Thursday, 8 October 2015


GRIMSBY is missing out on thousands of pounds worth of tourism revenue through lacklustre promotion of  its rich heritage.

That was the claim made by North East Lincolnshire's deputy mayor, Coun Christina McGilligan-Fell, at a meeting of the authority tourism. culture and leisure scrutiny panel

"Why haven't we got a museum and visitor centre?" she demanded. "That's a question I've been  asked time and again.

"We are way behind places such as Lincoln - look at the success it has had with its Magna Carta celebrations. It's brought in thousands of visitors to the city."

One bugbear of many  people has been the demise of the Welholme Galleries  building which NELC has now earmarked for disposal.

Many of its fascinating artefacts have been relocated to a purpose-built storage unit on the South Humberside industrial estate where they are currently being kept under lock and key and never seen by the public.

Sue Wells, the chief executive of Lincs Inspire Ltd, which oversees much culture and leisure provision (but not tourism) within the borough, agreed that Grimsby had an impressive past.
She noted that the public had access to  archives and fishing records - and could even have sight of a rare genuine copy of Henry VIII's "autograph".

However, neither she nor anyone on the panel was able to offer any hope that the deputy mayor' museum aspirations might come to fruition, at least in the near to medium future.

Both the council  and Lincs Inspire face extreme financial pressures, so it perhaps  needs  a deep- pocketed philanthropist  to come forward.

But where is that  individual . . . ?


AN upbeat note on the future of North East Lincolnshire has been sounded by the top man at the council, Rob Walsh.
Addressing Grimsby, Cleethorpes & District Civic Society's annual meeting, he enthused: "I am proud and honoured to be chief executive - North East Lincolnshire is a great place to live, to work in and to visit.
"I came to the area 24 years when I fell in love with the woman who became my wife.
"We have three sons. I am happy to stay here as long as I am still wanted."
Mr Walsh started his career with the authority in 1996 - on April 1! - as a child care lawyer. The welfare of vulnerable and disadvantaged children has always remained an issue close to his heart.
He steadily  rose through the ranks  to become deputy chief executive, succeeding Tony Hunter in the top job some 20 months ago.
Reflecting on almost quarter of a century of local government life, he struck a note of humility, commenting: 
"I've seen a lot,  done a lot, learned a lot - and made a lot of  mistakes."
During a question-and-answer session lasting almost  an hour, Mr Walsh's key message was the importance of "aspiration and ambition".
He insisted: "We have to set out our stall for the next five, 10, 15 years. There will be distractions along the way, but we have to stick to a plan.
"Take  the example of Greater Manchester - it is now being talked up  by the Chancellor, George Osborne, as a potential northern powerhouse, but is a journey that has taken the city  20 years."
It is councillors, not officers, who make the   policy decisions, but that did not prevent the chief from being lobbed a series of  tough questions by civic society members on such lightning rod  issues as:
  • The rubbish-strewn state of the River  Freshney
  • Derelict heritage buildings in both Grimsby and Cleethorpes
  • The controversial Top Town paving scheme
  • Slow progress on finalising a  Local Plan
  • Empty shops in Victoria Street
  • Consultations  with the public on issues such as the  proposed closure of Scartho Baths
  • Relations with private sector partners such as the  education improvement consultancy, Serco
Mr Walsh insisted that NELC was improving and becoming much more "focused" in its approach to tackling challenges.
He acknowledged that the authority had, in the past, missed opportunities for external funding from national and European sources, but he claimed  it was now achieving more success.
He cited, as an example, the award of  a  £1.9-million grant which is likely to see the back office activities  of North East Lincolnshire Council merging with those of neighbouring North Lincolnshire Council by the end of next year.
Asked if this would lead to job cuts, he said "fewer staff" would be required, adding that - with funding pressures set to increase - the council had to ensure it remained  "sustainable".
He cautioned: "We can't solve every problem.
"For one thing, it's not affordable and, for another, sometimes we get things wrong - as  you will tell us!"
Mr Walsh said he spent much of his time out of his office - for instance,  speaking to staff and senior figures at external organisation partners, among them  John Fitzgerald, his counterpart at ABP.
Historically, the relations between NELC and the port operator have not always been harmonious, but a new leaf has been turned, with the prospect of closer arrangements in the future.
"It's important that we put our skin in the game,"said the chief.
On the back of NELC's existing contract with private sector partner Cofely, he hoped  there might come significant investment from the latter's parent company, the French giant, GDF-Suez.
"We have to demonstrate to them our potential,"he said. "We have to schmooze them, but in the right way."
Inevitably, the question of Grimsby Town FC's proposed relocation to a site off Peaks Parkway also came up during the meeting, held at Grimsby Town Hall, but the chief would not be drawn, preferring to leave this particular hot potato to the councillors.
"Rest assured, I''ll evade that question here, there and everywhere!"he quipped.
What about The  Mariners'  prospects of securing a return to the Football League?
Here the chief was happy to strike a more typically forthright and confident note. "I predict promotion for Town."
But he did no say when . . .


