Sara bids au revoir to Ilfracombe Museum

North Devon Gazette

After 11 years at the helm, Ilfracombe Museum’s manager and curator, Sara Hodson-Wilson, is changing direction. Â

Since taking the post in 2011, she has overseen tremendous changes at one of the country’s most popular small museums, modestly attributing its success to the staff and volunteers she has led. Â

Along with its trustees, Sara has succeeded in putting the collection at the heart of Ilfracombe life, ensuring that our town’s rich history is faithfully recorded. The number of items on display is a fraction of those in the museum’s possession, and it is a formidable task to ensure they are kept in pristine condition. Â

Often popping up on our television screens, Sara has helped producers researching material for films, most lately ‘Enslaved’, which documents the suffering of humanity as a commodity. Â

Sara has welcomed Bergerac star John Nettles to the museum, as well as TV archaeologist, Mark Horton. Recently, the makers of ITV’s Ilfracombe-based drama, The Long Call, were given considerable assistance by Sara during its filming. Â

I asked her to recall her most memorable managership moments, and top of the list was the Ilfracombe at War Light Show, when the museum commemorated the 1914-1918 conflict. That exhibition remains in place today, and continues to fascinate the descendants of local men who fought in World War One. Â

Sara studied at Southampton and Winchester universities and, having achieved a BA in Archaeology and History, worked with a team of field archaeologists for Winchester City Council, her ‘dream job’. Â
Currently serving as an Ilfracombe town councillor, she is about to face new challenges, moving into another career that will enable her to provide practical aid to refugees from war torn Syria and Afghanistan, helping them to settle and integrate into our British way of life. Â

Traumatised families escaping a nightmare existence, and who have witnessed tragedy on a scale we cannot imagine, are desperate to contribute to this nation, one that has offered them safety and security. Sara, already known to them from her volunteer work, will be central to their ambition.  Â


Once again, Ilfracombe’s Studio Theatre is beaming out, at the rate of one each day, its on-line Love Springs Eternal season of Valentine sketches, songs and poems. They last about five minutes. Â

You can enjoy Ilfracombe’s talented actors and writers bursting forth on to your screens by visiting its Facebook page. I’ve even done one myself. Â

At Christmas 2019, a programme of Advent Calendar films e-mailed daily to its supporters generated so much interest that Studio Theatre’s director, Anne Bacon, decided to repeat the format. It led to last year’s ‘Heroes’ presentations during which the drama group’s members celebrated their favourite sung, and unsung, worthies. High viewing numbers have proved the popularity of the short videos, and all are still available. Â

Like every thespian group, Studio Theatre was hit hard by the pandemic, having had to cancel on its 2020 opening night, Oscar Wilde’s classic, The Importance of Being Earnest. Plans to stage It again are in progress. Â


Alongside other television news media, the BBC has criticised state-owned Chinese broadcaster Weibo for editing out references to gay or lesbian relationships in the hit American TV series, ‘Friends’. Â

‘Our’ BBC has always claimed that it abhors censorship, and virtuously proclaims impartiality across its programming. Odd, then, that in the bowels of its Salford TV centre, it has been busily snipping out individuals, sentences and entire scenes from seventies’ made comedies and dramas, and in particular, Dad’s Army. Â

I applauded the BBC in this column three weeks ago, passionately defending the licence fee to fund it, but it is up to audiences, not suited mandarins and woke puritans, to decide what offends them. Â

Only despots dictate the culture and language of their passive subjects, who are forced to adopt the poisonous, dangerous and divisive philosophy of political correctness. In its bid to demonstrate how inclusive it is, the BBC’s current jolly campaign reminds us that we all own it. Â

It’s ours, yet Auntie sees fit to obliterate the words of a previous generation. What would Les Dawson’s reaction be to the criminalisation of his mother-in-law jokes by a cadre of self-appointed, scissor-wielding prohibitionists? Â

There’s one about him being asked to keep the wife’s mother away from the Chamber of Horrors at Madame Tussaud’s because they were stocktaking. It is not intended either to be cruel or taken seriously. Â

Silencing satire and comedy is a speciality of the grinning North Korean Fat Controller. There’s not much to laugh about in his country! And nor will there be in Britain if we become PC World.Â