Jim Brent - Dartmouth
My Dartmouth - Jim Brent
“The Port of Dartmouth Royal Regatta is stunning! There is nothing like it in the West of England. All this on our doorstep – it just blows me away!”
Jim Brent took over as chairman of Dartmouth’s Regatta committee in January and his enthusiasm for the town’s famous huge annual party is infectious.
But when it comes to the actual task, surely the potential for enjoyment is dubious? Regatta is run by a vast committee which rivals only the event itself for scale and variety. How on earth do you go about managing that lot – and why would you want to?
“I first came to Regatta 26 years ago and I was knocked sideways by the scale of the event, and the feeling it created in the town. There is nothing like it. The atmosphere is brilliant, all the different events within it are fantastic.
“I love Dartmouth – it is a beautiful and unusual place full of nice, honest people. Regatta is a celebration of all that is good about living here. I’m glad to be involved.”
Jim is best known as the landlord of the Ship In Dock, where he lives with fiancée Linda, and as former landlord of the Floating Bridge. He also runs Mojos bar in Torquay. Linda and Jim are getting married at St Petrox Church in September.
London born, Jim’s journey to Dartmouth has been interesting and convoluted. A high flyer at the Sir Christopher Wren School in White City, his ambition was to become a professional footballer for idols Queens Park Rangers.
Unlike most young boys, Jim realised his dream – in a way: “The careers teacher told me I was being signed up as a football apprentice, and I needed to find digs near the ground. I told him I could see QPR from my house and would go on my bike. He explained that it wasn’t QPR who wanted me, but Fulham. I must be the only lad to be signed up as a footballer and be disappointed.”
Manager Bobby Robson described the apprentice as a star of the future. “Just goes to show what he knew!” said Jim. Injury blighted the young player and, who played games for Southall and Milwall too. He had had nine knee operations by the age of 21, operations which continue to this day – even though both knees are now made of titanium.
All football apprentices also had to attend college to learn a trade. To his dismay Jim learned that the photography course popular with young players (due to the integration with girls from the modelling course!) was full.
He studied sound engineering instead, and when the curtain fell early on his footballing career he was able to find work at London’s recording studios, with artists including Georgie Fame and the Rolling Stones.
He hired musical equipment and worked as a tour manager with acts ranging from The Who, Genesis and Wings to The Jacksons, Diana Ross and The Temptations.
“When I was on tour with The Who I was woken up by Keith Moon bashing a hole with his head through my bedroom wall to ask what time we had to get up. They were crazy times - cars in swimming pools and a lot of smashed guitars.”
Introductions through football and showbusiness brought Jim the chance to learn to fly. He had a pilot licence before his friends could drive a car. When the music work stopped, Jim became a professional pilot for, among others, British Airways. But September 11th brought his career to an abrupt end.
Jim came to Dartmouth, bought the Floating Bridge, and has been in the area ever since. He’s well known as a gregarious landlord who tells some of the best stories in town, but he also writes for TV comedy shows and is a registered gas fitter specialising in boats. “Well, I spotted a gap in the market and thought I would train up!”
Jim is chairman of the Dartmouth Lifeboat crew fund and drives the tractor to launch the boat – living perfectly placed across the road from the lifeboat station: “We can get that boat in with just four-and-a-half minutes from pager to water.”
So with so much experience behind him, and captivated by Dartmouth life, what can Jim promise for Regatta 2010?
“The Red Arrows are already booked, and the town has voted to bring back the Regatta Ball instead of the picnic. I’m bringing along a few old friends from the music business to provide the entertainment – The Drifters will be the headline act that night.
“Regatta 2010 is going to be bigger and better than ever, the rowing and the sailing at the heart of the event are tremendous.
“But we need everyone to help. It costs thousands and thousands of pounds to put on Regatta – the bill is huge and we don’t charge an admission fee.
“We are looking at ways to bring in sponsorship through corporate packages and special days out for companies and guests, but there is a simple way that everyone who attends can help. If every person who comes to Regatta puts just one pound in a collecting tin, we will raise hundreds of thousands of pounds and might stand a chance of covering our costs. I don’t think you could get better value for money!”
First published April 2010 By the Dart