Wednesday, 20 June 2012


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


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


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 clich├ęd 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


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.