Mary launches new campaign to 'rescue' Sidmouth Drill Hall
PUBLISHED: 06:30 25 January 2017
A retired 3D designer has taken the reins of a project to 'rescue' Sidmouth's Drill Hall, as options to renew Port Royal are explored.
Mary Walden-Till feels long-standing campaigners have shifted their focus, so there was ‘no one else who could speak for the building itself’.
She is compiling an online dossier on its history and is now seeking support for a campaign of her own to retain the Drill Hall.
It comes as Sidmouth Town Council and East Devon District Council are commissioning a £10,000 ‘scoping study’ to explore options for Port Royal’s regeneration.
Mary – who has previously voiced fears the Drill Hall could be lost if eastern town is renewed – said: “I do not intend to run an ‘anti-redevelopment’ campaign.
“The councils are not viewed as the enemy, but what they are doing will be held up to scrutiny.
“With my background in 3D design, I am bound to view any design solutions critically – in the proper meaning of the term.
“I will be applauding the things they get right, as much as pulling them up on the things which, in my opinion, they get wrong.”
Mary, who has also taught design in schools, said the interest in eastern town means the building can no longer be considered ‘in isolation’, adding: “If we are to save the Drill Hall, we have to show its place within this proposed revamping.
“I am looking for people to get involved. I want help, but I also want people to feel it is their campaign and that what they do truly makes a difference.”
Mary takes over active campaigning from the Sidmouth Drill Hall Hub community interest company (CIC), whose founders have long-fought to save the building.
Director Matt Booth said the CIC has brought in EU investment for the now-established Sea Fest and runs workshops in schools on fishing heritage, but it is ‘no longer connected to a campaign to save and restore the building’.
Louise Cole, another CIC director, urged residents to engage with the town council’s Neighbourhood Plan to express their hopes for the Drill Hall and the wider Sid Valley.
Despite their similar names, Mary emphasised that her campaign is completely separate from any previous efforts.
Hers is currently a ‘one-woman show’ and she is calling on others to support her.
She can be contacted through her campaign website, www.drillhall.rescue.historic-sidmouth.uk.
Her history of the Drill Hall is at drillhall.historic-sidmouth.uk.
Mary intends to build a broader ‘Historic Sidmouth’ website to cover topics including culture and sport and hopes it will one day be comparable to the highly regarded Branscombe Project.