Friday, 9 November 2012

DFL-ephant in the Room


Lisa Richards, owner of local restaurant Great British Pizza, has stirred up a hornet’s nest by writing an article about the regeneration of Margate. Described as a 'love letter to Margate', the article appears to perpetuate some negative and rather patronising stereotypes about local people – something which, let's be honest, I'm sure we've all been guilty of at some point – and the resulting public backlash has gone viral.

I feel very bad for Lisa. Even though she’s apologised, she’s rapidly become a victim of cyber bullying and I don’t think she deserves such vitriol. I once emailed her asking for an interview about how her use of social media had helped promote her business and she was kind enough to respond. Regrettably, with this incident, it seems like her Midas touch has backfired somewhat!

However, Lisa’s article does confirm what some locals have feared about DFLs for years - that they regard local people as 'lowlifes' and that before rich Londoners came to save the day our town was a 'no-go area, full of drunks waiting for their benefit cheques to clear.' There's a word for that, and it's 'snobbery', sadly. I doubt whether Lisa meant it to come across like that, but it does make Margate seem like it's nothing more than a slum tourist destination for the 'well-heeled'.

However, I do hope Lisa's business survives this media furore. Great British Pizza is an asset to the town, so let's hope that the phrase 'no publicity is bad publicity' holds true! I am yet to visit Lisa's restaurant and this incident certainly won’t put me off doing so. However, I’ll probably avoid asking for a can of Stella at the bar!

Image © John Mallon via Flickr and licensed for reuse. The inclusion of this image is not an endorsement of this post.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

White Light Paranormal Investigations Q&A


With Halloween looming over us, it’s hard to avoid thinking about ghosties 'n' ghoulies. Do ghosts exist? Do you believe in the supernatural? Is there such a thing as an afterlife? To tackle these big questions, I was surprised to discover that Thanet has its own team of paranormal researchers going by the name of White Light Investigations.

I decided to send some questions to Claire Clifford-Fennell, Lead Investigator for The White Light Investigation Team to find out more about them:

Can you tell me a bit more about White Light Investigations?

CLAIRE: “White Light Investigations have been going for around 6 years now with more or less the same Team as we started.  I wanted to get a Team of people together, Spirit sensitives, open minded sceptics, and sceptics, to record paranormal activity for people to see what I have seen with my own eyes. 

I like to think that with the mixture of people we have, we acheive a balance in our findings. We are a Team of 8, 6 of which live in the local area, 2 live in Essex. We all trust each other and we all strive for the same thing -- to find out the truth behind paranormal activity.”

Who are you, and what got you into the business of paranormal investigations?

CLAIRE: “I am a Spirit sensitive, and have had many paranormal experiences from an early age, I sometimes wondered if I was going mad!! after a lifetime of experiences, I wanted to delve deeper into the Paranormal to try and find answers, and also ask "why me".

I dont know how, but I have found myself at this point in my life -- being Lead Investigator and Founder of White Light Investigations! It is something I feel very strongly about, and I am very proud of what I do.”

Do you personally believe in ghosts? Would you care to share any stories or experiences?

CLAIRE: “I believe in Ghosts! My experiences in Life have proved to me that there is something else out there, a thin veil between our reality and the "other side". I have had many strange, and also scary experiences with the Paranormal.

On one particular occasion, I was alone in my house, when I felt a nudge in the middle of my back, and I proceed to tumble to the bottom of my stairs! I was quite angry about this as you can imagine.  Not long after this "episode", I found out that the Lady who had lived in the house previously, had died in hospital from falling down the stairs.

Another incident that springs to mind, was at Crampton Tower in Broadstairs when we were investigating. Myself and my Sister Emma (who is also a Spirit sensitive -- it runs in our Family), were both touched on our bottoms by what we feel was a rather cheeky Spirit!”

Which locations in Thanet would you say have the reputation for being the most haunted? Have you witnessed any spooky occurrences in those places?

CLAIRE: “There are many locations in Thanet which I believed to be "haunted".  The Tudor House in King Street Margate has never failed to deliver activity.  We have investigated there several times, and feel that the house "knows us", as soon as we walk in the door, there are bangs, knocks and footsteps to greet us.  The Margate Museum is also very atmospheric, as well as the Tom Thumb Theatre, The Brittania pub, and most recently The Hoy pub, which was extremely interesting.”

Have White Light Investigations got any special plans for Halloween this year? How can people get involved in what you do?

CLAIRE: “Unfortunately we won't be conducting any investigations on Halloween, as I will be on a busman's holiday, in Edinburgh!  I will drag my Family on all the Ghost walks, and also down to Mary Kings close.  Edinburgh is extremely haunted as a City, and I just love it!

We have done many public investigations, where people can come and investigate with the White Light Team. We dont have any planned for the rest of the year, but hope to organise one in the New Year.  We show people how to use equipment, and guide our Guests through the night using our experience and ways of trying to engage Spirit.”

If you’d like to find out more about White Light Investigations, please visit their website www.white-light-investigations.com. You can also follow them on Facebook and on Twitter.

What do you think? Have you ever had any supernatural experiences in Thanet? Please feel free to share your spooky stories below.

Image © Copyright Claire Clifford-Fennell and the White Light Investigation Team.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Cool for Katz



Just to give you a heads up, a new art exhibition at the Turner Contemporary in Margate opens on Saturday 6th October – ‘Give Me Tomorrow’ will play host to a career retrospective of pop art pioneer Alex Katz. Now 85-years-old, Mr. Katz’s work laid the groundwork for the pop art movement with his unique approach to figurative painting.

