Regatta FireworksRegatta is a massive event – it brings around 72,000 people to Dartmouth over four days every August. That’s 18,000 people, a day, coming to a town of 5,400 – or three and a bit times its population.
How Regatta Works
Regatta is a massive event – it brings around 72,000 people to Dartmouth over four days every August. That’s 18,000 people, a day, coming to a town of 5,400 – or three and a bit times its population.
That’s the equivalent of 26million people visiting London for the Olympics, each day.
This huge affair, with more than 100 individual competitions, happenings and events, is organised by a committee of just about 50 people. They don’t get paid, they simply do it because they love Regatta and they love Dartmouth.
The first planning meeting for a Regatta is held ONE WEEK after the last one finishes.
Basil Williams, one of the organising committee, says that he loves the fact there are so many sporting events at Regatta.
“There are more than 2,000 competitors in twelve sporting competitions we hold,” he says. “It is a massive sporting event – one of the most varied events you could ever hope to see in a town this size. I don’t know of any other like it. Prince Andrew is our patron, and he likes an update on how things are going – he is always amazed by the variety. He told me “it’s like a mini Olympics!””
The sporting events include the sailing, the West of England Amateur Rowing, the popular local whaler rowing, the Swimming Competition, the tug of war, the waterborne tug of war, the running race, bowls, the tennis competition and others.
If you add to this the social events and attractions, the scale of Regatta starts to become clear: the shopping village, the Regatta ball, the Regatta rock, the opening day fete, the window dressing competition, the spot the oddity competition, the waterborne treasure hunt, the pavement art competition, not to mention the air displays (including the Red Arrows) and the two massive fireworks displays on Thursday night and Saturday night.
That’s a lot of people and a lot of events. They require organisation and a lot of responsibility on a small, albeit totally dedicated, band of volunteers.
Each event gets a sub committee and each sub committee has a chairman, who takes overall responsibility for that event. It’s estimated that each one of the events has a band of other volunteers – family and friends of the committee members – who help on the week itself – perhaps up to another 250 people giving their time for free to make it possible to hold the Regatta.
“Regatta happens because lots of people work incredibly hard and yet most of them you never see,” said Basil. “People do the same jobs year in and year out, taking responsibility for different aspects of the event – it almost seems like magic: these things just happen every year. It is not just individuals – lots of businesses and organisations help too – it truly does bring the whole community together.”
But there is also red tape and huge amounts of planning to contend with.
There have to be management plans for traffic, pedestrians, the river, each sporting event, every commercial event and even a major disaster plan.
Basil has been in charge of creating the health and safety plans for the whole event, and has been working on them for three months solid. Running a Regatta in a time of austerity has its own challenges.
“We don’t have the support from the police we have had in previous years,” he said. “We can’t get upset about it – the resources simply aren’t there, we have to find another way to ensure the event is safe. And again we have been blessed with people coming to our aid and making it happen.”
Thirty cadets from the Britannia Royal Naval College have agreed to cut short their leave and will act as marshals to take the place of the police and on the river too.
The event does not come cheap – the marquee where the Regatta ball, Regatta rock and the shopping village are held costs £25,000, the fireworks cost £20,000 – and all in all the event can cost as much as £120,000. But in times of financial hardship for many, the committee takes a huge weight of financial responsibility on their shoulders.
“We aim to break even,” said Basil. “And over all we have done pretty well. We have consciously built up a surplus, which allows us to ensure the event will happen. In hard times things are getting financially tougher, but I think we have done really well, and we don’t want to cut back anything. In fact we are still adding events – the bungee row and the local bands day this year and we are bringing back the lit river procession for the younger members of the community.”
“It’s a wonderful event we are proud to have – it shows how much the community of Dartmouth can achieve.”•
by Phil Scoble
First Published August 2012 By The Dart