THE chairman of Lincolnshire Wildife Trust has  revealed  how a stomach bug almost cost him his life on an exotic  bird photography holiday overseas.
At an RSPB group meeting  in Cleethorpes, Geoff Trinder described how he suddenly collapsed and cracked open the back of his head after the bug struck.
He was rushed to a Trinidad hospital where doctors and nurses were horrified not just by the extent of the head wound but also by the downward spiral of his blood pressure.
But, now fully recovered, neither Geoff nor his wife, Chris, were put off by the mishap. Back in January, they flew out to India for a similar wildlife photography holiday - one of 45 since he retired from his job as an art teacher.
An audience of about 50 in the Corpus Christi hall on Grimsby Road  enjoyed a fascinating illustrated talk on some of the wildlife of this remarkable country.
Although Geoff acknowledged that it is generally more rewarding and less expensive to seek out birds on your own initiative, they decided to engage guides for the obvious reasons that local experts would know  what species to look out for and where to find them.
Among the scores of birds  the couple saw were: Snake eagle, brown hawk owl, Siberian rubythroat, bluethroat,  copper barbet, white-eared bulbul, rufous treepie,  spot-billed duck and various shrikes and plovers.
But the highlight was a 40-minute encounter with a family of magnificent tigers which came within feet of the open-top vehicle in which they were passengers.
"It  blew me away,"enthused Geoff. "To see one of the big cats so close-up in the wild was magical - probably one of the most memorable experiences of my life."
Geoff is not a fan of towns or cities, but he and Chris made a point of visiting the Taj Mahal which he described as "probably the most beautiful building" he had ever seen.
On the downside, the couple were horrified to be told that any unaccompanied woman who went out in Mumbai after dark "would be raped".
The urban traffic was so congested, noisy and dangerous as to be described by Geoff as "unnerving and ridiculous".
Particularly disturbing was to see some individuals  resting their heads on the road, as if it were a pillow, as vehicles zoomed past just inches away.
Although he did not find India as poverty-stricken as when he visited Madagascar on a previous holiday, there were other disturbing sights - including that of pigs roaming urban streets to forage on garbage and women washing their clothes in filthy river water.
Because of hygiene concerns, the couple decided against eating any meats, salads or cold vegetables, sticking with cooked vegetables throughout.
They also took with them plentiful supplies of anti-bacterial gel  to disinfect their hands, especially after coming into contact with coins or notes - hard currency being notorious for spreading bugs.
Geoff said he regarded it as important not to b e a slave to his camera on the holiday.
 "It doesn't make sense to spend all your time looking at that little rectangle at the back of it ,"he observed. "Sometimes you have to put it to one side and enjoy the fuller picture."
When he was taking pictures, he sometimes rested the long lens on a beanbag on the roof of the vehicle so as to keep the camera stable if he was not using a tripod.
The couple have been to Africa no fewer than 12  times, but would they go to India again?
"Probably not," said Geoff. "Our next visit will be to Romania."
* Pictures below courtesy of Wikipedia Commons and the following photographers:
:Siberian rubythroat: JJ Harrison
:Rufous treepie: Munish Jauhar
:Coppersmith barbet:Jay Dalal5
Siberian rubythroat
Rufous treepie
Coppersmith barbet