From what is disclosed on the Turner Contemporary website, in his heyday Alex Katz “developed a contemporary figurative language combining the enlarged scale of American abstract painting with the bright colours and graphic style of advertising billboards.” As a keen fan of retro posters and graphic art, look at this Guardian article to see how inspirational Katz's work is to modern eyes. It’s definitely stood the test of time.

I’m actually quite excited by this exhibition. I’ve always been a sucker for pop art. It might be the most hackneyed reference point I can think of, I know, but Roy Liechtenstein’s ‘Whaam!’ painting adorned the wall of my secondary school, so pop art was bound to stick with me through the years.

I really recommend you pay a visit to the Turner Contemporary tomorrow. I’m sure it will be mind-blowing. The gallery opens at 12:30pm and will be open until late so there’s no excuses. Go on, give it a try – it’s cool for Katz!

Image © Copyright James Green via Flickr and licensed for reuse. The inclusion of this image is not an endorsement of this post.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

RIP Thanet Times (1896-2012)


The Thanet Times is officially no more. It is an ex-newspaper. It has ceased to be. Pardon the pun, but sadly this is a sign of the times – beset by dwindling newspaper circulations figures, local journalism is nursing a severe case of financial anaemia, largely because these days consumers prefer to read the news for free on the internet.

From a circulation standpoint, the decision to close Thanet Times must have been difficult. According to HoldthePage.co.uk:

“The Thanet Times was 91pc free and according to the most recent ABC figures had an average weekly distribution of 33,509. 

Paid-for sister title the Isle of Thanet Gazette, which has a circulation of 9,867, will continue to be published.“

Despite 91% of its copies being free, it’s a shame to bid farewell to the Thanet Times when the Thanet Gazette only has a fraction of its circulation figures. If the Thanet Gazette gets 70.5% less potential readers than its sister paper, that’s a lot of potential households who might miss out on reading local news in the future – especially if they happen to be elderly or don’t have internet access.

Still... at least people can still buy the Thanet Gazette and I’m sure the This Is Kent website will continue to be a useful online resource for those of us who seek local news. But the closure of the Thanet Times does make me wonder how local journalism will look in thirty years from now. Does anyone care to make any predictions?!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

What are the Best Wedding Venues in Thanet?

Good news – my fiancée and I are finally planning on getting married next year. As a result, we’re on the hunt for a decent local venue which offers a wedding package (ceremony, sit-down meal and reception).  Have you got any suggestions for local Thanet venues which are the best places to get married in?

We’re on quite a tight budget, so we’re particularly interested in venues which charge affordable rates or perhaps are currently offering discounts to young couples like us. Our ceremony is likely to be a small and intimate affair with immediate friends and family – obviously no Big Gypsy Wedding-esque extravagance for us, that’s not our style! – but we’ll be opening the reception up to more friends, distant relatives, etc.

So… which wedding venues do you think are the best in Thanet? Which establishments are offering the best wedding packages? Can you recommend some good places that I should look into? Could you tell me about anywhere offering a good wedding package that I’m currently unaware of?

We have a few ideas for venues, but we’re still undecided yet. If you could please leave your comments with wedding venue recommendations, or kindly share your wedding experiences we’d both really appreciate it. I’d welcome your suggestions.

© Copyright epSos.de via Flickr and licensed for reuse. The inclusion of this image is not an endorsement of this post.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Trouble in Margate Town Team

Robin Vaughan-Lyons and Rox Tesla have resigned as Chair and Vice-Chair of Margate Town Team. This comes after secretary Louise Oldfield’s resignation last week who left stating: “I have been subjected to public bullying by individuals that are seeking to further their own personal interests rather than the aims of the bid.”

As a result, Margate Town Team now has no executive officers at the helm – all of whom were originally crucial in winning the Portas Pilot bid for £100,000 to regenerate Margate’s High Street. Sadly, Robin’s statement of resignation casts a murky spotlight on the whole affair. In a post on Facebook, it was written:

"My resignation from margate town team is not in the Gazzette but here it is for what its worth.
Im sorry Margate. I too will continue to do what I can. I still love Margate
As we are all aware this week has been extremely traumatic.
I joined with you all to put in this bid, full of energy and enthusiasm, hoping we would win and looking forward to us actually making a difference in our town.
My job has literally been 24 hours a day. My life has revolved around it since we won. I have worked very hard to promote Margate and TDC.
I cannot continue to work in a situation where people are going away to hold secret meetings and publicly running down other town team members in front of TV cameras.
I have been blackmailed, bullied and torn to shreds by team members. I do not deserve this.
I am offering my resignation to Madeline Homer tonight.
Robin Vaughan-Lyons"

This mass exodus of key Margate Town Team figureheads should remind us how cliques can be a dangerous thing. Dan Thompson’s blog highlights what might be the real bone of contention here: “Mary Portas has continued to film in the town,” writes Dan, “but has never offered the community-backed town team a role in her TV programme. Her filming has caused friction, with the town team’s winning bid focused on Margate high street, while Portas concentrated on the already regenerated Old Town quarter.”

