistical exercise, which has already seen us attend about 6 conferences of varying sizes in Birmingham national HQ. We did this to help promote Ilfracombe as a resort to approximately 600 of our fellow National (and in fact about 10% INTERnational) Round Tablers. We have identified that it is ESSENTIAL to get that event 'spot on' and make sure that every one of those 600 guests have a great time. Do it right, and many will return with their families, having been introduced to our beautiful area, so please don't think we are abandoning the traders of Ilfracombe, we just feel that NSW will have more lasting benefits. During the weekend of 13/14th September 2013, there will be around a quarter of a million pounds spent in Ilfracombe by our members, in addition to any secondary 'fallout' from returning families. Because of this, we took the difiicult decision about which you now read. Part of the problem that Leo refers to in his quote, is 'risk management'. Take Birdman for example, it costs around £10,000 to stage the event. If it lashes down all day, and nobody comes, that's a huge risk to our funding pots. We always ask for a bit of sponsorship, as it helps take some of the risk out of the event. Even if it only adds up to £1,000, that's a marquee paid for, or the childrens entertainment, whatever. We have agreed that we will review the situation for 2014, when we have NSW out of the way, (with 600 happy punters!) and will look towards ways of keeping these important events alive, even if in a different 'slimmed down' format. Round Table IS a fun organisation, which is why our teaser text on the website reads light heartedly. If we wrote "You'll need to take a week off in the summer to help our events, and you'll run around so much on those two days that your bottom cheeks will painfully chafe", then we feel that recruitment of new members might be a slower process! However, rest assured that all members of RT 327 Ilfracombe really do work extremely hard in the community. As for 'sexism', not so. We adopt a different approach to recruitment, with females joining 'Ladies Circle'. It literally is a 'sister' organisation, with a similar constitution and ideals. Ladies Circle help us at both our events, and indeed organise their own. The Masked Ball and 'Western Night' being two recent examples. I hope this clears up some questions you may have had. Paul.

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  • Jude011  |  November 15 2012, 4:10PM

    If the round table allowed women to join, there would instantly double the number of potential organisers of these events.

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  • theoseelkent  |  November 15 2012, 1:47PM

    Round Table is an organisation for men between the ages of 18 and 45 who are looking to have a good time socialising and getting involved with their local community. At Ilfracombe Round Table we meet regularly for social evenings where it has been known for us to consume reasonable quantities of alcohol. We also get together for so called 'business meetings' where we also consume equally large amounts of alcohol but also manage to arrange our fundraising events and after discussion distribute those funds to those deserving causes that exist locally. This is from their website...... Dose not sound as if much work is done! I agree with DB361

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  • lovesit  |  November 15 2012, 10:37AM

    Hmmm hardly them being lazy DB361! Have you seen the size and scale of the National Sporting Weekend? Have a look on the Ilfracombe Round Table website. I happened to have a gander last week when someone put a link up and this event will be huge for the town! From what I understand it's the first time that it will be hosted outside of a city, so huge well done to the Tablers for securing it in the first place. From what I understand they go directly to the shop owners to ask for support (far more sociable that posting on the internet I feel). I say well done Ilfracombe RT for your previous efforts with this events and good luck for your new venture for 2013 with the NSW.

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  • DB361  |  November 15 2012, 9:35AM

    They claim a lack of help and support from the community - but as far as I'm aware they haven't actually asked for any? I've certaintly not seen anything on here or other local media about this situations - infact I even personally know a couple of Round Table members, and they haven't mentioned anything! Sorry, but this screams of the Round Table simply not bothering, not listening and not understanding what brings visitors into Ilfracombe. Birdman and Rescue Day are cancelled - yet presumably the Victorian Week and the carnival - which bring precisely 0 visitors into town, and quite frankly are out-dated and verging on an embarrasment - will go ahead as normal? Give me a break...

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  • accom  |  November 15 2012, 8:29AM

    Disgusting. Shame on those traders. They should name and shame those who refuse to support it.

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