Statement at May 2017

In response to enquiries on Sidmouth Sea Fest and Sidmouth Drill Hall Hub CIC

In January 2017 an article was published in the Sidmouth Herald that discussed the status of Sidmouth Drill Hall Hub CIC. The article suggested that there was agreement between all directors of Sidmouth Drill Hall Hub CIC as to the change in the structure, name, constitution and Board of the company and with it the ownership and delivery of Sidmouth Sea Fest. That was not the case.

I have had a number of people ask me about my involvement in Sidmouth Sea Fest this year, as well as stall holders, musicians, the media and others who have contacted me about the event in general and about Sidmouth Drill Hall Hub CIC.

It was clear that the message, if any, that was given out on this was that all directors were happy with and party to changes that led to myself and one other founder of Sidmouth Sea Fest and original director of the CIC being written out of all present and future involvement in both the event and the company. On 4th January changes were made to the company without our knowledge or approval, and before a scheduled meeting was held to begin to discuss the company’s future following a prolonged period of internal discussion some of which was documented last year on websites and in the media.

Within two weeks of this we were both removed from the Board of the CIC, again without our knowledge or approval, and without due process. This has led to no end of confusion which I am now having to deal with.

It also remains under investigation by Companies House.

This is not a situation that should be taken lightly. Sidmouth Drill Hall Hub CIC turned over in the region of £100,000 in its first two years of trading. The 2015 Sea Fest event took £9,000 in bar, food and ticket sales alone. Despite many attempts since the event in 2015 to do so the situation, to take just one example, around the food and bar concessions has not been discussed or agreed in any way.

A lot of people also donated to the CIC either directly, as a Friend of the campaign, or via attending Sea Fest. I have been contacted by many of those people. Again, those donations were specifically towards the campaign around the Drill Hall.

There was a division in the future of the company that arose after the event in 2015. I have personally long supported the creation of an arm of Sidmouth Drill Hall Hub CIC, or indeed a separate organisation, that would focus solely on education and community based work linked to fishing and the coast, initially using the funding obtained from the Devon Education Fund for a series of workshops run in Devon schools. I set the film up for that with Vacher Films in October 2016. That element of the work of Sidmouth Drill Hall Hub CIC has been evident at Sea Fest each year since it began in 2014.

But that is not Sidmouth Drill Hall Hub CIC. It was not why the company was set up, developed, and grown through committed hard work over a considerable period of time, and it was not what over 400 people signed up to as Friends. It is not why and how the money was raised, the relationship with the bank was built, and promotion to external partners was developed. We were able to stage and grow Sea Fest because of that, a business growing in value, and a healthy relationship with the bank. Behind that is considerable hard work, risk taking, long term vision and more. We had built the opportunity to develop products linked to our work towards forming a very strong social enterprise. Now, without the company it will not be possible to start over.

Either way, a new company in the form of what then became the Coastal Community Hub (again via reconstituting the company without notice, agreement or approval) that has a different objective, should certainly not be benefitting from the outset by taking over without proper process the assets and considerable value of a business created through a consistent amount of hard work over a sustained period and with different objectives.

It should certainly not be staging Sidmouth Sea Fest without fully looking at all aspects of the event thoroughly, transparently, and with all founders.

Others will have to judge the extent to which I was personally involved in Sidmouth Drill Hall Hub CIC and the creation and running of Sidmouth Sea Fest, but in being written out I was told as per the ‘resolution’ email that I received announcing my removal from the Board, that my contribution would be ‘acknowledged’. You can download that email here and the ‘resolution’ here 

I did not at any point resign from the Board and was quite happy with my future and where I believed Sidmouth Drill Hall Hub and Sea Fest should, and could, go next. Personally it has been 5 years of my life.

As a founder of Sea Fest and original director of Sidmouth Drill Hall Hub CIC who was also removed from the board and any involvement in the event, Saul Vicary is too decent a person to say anything despite having spent two years trying to create some kind of sustainable plan including funding, finance, programming and more for the event. Sea Fest 2015 took over £6,000 in food and bar sales. Saul and Julie invested their own money in the event and took nothing from the food or bar income. Immediately after the first event in 2014, where they had sold Fish Baps in the Fish Kitchen plus soup and stew and demos all suggested and created by Saul, it was clear that we had to look as a a main priority of the event at the food and bar concessions. However, it was Saul that suggested we should be bringing in increasing numbers of suppliers and retailers to widen the variety of food and drink on offer. None of that happened and after two years of continually trying he was removed from the company.

There were many plans and ideas to expand Sea Fest year on year linked directly to the campaign to save, restore and open the Drill Hall.

But you can not do so without a coherent plan.

Sea Fest was founded as part of the Drill Hall campaign and finance via money raised for and via Sidmouth Drill Hall Hub CIC.

It should not be going ahead until all of these issues are sorted.

Matt Booth

May 2017