The claim that people are ‘running down other town team members in front of TV cameras’ suggests the efforts of Robin, Rox and Louise to rejuvenate the High Street have been undermined by the participants of Mary Portas’s TV show and has led to an ugly case of small-town political backbiting. Having found myself at the mercy of cliques in the past, Robin, Rox and Louise all have my sympathy. It’s just a real shame that everybody couldn’t work together for Margate’s benefit rather than allow some turn it into a demeaning exercise in skulduggery.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Keane as Mustard

The Winter Gardens will be welcoming Keane to Margate on December 3 as part of their upcoming UK tour. Tickets are £29.50 and go on sale from 9am tomorrow (10 Aug) so please make sure you head on over to www.eticketing.co.uk/margatewintergardens to snap 'em up! 

The news that Keane will be gracing the main stage at Margate Winter Gardens is a testament to how Thanet Leisureforce are competently pulling in big names to our little seaside town. Enticing bands of Keane's stature to our local music venue is a sure-fire way of establishing Margate as a cultural destination in its own right, so I'm very pleased with this recent spate of bookings, especially coming hot on the heels of Blur's superb gig at the Winter Gardens last week. 

In the past, it might have been easy to see Thanet as a far-flung corner of Kent which gets neglected by music promoters. Often, top bands such as Editors, The Zutons and The Wombats have chosen to play in Folkestone Leas Cliff Hall instead; and that's if we're lucky. Most rarely even venture past Medway. For that reason, it's refreshing to see big name acts like Keane, Blur and even McFly choosing to play in Margate, so I hope this flush of goodwill towards the Winter Gardens will continue. I'm taking this as a sign that our star is on the rise! 

Hopefully see you there! If you wish to buy tickets, please you visit www.eticketing.co.uk/margatewintergardens from 9am tomorrow (10 Aug).

Monday, 6 August 2012

It Really, Really, Really Did Happen


Britpop legends Blur played at the Margate Winter Gardens last week, whipping the crowd up into a frenzy of rowdy nostalgia and singalong choruses. In the first of three warm-up shows in preparation for their headline slot at the Olympics closing ceremony in Hyde Park, it’s even caught the eye of the NME magazine who rightly called it a ‘triumphant live comeback.’

It felt quite surreal standing in the crowd watching Blur run through all their greatest hits such as “Country House,” “Beetlebum,” and “Parklife” – in fact, I almost had to pinch myself that it was actually happening in Margate (of all places!), but yes… it really, really, really did happen!

Earlier in the day, I’d heard the news that Blur arrived in Margate by train and stopped off at Peter's Fish Factory for a bite to eat, signing autographs and shaking hands with fans. You can even see some photos of Albarn posing outside Margate Police Station on the Isle of Thanet Gazette website, although I am confused how one fan just so happened to be carrying a vinyl copy of their 1997 album Blur. A remarkable coincidence, don't you agree?!

During the gig, I bumped into Paul Palmer, Entertainments and Facilities Manager at the Margate Winter Gardens, and had a quick chat with him. He told me that, true to all the speculation, the members of Blur – Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon, Alex James and Dave Rowntree – turned up spontaneously in the afternoon and greeted the main hall by saying: “Wow!” 

And who could blame them? The Winter Gardens really is a magnificent and historic place. You know you’re living somewhere special when you have a venue on your doorstep where The Beatles once played, that’s my theory. The fact that Blur’s management saw fit to choose Margate to play host to such an intimate show is a real privilege and I’d like to hope that it will lead to more big name acts pencilling in a date at the Winter Gardens in the not-too-distant future. Let’s hope so!

There did appear to be a few teething troubles with Blur guitarist Graham Coxon’s amp at some point towards the end of “Trimm Trabb,” leading him to frustratedly toss his guitar on the floor and hurl his drink across the stage. However, after a quick crowd-pleasing hug between Graham and Damon – an amazing moment considering there used to be animosity between the two – such technical difficulties were soon ironed out.

All in all, the gig was a truly memorable occasion to bear witness to. There were anthems galore and it was truly magical to behold. I sincerely hope they televise the Hyde Park Olympic closing ceremony gig, because I’d love it if the rest of the UK could experience what I had the good fortune to see. Oh, which reminds me, as I was leaving, I saw this:


By all accounts, this picture (see above) is apparently Damon Albarn’s harmonium. I was exiting the rear of the Winter Gardens building and I saw a bloke loading up a van with musical equipment. Immediately, my mind went into overdrive. 

“Is that Damon Albarn’s?” I asked. 

The bloke was reluctant to confirm it, but his silence spoke volumes. 

“It’s a harmonium,” he replied. “He bought it today.” 

“What, bought it from Margate?” I said. “Excellent, this is going on my blog.” 

So here it is. If you spot Albarn on the festival circuit next year and he’s playing this same harmonium, you could very well be looking at something he originally bought in Margate. Now that’s a claim to fame, isn’t it?!


First image © Copyright Lindsey Scott (@zinzi_amp) via Instagram. Many thanks to her for allowing me permission to use it.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

DESIGNATED DRIVER

Cllr Ian Driver will be standing as an Independent candidate for the new Kent Police Commissioner role. Hoping to "save billions in police funding which can be re-invested into community policing," Driver told This Is Kent that if he is elected he will support "the reform of old fashioned and unworkable drugs and prostitution laws."

Driver's position on legalising drugs isn't entirely without substance. Journalist Nick Davies (author of Flat Earth News) has written extensively on the subject of drugs and makes the observation that:

"The core point is that the death and sickness and moral collapse which are associated with Class A drugs are, in truth, generally the result not of the drugs themselves but of the blackmarket on which they are sold as a result of our strategy of prohibition."

