Can sports bring more visitors to Lytham?
- Credit: Pics; John Cocks
We meet the locals putting their best foot forward to put Lytham on the map. Emma Mayoh reports
We’ve all done it: decided for the hundredth time we’re going to be more active, eat better and get fit. For many, other plans can get in the way and weeks later we’re back where we started. But for Mark Selby, organiser of Lytham Sportfest, this wasn’t the case.
The dedicated runner, who has also organised Lytham’s popular Green Drive Five race, admits there was a time when he lived off takeaways and wasn’t very active. But today it’s a different story. The 39-year-old has completed several races, including two marathons and is a member of Lytham St Annes Road Runners and a running fitness coach.
He founded Lytham Sportfest last year in a bid to get more people interested in more sports, to encourage people to try new activities and to produce world class sportspeople. This year’s event, which takes place at Park View 4U on August 26th and 27th, will have different sports to try including zumba, Nordic walking and basketball as well as battlezone archery, a mini tough mudder and BMX.
‘Sports clubs need to take what they do out to the people, rather than it being behind closed doors,’ said Mark, who also organises Lytham Runhunt. ‘But doing Lytham Sportfest, I really believe we are doing that. A lot of people can find it intimidating going into a new club and there is no need for that.
‘It’s also really important, for the future of people’s health, to take more interest in what sports get people moving. Traditional ones like football might not be for everybody but battlezone archery might be something they would love. The more people we can encourage to get active the better.
‘I want Lytham Sportfest to be the start of something exciting. And I’m looking at organising an endurance event next year. I would love for lots of top athletes to come from this area. It won’t happen overnight but there is nothing wrong with aiming high.’
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If you prefer a slower pace, members of Lytham St Annes Lions Club could have the answer. The group are renowned for being dedicated to local causes and community including organising an annual Swimarathon which raises thousands for cardiac arrest charities.
They are also supporting Blackpool Victoria Hospital doctor Steve Mason, who will travel to third world countries to work with charity Feet First.
But the group has gone one step further with a new project designed to bring more tourists into the area. The new treasure hunt app, Coastal Treasure Hunts, was the brainchild of members Drew Thompson, Martin Rimmer and Howard Palmer.
Hunts for Lytham and nearby Fairhaven Lake have already come into operation and there are plans in the pipeline for another dedicated to one of the town’s architectural gems, Lytham Hall. Each hunt, which is available via donation which goes to the charitable group, offers a fun way to explore the area, solving clues and puzzles.
‘Not only does this give people something fun to do while they are here, they also get to learn lots of things about this beautiful area,’ said president Roger Franklin, who has been a member for eight years. ‘It’s a challenge for all the family.
‘There are some simple and more difficult ones and it means more can be learned about Lytham and the areas around it.’
Playwright and author David Slattery-Christy has grand plans to put Lytham on the world stage. The 57-year-old, who has lived at many places around the UK including Lytham, brought the world premiere of his new two act play, Elvira & I: Puccini’s Scandalous Passions to the town.
The show, performed at Lytham Methodist Church as part of Lytham Festival, explores the stormy relationship between famed composer Giacomo Puccini and his wife Elvira.
‘I’ve always been fascinated by those people who might get forgotten,’ said David, who has written award winning plays and books as well as becoming an expert on composer and actor Ivor Novello. ‘I’ve always focussed on those people whose stories could be lost in time.
‘Elvira had a bit of a hard time with Puccini. She had an affair with him and they ended up living in secret. In Catholic Italy this was no small thing. When Puccini became well known, she wasn’t accepted into the operatic community and she was treated very badly. It’s important for people to know more about her.’
The play is one of several written by David that champions underdogs. Ivor Novello may be a well known name now but there was a time when this was not the case. To try and address that David wrote extensively about him and is now an expert consultant on the topic. His knowledge has earned him tremendous opportunity including directing a 50th anniversary concert to celebrate Novello’s life and work at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane in London’s West End.
He has also worked as consultant with Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes and film director and producer, Robert Altman on the BAFTA award winning film Gosford Park. He advised actor Jeremy Northam, who played Novello, as well as production staff.
‘I remember being called to an apartment by Robert Altman who was going to ask me to be involved,’ said David. ‘I walked in I could see Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith, Charles Dance. What an intimidating encounter that was.
‘But what a tremendous experience working on that film was. We had a great amount of fun and laughs – including when I sat on Stephen Fry’s knee by mistake. The room was dark and I didn’t realise anyone was there. We had a good laugh about it though.
‘I really love what I do. I’m particularly looking forward to Elvira and I. I’m very proud to be able to put this show on as a part of Lytham Festival, a place that’s so special to me. I’m honoured to be involved.’