What brought the chairman of Sidmouth’s Neighbourhood Plan to Devon?

Deirdre Hounsom.

Deirdre Hounsom. - Credit: Archant

Chair of Sidmouth’s Neighbourhood Plan, Deidre Hounsom tells the Resident what brought her to Sidmouth after a successful career in London.

The chairman of Sidmouth’s Neighbourhood Plan, Deirdre Hounsom tells The Resident what brought her to Sidmouth after a successful career in London.

Mum-of-two Deirdre Hounsom has truly integrated herself into the community since moving to Sidmouth 10 years ago.

Born in Shoreham-by-Sea, Sussex, Deirdre, trained in ballet and moved to London as a 20-year-old, where she started acting professionally, performing in a number of West End shows, musicals and pantomimes.

She shared the stage with big stars such as Barbara Windsor, Dora Bryan, Comedian Roy Hudd and famous pianist Russ Conway, before gradually drifting into producing her own shows, one of which was a successful one-woman show at The National Theatre in London and The Royal Theatre in Copenhagen.

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Deirdre then decided to launch her own production company before eventually starting a corporate events company with her husband, planning big events for numerous multinational corporate clients including Hitachi Data Systems, Procter & Gamble and British Airways.

Her husband was then taken ill and almost died of a brain haemorrhage. He spent a lot of time recovering in hospital and Deirdre carried on the business for eight mores years before deciding to pack it all in.

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“It wasn’t fun anymore – it became very stressful,” said Deirdre now aged 69. “I wanted to move away because if I stayed in Windsor I knew I’d find it difficult to stop work.

“And, that is how we came to arrive in Sidmouth. We happened to drive into the town the day after folk festival one year. There were all these people dressed in costumes and I just thought this is really weird.

“When I realised where we were I remembered it as place my friend told me about and she said she had a really happy time here.

“I just thought it was an amazing place. We drove to the estate agents and asked for something old, unusual and a bit quirky and they found us the perfect house. It’s around 120 years old and is a bit like a Tardis; it is much bigger inside than it looks outside. There are also very quirky skylights and stairs everywhere.”

Deirdre said it was big move from London and a lot of her friends asked us what on earth they were moving for.

She added: “I said it was beautiful and just wanted to something different. I also thought it would be good for my husband as I would be less stressed.”

Deirdre and her husband now live just off The Byes with their two cats Pushkin and Fizzgig and their tortoise Archie. Since coming to Sidmouth, she has become a very activate member in the community.

She said: “I became the chair of the Sidmouth Neighbourhood Plan after I saw an advert in the Sidmouth Herald. I wanted to become more involved in the community and everyone who works on it comes from such different walks of life and all have particular views of what they want for Sidmouth.”

Deirdre is former trustee for Exeter Northcott Theatre and a trustee for an African charity concerned with education and health – the charity is run by a lady who was one of the first people she knew in Sidmouth.

As well as this, Deirdre is a qualified coach, runs a French group and acts as a host family with her husband for Sidmouth International School. She also runs talks across Devon on topics such as Marie Lloyd, Queen of the Music Hall and the history and rise of seaside towns.

When asked what she liked most about Sidmouth, Deirdre said she loved walks down by the sea.

“I was born by the sea and I lived in London for many years, so one of things I wanted to do when I moved, was be by the sea again.

“When people stay with us I often take them for walks down The Byes and the seafront and then up to Jacob’s Ladder where we can have a coffee at Connaught Gardens.”

With the little spare time she has, Deirdre enjoys yoga, decorating her home and upcycling furniture.

When asked what she would say if she was trying to convince someone to move to Sidmouth, Deirdre said: “It is very unusual. You get to know everyone here very quickly. It is very friendly. What struck us when we came here is that people say good morning walking down The Byes; coming from London that is really unusual.

“I love the range of shops, although I would like to see more unusual shops in the town.

“It is also so beautiful. I love the red cliffs, the blue sea and the green fields. The whole family loves it because it is such a beautiful place. It is just very welcoming.”

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