Davies goes on to add that, for instance:

"Heroin, so benign in the hands of doctors, becomes highly dangerous when it is cut by blackmarket dealers - with paracetamol, drain cleaner, sand, sugar, starch, powdered milk, talcum powder, coffee, brick dust, cement dust, gravy powder, face powder or curry powder. None of these adulterants was ever intended to be injected into human veins."

Nick Davies argues drugs like heroin aren't harmful in their purest form - it's the actions of unscrupulous blackmarket dealers which makes them dangerous. So if drugs were made legal and distributed safely, the blackmarket could essentially be eradicated overnight. But what do you think? Is legalising drugs the answer? I'm not fully convinced.

© Copyright sasastro via Flickr and modified in accordance with this license. The inclusion of this image is not an endorsement of this post.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

MAY THE PORTAS BE WITH YOU

Crikey, that Mary Portas story seems to have a lot of legs, doesn't it?! It's all kicking off. The Guardian's Zoe Williams recently wrote that Margate is "divided over its role in Mary Portas reality show" and the Independent even chipped in voicing concerns that "Portas is more worried about putting the needs of her television company before the town." Throw in some hyperbole by the Daily Mail that Portas is 'ignoring poverty in the seaside resort and making it too trendy' and and we officially have a right old hoo-ha.  

Meanwhile, back in the land of the viral video, a couple of YouTube pranksters have put together a Star Wars parody making reference to the Mary Portas TV show and her ding-dong with Margate traders which I thought I'd share:



I'd like to tip my hat to Gazette reporter Thomas Brown and say thanks for bringing this YouTube video to my attention on Facebook. C'mon, you've gotta see the funny side!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

NOISETTES SINGER HAS MEMORIES OF MARGATE


As if Margate couldn't get any cooler, the hip and trendy singer Shingai Shoniwa of indie rock band The Noisettes has name-dropped the Thanet town in a recent news article on The Independent. Giving a glimpse into her past, Shingai recalls being by the seaside in her youth and discovering new genres of music at what was very clearly an influential time in her life. Discussing the 25th anniversary of the album Graceland by Paul Simon, Shingai says:

"Graceland was always on in my mum's car on her mixtape of old Seventies and Eighties music of Afro-centric beats and rock'n'roll like Led Zeppelin, blasting out as we drove around Margate. My mum's a huge Paul Simon fan so that's where I get it from, I guess."

If you've not heard of her, Shingai Shoniwa is a charismatic, eccentric and enormously talented singer with a very soulful voice. You may have seen her in DJ Mark Ronson's BBC documentary Secrets of the Pop Song recently in which she and The Noisettes helped him to create an anthem. If you've got a moment, have a look at the music video for "Never Forget You” by The Noisettes. Have a listen - go on, lay back and think of Margate!



Image © Leah Pritchard via Flickr and licensed for reuse. The inclusion of this image is not an endorsement of this post.

Monday, 18 June 2012

3.1 MILLION WATCH MARGATE DRAMA 'TRUE LOVE'


A whopping 3.1 million people tuned into BBC1 to watch the first episode of True Love last night, a drama set in sunny Margate and starring David Tennant and former EastEnders actress Lacey Turner. On the whole, I was pleased to be one of millions watching. Words cannot express how wonderful it was to see Margate on the small screen, and I truly mean that.

For all of Episode 1's faults (and, let's admit it, there were some), True Love's setting meant it was a magnificent advert for Margate, showcasing the beauty of our seaside town with expert panache that I almost had to pinch myself that I lived there(!). If just one-tenth of those who watched BBC1 last night decide to pay Margate a visit then it will have given our local tourism industry a much-appreciated shot in the arm - exactly what we need before summer comes along!

David Tennant played Nick, a press officer working in the communications team at Thanet District Council, who is a happily married man until an ex-girlfriend from his past called Serena (Vicky McClure) turns up and tempts him to join her in Pegwell Bay Hotel in Ramsgate for a steamy love affair. This first episode focused on Nick's dilemma: Will he choose to lie and betray his wife, or will he give in to a bit of rumpy pumpy with his old flame? Needless to say, the unfolding story wasn't the cheeriest of TV viewing experiences. It was a tad depressing, let's be honest.

But my main criticism of the episode is that relying on the cast to improvise seemed to result in somewhat wooden performances from all involved, especially Tennant. Most of the characters' dialogue was banal and unconvincing; the actors tended towards trite and clichéd platitudes, cringe-inducing pauses, and the absence of a script was rather obvious and glaring. As David Brown on Radio Times wrote:

"[...] the main issue was the lack of script. The conceit of True Love was that the improvisation – with all its hesitations and awkward silences - was meant to say something profound about the state of its characters’ relationships. But it ended up falling short of its intentions."

I understand that some people will say that improvisation gives it more 'realism' but I simply didn't feel that the improv in Episode 1 of 'True Love' worked very well. It didn't endear me towards the characters or Nick's dilemma at all - the off-the-cuff interplay just felt rather flat and insipid to me. It made Nick's choices seem rather tawdry in the end, but maybe that was the idea. Call me a purist, but I would've preferred it if Dominic Savage had gone to the bother of actually writing a script.

