Bid to bring Red Arrows back to Sidmouth

Red Arrows

Red Arrows - Credit: Archant

Sidmouth’s seafront ‘amphitheatre’ could once again play host to the Red Arrows – after an RAF commodore revealed the elite display team would be open to returning to the town.

Civic leaders are set to consider underwriting the £12,000 performance, which they hope will be the climax of next year’s regatta week.

Business leaders have offered to help recoup the cost – and project leader, Councillor Ian Barlow, said the town would be ready and willing to support it.

“The Red Arrows like Sidmouth and remember coming to Sidmouth – if we were to apply, they would look on it favourably,” Cllr Barlow told Monday’s tourism and economy meeting.

He said he had spoken with an RAF commodore living in Sidmouth and said: “I think the benefit to the town would be almost as big as FolkWeek – it will give us something to end the season on - that we could do for a relatively small amount of money.”

The Red Arrows do not normally perform as late as September, but Mr Barlow added: ‘The quicker we get in, the more likely we are to have a crack at it. The council should be a catalyst – we don’t know if it’s going to be permanent but we can show it can work. I would suggest we underwrite it to the tune of £8,000.

“If I’m allowed to head up a working party, I will guarantee to find the rest at least - and I bet I will find a load more. We are ready and willing to go for this.”

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The Red Arrows last performed at the 2006 Sidmouth Regatta, but the organisers were unable to guarantee they could raise the funds for further displays.

Their return would cost £11,807 but all the businesses in Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce would be willing to rattle buckets to recoup the cost, according to its vice chairman, Melinda Gater.

“It’s such an amazing event, it has to be paid for by somebody,” she said. “We would like to help and offer bodies with buckets.”

She said, if it is revived next year, they can see what the public appetite is and it could become a regular occurrence once again.

Cllr John Dyson said foregoing one of the regatta fireworks displays could cut costs, adding: “I think the numbers look realistic and it would bring a hell of a lot of people to the town.”

Cllr Chris Wale added: “We are giving the public confidence to know we are behind it – what better way could there be to enhance tourism?”

Town council chairman John Hollick said Sidmouth could turn it into even more of a spectacle by making another record attempt.

The town briefly held the title of the longest conga line in 1977 - when 8,128 dancers took to the seafront.

“The Red Arrows are fantastic – I would like to see them back perma-nently,” said Cllr Graham Liverton.

“But I am conscious of taxpayers’ money. I’m all for it but what happens the year after next? We don’t just want a one-off. If it’s what the public want and they don’t mind paying, then it may be a goer.”

Cllr Ann Liverton added: “We don’t get any money from anywhere except the taxpayer. We are asking quite a lot from them already. It’s an exciting thing to do, but we ought to go to the budget meeting and ask if they would be willing to do it.”

The council will express its inter-est before the decision is taken at January’s budget meeting.