Saga column sparks row over 'high' life in Totnes

By Alyson Fixter

Saga Magazine, the national title for the over-50s, has caused
controversy among Devon residents after a column by journalist Val
Hennessy presented a tongue-in-cheek portrayal of the town of Totnes as
a hotbed of drug abuse.

The comments, which appeared in Hennessy’s column “Hot From the
Hams”, were made in reaction to the news that Totnes had been declared
one of the “funkiest” towns in the world by High Life magazine because
of its eco-friendly and artistic lifestyle.

In the piece, which
appeared in the magazine’s May edition, Hennessy described
“boggle-eyed” buskers smoking fragrant cigarettes and drunken youths
“doing drugs in the bus shelter”, saying old people were scared to walk
out after the pubs closed and the local samba band was too loud.

The
Western Morning News and Torquay Herald Express picked up on the
comments this month and said local councillors were “furious”

over the piece, demanding the magazine send a reporter to visit the town.

But
Saga Magazine said it was standing by Hennessy because she had lived in
Totnes for 12 years and her column was written with a “light-hearted
touch”.

A spokeswoman added that the title was “saddened” by the
town council’s reaction to the article. “It certainly was not our
intention, nor our expectation, that anyone would take offence to Val’s
clearly light-hearted touch,” she said.

“However, Val stands by her article. She
is not a journalist parachuted in for the day: she has lived in Totnes
for the past 12 years. As anyone familiar with her Saga column will
know, she writes with trademark warmth and humour about her life in the
‘South Hams’, and has done so every month in Saga Magazine for nearly
three years.

“She has been a constant member of the Global
Harmony choir for the past 11 years, is a member of the community
choir, and has been a very active person in all aspects of local life.”

Hennessy
has offered to respond personally to any letters of complaint from
anguished Totnes residents, but is not believed to have received any so
far.

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