Thankfully, Margate didn't take long to step into the limelight and became the show's leading star. It stole most scenes and arguably outshone even Tennant himself. Most of the familiar local landmarks were shoehorned into so many scenes I practically lost count after a while. I could scarcely believe that so many locations were used.

The cinematography - such as the scene which included Margate's Turner-esque skies - was glorious and I have no doubt that a large proportion of the 3.1 million who watched will feel tempted to take a trip down to Margate and see it for themselves. For that reason, I'm not too bothered about the fact that I didn't appreciate True Love's lack of faith in Nick's fidelity, nor the fact that the improvisation and lack of a script left the show quite a stilted viewing experience.

Still, none my quibbles matters in the end. I enjoyed seeing all of my favourite local haunts on TV and had a good chuckle to myself while doing it. It's definitely worth watching. If you want to see Margate in all its glory, you can still catch Episode 1 of True Love on BBC iPlayer here. Episode 2 airs tonight at 10:35pm on BBC1.

Image credit: Tennant News blog. The inclusion of this image is not an endorsement of this post.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

MARY PORTAS LIFTS 'GAGGING ORDER' ON MARGATE


Since Margate Town Team won £100,000's worth of funding to reinvigorate the High Street as part of the Portas Pilot scheme, people have expressed some concern after discovering that Margate will be one of only three towns visited by Mary Portas for a Channel 4 TV documentary.

In particular, key Margate Old Town figures have been quite vocal on Twitter about production company Optomen Television's Orwellian contractual condition that members of the Town Team involved in the Channel 4 show must not "make, give or release any statement for publication by any means or medium (including online and/or via social media such as Twitter and Facebook) relating to your Contribution or the Programme."

Obviously given the fact that Margate Old Town's recovery has been aided and abetted by the use of Facebook and Twitter by locals - all working together to harness the power of social media for Margate's benefit - this stifling TV contract has ruffled a lot of feathers. The talented local designer Zoe Murphy has made some very good points on her recent blog entry, posing the following questions:

"Will the silenced/contracted town team not be able to promote or inform about their campaign on social media? (that'd be crazy surely?) Will the aims of a quick turnaround TV show be at odds with a community campaign to sustainably and permanently turn the high street around? Will the town and the people who are going to be passionately volunteering be portrayed in the right way for their efforts?"

It is therefore encouraging that BBC News have reported that Mary Portas has vowed to lift the social media 'gagging order' and attempted to assuage any doubts about restrictions imposed on individuals during the making of the TV show. But Mary also appears to have been somewhat affronted by doubts raised about how the exploitative nature of reality TV might reflect negatively on efforts to rejuvenate Margate High Street. She addressed sceptics at a public meeting at the old Woolworths building by saying: "You either let the cameras in with me, or I go back on the train and some other town gets it."

I don't know about you, but I find this comment a bit below the belt. Not only did Optomen Television naively expect that a TV show about a community-run scheme to revive Margate's High Street required a social media 'gagging order' to quash public involvement, but Mary Portas herself appears to regard naysaying about the TV show as showing ingratitude for all the media attention. "If we put this on prime TV people will come," she is quoted as saying on BBC News. "That is a decision you have got to make."

I find Mary Portas's implied threat that she might abandon Margate and make the TV show elsewhere rather telling. Obviously, I'm glad that Margate Town Team won the bid and has £100k at their disposal to spend on improving our town, despite the fact that I regard Mary Portas as a convenient poster girl who is putting a bit of PR gloss on what is ostensibly a government-funded initiative. But I am torn about whether a television show about Margate High Street's Portas pilot scheme will be good publicity for us, or whether it'll just be an exploitative bit of reality TV fodder that will only end up making Margate look worse.

What do you think? Will inviting Mary Portas and her TV crews into our town help to improve Margate's reputation, or is this TV show something akin to a Faustian pact?

Image © bisgovuk via Flickr and licensed for reuse. The inclusion of this image is not an endorsement of this post.

Monday, 21 May 2012

ERRING ON THE SIDE OF CAUTION



I have decided to delete my previous blog post which made mention of Sandy Ezekiel's recent appearance in Private Eye magazine. After learning about the wonders of 'sub judice' for the very first time courtesy of m'learned friend Cllr Simon Moores, I have opted to err on the side of caution and delete the post until such a time that it becomes safer to discuss. Had I known more about the legal ramifications of 'sub judice' I would not have published it, but I guess you live and learn.

In the meantime, I'd like to offer an apology. I meant no harm in publishing what was only intended to be a tongue-in-cheek blog article. As far as I saw it, I was merely acknowledging what local media outlets have already reported, in exactly the same wording, but with an ironic quip included at the end. However, I can see how it might attract some commenters whose motives might not be so tactful, and I don't wish to be put in a position where I have to police public debate on such a sensitive subject.

If people want to accuse me of being bamboozled into deleting it, that's fine, but there are far more important things in life than silly blog entries. I have a very busy week ahead and would rather just nip it in the bud by accepting it was a mistake, delete the post, apologise and get on with my life. So that's it. I am sorry. Now let's move on.

Image © Olly Clarke via Flickr and licensed for reuse. The inclusion of this image is not an endorsement of this post.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

LUVVLY JUBILEE


Margate-based artist Ann Carrington has been making headlines this week with an impressive red velvet banner she has decorated with golden buttons to adorn the Queen's royal barge for next month's Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant. If you look at the image above, you can just see how much exquisite detail there is, it's really quite astounding.

