Eccentric protests are the best news

Dot Paddick paying her drainage rates bill with a cheque on the side of a fridge freezer at Felixsto

Dot Paddick paying her drainage rates bill with a cheque on the side of a fridge freezer at Felixstowe Town Hall in 1979. - Credit: Archant

THERE’S nothing quite like a good old-fashioned protest.

Alan Sarfas and Barbara Grace are angry about rising charges for their beach hut in Felixstowe. They

Alan Sarfas and Barbara Grace are angry about rising charges for their beach hut in Felixstowe. They are going to cut 18 inches off to reduce the cost. - Credit: Archant

In fact, there’s something really rather wonderful about people taking part in sit-ins, chaining themselves to railings, barricading buildings, vowing to go to jail after refusing to pay unreasonable bills, and waving placards. And something very British.

In fact, the more eccentric and silly the better.

One of the best in our area was campaigner Dot Paddick deciding to pay her drainage rate bill with a cheque written on the side of a fridge freezer.

Mrs Paddick was a particularly vehement opponent of the drainage rate – a charge imposed to help pay for sea defences and other measures following the 1953 floods – and had an exceptional talent for gaining publicity through highly visual stunts and protests.

Paying with a cheque on a fridge freezer was pure brilliance – and taking it into Felixstowe Town Hall very funny.

I was reminded of the incident from 1979 this week when Barbara Grace and Alan Sarfas announced they were planning to saw 18 inches off their beach hut as a protest against the 12% rise in rents this year.

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As huts are charged according to their size, it will also cut their £600 annual bill by around £200.

One reader wrote scathingly about the story on our website: “Is this really news?”

Well, I can assure you it most definitely is – the very best type of news.

It shows off our eccentric character, our unique sense of humour, people actually taking action, however silly it might seem, to highlight injustice, unreasonableness, and disagreements with authority. And it’s fun.

It’s the sort of news journalists adore – because news is so often in the unusual, the unexpected, the incidents, accidents, and way-out opinions which get people talking.

Of course, there is a serious side to all these stories – and in this case it is whether Suffolk Costal is right to force beach hut owners to pay 12% more and chalet tenants 20% extra.

For the council, these tough times mean it needs to raise extra cash any way it can or face the inevitable: cut services we expect to have provided for free (street cleaning, free toilets, etc) or increase the council tax.

But you can sympathise, too, with the hut owners because it is such a big rise for nothing extra.

Surely there must be a very British compromise here.