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No big events due to Ilfracombe 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."

Ilfracombe Mayor Lynda Courtnadge said she was disappointed the events would not go ahead but fully understood why.

She said: "Events like these rely on a terrific amount of work from a few volunteers.

"While they are always happy to help, it can be very demoralising if the reward is poor.

"Maybe it's time for something different."

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

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