According to the Daily Mail, the banner took Ann and her team of seamstresses four months to finish in her Margate studio, with 500,000 buttons and 31 miles of gold thread being sewn onto it in total. The sheer amount of work that has gone into it beggars belief, so I'm sure it will woo TV audiences when they see it hanging on the Spirit of Chartwell next month for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. I just hope Queen Elizabeth II appreciates its artistic merit more than she did Rolf Harris's portrait of her, don't you?

As the creator of the wonderful Shell Ladies (which I'm sure we've all seen on Margate seafront at some point), Ann Carrington is a tremendously talented artist who has made her name creating such acclaimed works as the Pearly Queens – a replication of Queen Elizabeth's silhouette as featured on Royal Mail stamps, only made entirely out of buttons. Perhaps, then, a royal commission was inevitable, but fully deserved by the looks of it.

However, I hope Ann doesn't mind me saying that I've detected a level of irreverence and sarcastic wit in some of her very funny quotes to journalists. It seems she may have quite a subversive streak, which is always a positive trait in my book, especially for an artist. When speaking to The Independent, Ann expressed her hope that the threads will hold tight for Her Majesty, adding: “If not I can always throw her a sewing kit.”

Please make sure you head over to www.anncarrington.co.uk and take a good look at Ann's work. I think we should all be very proud that Ann's studio is based in Margate, as her stature in the arts is clearly helping to put Thanet on the map. It's nice to know that a local artist like her is playing a significant role in the Diamond Jubilee, isn't it?

Image © Ann Carrington and used with permission from her personally via email. The inclusion of the image is not an endorsement of this post.

Friday, 18 May 2012

GONE IN A BLUR



Tickets to see Blur play at the Margate Winter Gardens on August 1st sold out in record time this morning, leaving many local fans who queued up for hours understandably disappointed when they had to leave empty-handed. I've been hearing rumours that only 300 tickets were available from the Winter Gardens box office - which suggests the remaining 1,600 were put up for sale on the Eventim website.

As far as I understood it, the first batch of Blur tickets on Eventim were made available on Wednesday as an exclusive presale to fans, and then a second batch was released today to the general public. However, I've been seeing some tweets from people claiming that Eventim may have misled its customers by selling out their entire supply of Blur tickets on the presale date, meaning that many logged onto the website at 9am to find there were no tickets left to buy. This doesn't appear to have been confirmed or denied by Eventim.

What I can say for definite is that out of curiosity my girlfriend logged onto the Eventim website at 9am and it said Winter Gardens tickets were 'currently not available' so either they sold out in just under 5 minutes or they weren't there to start with. It's very strange, but it just goes to prove that Blur tickets were snapped up like gold dust, vanishing before people's eyes in what appears to be a mind-boggling split-second or two.

Meanwhile, the KM Twitter page reported that somebody camped outside the Margate Winter Gardens overnight since 3.30am to bag some tickets, and reportedly the queue stretched halfway down Fort Crescent. Judging by a tweet, it seems that tickets on the door at the Winter Gardens sold out in approximately 1 hour 27 mins. This means that 1 ticket was sold for every 30 seconds. The staff at the Winter Gardens must have had a very busy morning, that's all I can say!

So... Did I get tickets? Somehow, yes. I don't want to boast, as it was more by luck than judgement. I just hope Blur take a note of the high demand and decide to put on an extra date at the Winter Gardens out of the goodness of their hearts. I wouldn't bank on it, but I don't like to think of so many people being unhappy that they missed out on getting hold of some tickets.

While we're on the subject, I see that some opportunistic ticket scalpers have already put Blur Winter Gardens tickets up for sale on Viagogo, with prices running from a whopping £249.99 per ticket. Reselling tickets at overly inflated prices is utterly disgusting in my book, I find it morally reprehensible - they're the lowest of the low. I'd like to warn people that the Winter Gardens will be turning away people who cannot prove they were the ones who originally purchased the tickets, meaning that you'll have to show ID, a debit card and proof of purchase.

If you're crazy enough to buy your Blur tickets from Viagogo, there is a stipulation which states you will need to be accompanied into the venue with the seller. Essentially, that means you'll be coming face-to-face with the person who has conned the living daylights out of you. So... whoever that person happens to be, smack 'em in the face for me, would you? Ticket touts deserve nothing less than a punch up the bracket, don't you agree?

Image © Jeremy M Farmer via Flickr and licensed for reuse. The inclusion of this image is not an endorsement of this post.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

ARISE KING FINKELMAN

I came across these hilarious YouTube videos thanks to a tweet by local shop owner and co-founder of Ramsgate Arts, Suzy Humphries. It turns out an oddball musician called Manny Finkelman – an American who claims to be a music industry insider – has been parading around Ramsgate and Margate filming wacky music videos in the first two parts of what he dubs his Thanet Trilogy. These videos had me in hysterics when I first saw them. Have a watch (with lyrics included below):

The Song for Ramsgate


"I'm heading home again to Ramsgate
Our women have exquisite gams, mate
Our students pass all their exams. Rate
Ramsgate right at the table's top

There's nowhere else around the planet
As pretty as the Isle of Thanet
I first drew breath there
I'll die my death there
There's nowhere else that can compare

The people there are England's kindest
Our sightless all of Europe's blindest
The sea air's fragrant. We treat a vagrant
As kindly as the Prince of Wales

