Managing Dartmouth’s multi-faceted Flavel Arts Centre is a job made in heaven for gregarious former Royal Marine Band Master Sid Davis.
Sid spent 32 years with the Royal Marine Band Service serving in all five of the UK’s marine bands based in Portsmouth, Plymouth, Dartmouth, Lympstone and Dunfermline, Scotland.
During his band career he was posted to Dartmouth three times and loved the town so much he bought a flat in Foss Street in 2006.
After moving to the harbourside town in 2009, Sid worked for the local butcher in Duke Street and last year joined the Flavel team as a temporary part-time duty manager, covering for maternity leave.
When the job of general manager arose in January, Sid did not hesitate in applying for the position.
‘It seemed absolutely fabulous, right up my street, coming from a musical background as I do,’ he said.
As well as experiencing the day-to-day running of the centre first hand as duty manager, Sid had also spent the previous four months as a Flavel volunteer helping to run the box office and the bar.
Sid said: ‘I relished the opportunity to get involved in the Flavel but I never thought it would lead to a full-time job. I’m relishing the challenge of it all.
‘When I got the job at the butchers I had never worked in retail before and I’m certainly not a butcher by trade, I value my fingers too much,’ he laughed.
‘But I enjoyed meeting the customers and getting to know the general public. There is always lots to do at the Flavel, my days are always busy and varied but the best bit of the job for me is meeting and dealing with people – being the face of the Flavel really.’
The 53-year-old gifted trumpeter, violinist and cornet player believes he inherited his musical talents from his grandfather. ‘I started playing the violin at the age of seven and the cornet at the age of nine,’ he said.
‘I didn’t come from a musical family, the only music bit was my grandfather who was a baritone saxophonist and a violin player.
‘He was a boilermaker by trade for Vospers of Southampton and when the depression came on in the 1930s the only money around was on board liners, so he joined one of the bands on one of the liners he had been helping to build.’
Sid’s twin brother Chris is also a gifted musician and ended up being his boss. Sid explained: ‘Chris spent 34-years in the Royal Marine Band Service and he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel Director of Music for the RMBS.
‘Probably grandad encouraged us both to play music, but mum and dad did back us all the way.’
Sid was bandmaster of Dartmouth’s Royal Marine Band when it folded in 2007. He subsequently joined the RM bands in Plymouth and Lympstone before retiring two years later. He is now a member of the volunteer band based at Dartmouth’s Britannia Royal Naval College.
Thanks to the Flavel, Sid hopes he has found his niche in the town, although his job is up for review in April.
‘The Flavel is a really enviable facility, visitors always say how lucky we are to have it here’
‘My job really is to improve the building, manage the day to day running of it and manage the rooms and the staff. I am the link between the staff and the trustees.
‘I have meetings with the trustees once a month and we have weekly staff meetings. The trustees themselves also meet every three months and I am involved in that.
‘It has been a steep learning curve. I have managed people and of course the RM band before, but I had never managed budgets or worked for a charitable trust before.
‘There are seven paid staff at the Flavel including myself, four duty managers, the art director, the marketing director and the accountant. We also have about 150 volunteers and without their support the Flavel would not be the place it is. In fact it would fold without them.’
As well as film screenings, performing arts, art exhibitions and the annual comedy festival, the Flavel plays host to a variety of local clubs and groups including the Dartmouth and Kingswear Horticultural Society; zumba, yoga and Pilates classes; bridge club plus workshops in piano, watercolour painting and Italian.
Sid said. ‘ It’s a very creative place to work and my days are always varied because there’s always something different going on, from music to societies to presentations and meetings.’
As well as managing the Flavel, Sid is involved in performing at the centre. ‘I do get involved in the music side,’ he said. ‘I conduct the Dartmouth Orchestra which played their first concert here last Christmas as a fundraiser for the Flavel.
I’ve also performed as a soloist on the trumpet and violin in some of the lunchtime recital concerts here as Flavel fundraisers, so I’m quite involved outside of my job with the things that go on here.’
The Flavel is at the core of Dartmouth’s vibrant community, which suits the convivial Sid down to the ground. ‘The perks of my job as manager is being in on what’s going on in Dartmouth. Be it the Music Festival or the Food Festival, the Flavel is used as a hub for all sorts of different events.
‘We even hosted the press who used us as a base when the Tour of Britain cyclists finished stage 7 of the race in Dartmouth and they were over the moon with the facility.’
First published March/April 2013 By The Dart