We've got the UK's finest beaches
The poetess who visits reaches
For words to praise our brilliance
Our courage and resilience
No words exist, though, that suffice

We've got a picturesque marina
And every local, be he cleaner
Or banker loves to be here
For there is no debris here
The council sees to all of that

I've been to Hong Kong and Geneva
My travels made me a believer
In Ramsgate's being the best
Yes, I feel truly blessed
To call this magic place my home"

Margate, Jewel of the Kentish Coast


"Margate, jewel of the Kentish coast
You're the place I adore the most

The mods and the rockers once fought on our beach
London can't say that. We're way out of reach
of all other cities. We're clearly supreme
We are a jewel, yo, just look at us gleam

Our unions are gentle and make few demands
Folks come from all over to walk on our sands
We may not have palm trees. We're not St. Tropez
We're Margate and happy to keep it that way

The Turner museum's full of fab art
Tears soak our cheeks when we have to depart
It's wicked to chill, yo, in the Shell Grotto
"Margate, you rule" is becoming our motto

Deal makes us squeal and by Broadstairs we're awed
Compared to us, though, all the others are flawed
When Dreamland comes back Brighton's days will be numbered
We've worked hard up here. Meanwhile down there they've slumbered

The Old Town is crowded with wonderful pubs
The seafront's got dozens of restaurants and clubs
There's even a Primark at which to buy knickers
We've got some of Kent's most inspiring vicars

Our blokes are all handsome, our women are beauties
Our civil servants dispatch all their duties
Fabulous stars love to play Winter Gardens
In beautiful Margate a heart never hardens"

I have to be frank, I'm not sure whether Manny is being serious or whether he's taking the mickey. Is he being subversive for the sake of satire, or are we expected to take his music seriously? Maybe that's the idea. It's completely surreal, but almost verging on the work of an eccentric genius, I'd say. Funny stuff. What do you think? I reckon Manny should audition for The X-Factor. He'd certainly give Wagner a run for his money!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

HOW DO YOU DOULA?



A new birth doula service has been launched for parents-to-be in Thanet, offering emotional support for couples and families across East Kent during pregnancy. Rebecca Schiller, author of the blog The Hackney Doula and contributor to The Guardian, is a Doula UK recognised birth doula and will be moving to Thanet in the summer hoping to build links with local parents, birth professionals, midwives, doctors and health visitors.

Rebecca is particularly keen to reach out to expectant parents who previously might not have considered enlisting the help of a doula before for financial reasons – so much so, that initially she plans to offer her doula services free of charge. Fighting against common misconceptions by arguing that “a doula is not a luxury option, nor are we focused only on women planning a homebirth or natural birth,” she says:

“I hope that by initially working without charge I’ll raise the profile of the substantial benefits that a doula, working alongside the medical professionals, can offer.”

Given people's anxieties about maternity services in East Kent – such as the long delay in opening the £300,000 midwife-led unit at the QEQM in Margate, and the recent NHS consultation which concluded that birth services in Canterbury and Dover are to close, meaning women may have to travel at least 10 miles to give birth in hospitals – I reckon Rebecca's birth doula service could very well take off. As a young father myself, I can certainly see the benefits of how a doula could help on an emotional level.

Speaking from personal experience, during her pregnancy with our son Reece, my girlfriend didn't really have much to do with her midwife, only visiting her once in a blue moon for the prerequisite doppler check-up, blood pressure monitoring, etc. The whole midwife experience was very routine and methodical, almost robotic, which wasn't great considering we were worried sick about whether our baby boy was healthy and would've appreciated the support of someone with a more personal and sympathetic touch.

Basically, our son was in a breach position for the full duration of the pregnancy, and to top it all, our ultrasound scans appeared to suggest the presence of an amniotic band in my girlfriend's womb. An amniotic band, in case you don't know, is a lining of the amniotic sack which comes loose, floats around in the womb and has a risk of tangling up with the baby and potentially causing limb amputation. 

Given such worrying circumstances, it would've been nice if my girlfriend had had someone to offer her emotional support and reassurance, especially since the NHS doctors were reluctant to tell us exactly what was going on. I imagine it's situations like those where a doula would come in handy. Empathy, it seemed, was hard to come by, as most working in clinical professions kept their cards very close to their chests and made no attempt to allay our fears.

In the end, the midwife wasn't present for the birth of my son on account of the fact that my girlfriend was due to have a C-section, but her waters broke early and Reece was born the day before she was due in surgery. And the amniotic band? There wasn't one. It turns out the scan picked up that my girlfriend had a heart-shaped womb, so we worried ourselves sick for nothing. Had somebody been there for emotional support in times like those, my girlfriend probably would've enjoyed her pregnancy much more than she did.

If you wish to find out more about Rebecca's doula service, please make sure you go and visit The Hackney Doula website on www.hackneydoula.co.uk. You never know, it could very well end up being the future of NHS maternity services in the not-too-distant future!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

NOT FLAGGING BEHIND



In a remarkable comeback against the odds, Thanet is officially the area with the most Blue Flag beaches in the whole of England, according a news article on The Independent. In a press release published earlier on Thanet Council's website, it states that nine of Thanet's beaches have been awarded blue flags, the globally recognised certification by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE).

This is great news. It's wonderful to see that Thanet's beaches are garnering acclaim on BBC News for being the best in the country meeting sufficient environmental standards when it comes to water quality, access to good facilities, overall safety and beach management. Although, judging by how cold the weather's been today, it might not be a good idea to pop your swimming trunks on just yet. It's probably best to wait until the sun's out. Nobody wants pneumonia, do they?!

I see that Don has done a post on his blog about this, and I completely agree with him, it's very heartening to see that Thanet isn't flagging behind (geddit?!). I seem to remember that BBC News reported last year that we lost six of our blue flags so well done to Thanet Council who seem to have really upped their game over the past year.

It's a real credit to the hard work of local council workers that all six beaches which lost their blue flag statuses won them back this year, so lady luck certainly seems to be smiling on us for once. Now all we need is some sunshine. Bring on the summer!

Image of Margate Main Sands © iknow-uk via Flickr and licensed for reuse. Used with the kind permission of Michelle Simmons who has permitted me to crop the photo. The inclusion of the image is not an endorsement of this post.

Monday, 14 May 2012

WATCH 'A GUN FOR GEORGE' ON FILM4 TONIGHT


If you want to catch a glimpse of Arlington House and the now-demolished Richborough Power Station on the tellybox, make sure you tune into Film4 at 1.35am tonight (Mon 14 May) to watch 'A Gun for George.' Obviously, it may be a little late in the day for some of you folks (myself included!), but if you're feeling retro you can always record it by setting your VCRs accordingly, or if you're feeling a bit more tech-savvy, simply Sky Plus it instead! Either way, watch it!

Created by director Matthew Holness, 'A Gun for George' is a short film which is set on the mean streets of Thanet and tells the story of pulp fiction writer Terry Finch who is seeking revenge for the murder of his brother at the hands of local gangsters. I've written on this blog before about Arlington House's appearance on The Reprisalizer website - ostensibly a fan site run by President of the Terry Finch Appreciation Society, Frank Barrow, to publicise Terry Finch's literary canon - but is more likely to be a clever ruse designed to promote 'A Gun for George' and a potential Reprisalizer feature-length film by Holness due for release in summer 2013.

There, I said it! I'm sure some people thought I'd been fooled by my other post, but you should know me better than that! 'A Gun for George' is filmed as a brutal and stark homage to '70s British cop shows, very similar to how Holness's cult classic Garth Marenghi's Darkplace was a homage to cheesy '80s hospital dramas. Given that both projects feature made-up pulp fiction novelists, it's very likely that Matthew Holness is the creative mastermind behind both and that Terry Finch is - shock horror - entirely fictional. I hope Terry doesn't sue me for saying that!

Still, 'A Gun for George' is definitely a must-see for anyone who lives locally and as long as Thanet gets a good bit of publicity out of it, it shouldn't really matter whether Terry Finch exists or not. In fact, if anything, I kind of wish he did! Our local area is crying out for heroic figures, wouldn't you say? On a sidenote, an email I received recently from Frank Barrow bemoans the fact that Richborough Towers were demolished and says:

"Kent feels truly empty without them and the only consolation is that they appear in all their unexploded glory in 'A Gun For George', as does Arlington House in Margate, another staple of the Reprisalizer books (Terry actually lived there in the 70s, by the way - see the website). So, 'A Gun For George' stands as a visual epitaph for the towers and if only Holness' film was a bit longer, it could constitute some form of tribute."

So there you have it, folks. If you want to see Richborough Power Station on TV one more time, with due attention paid to the Brutalist architectural marvel that is Arlington House, tune into Film4 at 1.35am tonight, and enjoy! 

Image is from 'A Gun for George' by Matthew Holness © Warp Films via the British Film Institute website and has been used for educational, informational and non-commercial viewing purposes.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

BLUR TO PLAY MARGATE WINTER GARDENS GIG?



It's been reported that Blur will be playing a warm-up gig at the Margate Winter Gardens on the 1st August, according to music webzine this This Is Fake DIY. In the first of just four shows believed to be a dry run in preparation for Blur's massive Olympics closing show at Hyde Park, this is a real coup for the management team at the Margate Winter Gardens and should be a real cause for celebration.

Bringing the Britpop legends to the seaside is an enormously exciting prospect, to say the least. Blur have always flirted with a mod sensibility (Fred Perry, Ben Sherman, etc.) so to swing into Margate – with its reputation alongside Brighton as being a playground for brawling mods and rockers back in the 1960s – is a truly historic moment for Margate and comes as a complete surprise to me.

I saw Blur's Hyde Park reunion gig back in 2009 and it was genuinely one of the best gigs I have ever been to. The atmosphere was electric, the whole crowd was unified in song, so I'm pretty confident that a gig at Margate Winter Gardens will be similarly earth-shattering. It could be an incredible occasion.

Do you want to buy tickets? Well, you're going to have to be very quick off the mark! Tickets will cost £35 + plus booking fees. If you've already signed up to Blur's fan mailing list (which I have!), you'll be able to get advance tickets at 9am on Wednesday 16th May from Blur.co.uk (ahead of the general sale date on Friday 18th May). You can find out more information here.

I don't know about you, but I'm completely shocked about this announcement, but obviously delighted at the same time! Blur are one of my all-time favourite bands and I certainly didn't expect they could be landing on our very own doorstep for a warm-up gig. I wonder who their support is going to be...?

I guess it just goes to show... it really really really could happen!



Image of Blur © Spencer Hickman via Flickr and licensed for reuse. The inclusion of the image is not an endorsement of this post.