The bitter by-election battle for Rochester+Strood - why UKIP could win...and lose

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Friday, October 3 2014

It's no surprise the by-election battle looming in Rochester and Strood is shaping up to be one of the most acrimonious and fiercely-contested in British politics for decades.

The vitriol pouring from Conservatives towards Mark Reckless is an indication that they will fight tooth and nail to see him off.

The stakes are high: for UKIP, a win would give their prospects at the general election a huge boost. For the Conservatives, victory would send out a strong message it is capable of resisting UKIP's purple wave.

So, who will get over the finish line first?


Why UKIP could win:

  • If UKIP wins the Clacton by-election next week, which the Conservatives seem resigned to, the result could give the party a momentum that could persuade undecided voters in Rochester and Strood that a cross against UKIP is not wasted
  • UKIP continues to trade heavily on its appeal to voters disillusioned with what Nigel Farage dubs the Westminster elite. Disaffection and antipathy to mainstream parties remans high and at a by-election, voters often choose to give the parties in power a bloody nose
  • The perceived failure of the government to tackle immigration has a particular resonance in Kent, the gateway to Europe. The focus on the efforts of migrants at Calais to cross the channel is a vivid reminder that the issue has not gone away and the view that the government has yet to get a grip on it
  • He may not carry a large personal vote but Mark Reckless has been generally supportive over key constituency concerns, such as the Thames Estuary airport. He is regarded as among the most effective members of the Home Affairs select committee
  • If the Conservatives persist with their highly personal attacks on Reckless, there is a risk it could become counter-productive. Voters are already fed up with the playground politics of Westminster and could be turned off if all they hear over the coming weeks of  "he said, she said" verbal jousting


Why UKIP could lose:




  • The Achiles’ heel for Mark Reckless is the accusation that he has betrayed voters and his constituency by denying repeatedly that he was to defect. That makes him vulnerable to the damaging charge that he cannot be trusted – a politician who says one thing and does another
  • UKIP has no real organisational base in the Medway Towns in the way that it has in other areas, like Thanet. While the party now has a 17-strong county council group, it has no representation in Medway
  • The Conservatives will bring in the heavy artillery and will be blitzing the constituency with a series of high-profile visits by ministers and MPs. A formidable number of activists are being mobilised to stuff envelopes, deliver leaflets and help out
  • Despite a 10,000 majority, Mark Reckless carries no real personal vote in the way that Douglas Carswell has in Clacton, where UKIP is odds-on to win next week's by-election

The unknown factors:

  • Labour held the seat (then known as Medway) in the Blair years. Although it is not an official target, it could benefit from a split in the right-wing vote. It has an outside chance of causing an upset of its own
  • Perceived wisdom is that by-elections tend to favour minority parties. But this is no ordinary by-election, so it is difficult to gauge what impact a low turn-out may have
  • There is nothing to measure UKIP's standing in the constituency. While it took the largest share of the vote in the European election this year, there has been no local election since 2011 - when it took just under 2% of the vote. UKIP did not contest the seat in the 2010 general election, giving Mark Reckless a free run at the seat.





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Categories: Medway | Rochester | Strood

In the Studio with ...Beverley Bunn

by Collage Kent: discovering art in our county, with Alex Welch Thursday, December 12 2013

This is the first of a series of interviews with local artists in which we delve into how and why they have chosen to make art their life. This time I visited the studio of Beverley Bunn, an artist who works with glass.

When Beverley Bunn asked for a mini kiln as a Christmas present she didn’t realise she was at the start of a new vocation. Meeting Bev in her home-based studio in Medway, it’s clear she’s a force of nature. Full of bubbling laughter, fun and enthusiasm it was obvious that when she was forced to give up her job as an aromatherapist by her son’s premature birth, she was still going to need something to throw herself into. Once her son was thriving she looked around for a new occupation. “I started making beaded jewellery but I soon became bored with the beads that other people were making. Then I spotted this lady at Detling craft fair who had made fused glass jewellery and I thought I can do that. I’ve always assumed I can do stuff before I try!”

Bev comes from a creative family. “My mum loved making things. My Dad built boats. We’re a very practical family. I’ve never trained in anything artistic; in fact I’ve always been a bit more of a science person. I did engineering after I left school.” However, not having any training or experience didn’t put Bev off and instead of slippers, her husband found her a tiny kiln to start off with. Using the basic instructions that came with the kiln Bev began to make to glass beads. Soon her jewellery was selling so well, she could afford to buy a bigger kiln and expand her ideas. It was at this point that the jewellery was left behind and an artist was born.


Her studio is crammed with multi-coloured glass rods, beads and stacks of jars of frit (coloured glass ground to different textures). The walls are covered with sketches and ideas and the shelves filled with moulds and experimental work. The obligatory cold cup of coffee sits on the side and Harvey, the Schnoodle, takes exception to being thrown out for duration of our chat. With large windows looking out onto the woodland next to the house it’s a peaceful spot. The trees she is surrounded by play a big part in the creative process for Bev, often appearing unconsciously as a motif in her work. Her work isn’t figurative though. It’s highly decorative and she often works to commission for people wanting a piece for their home. However, Bev is unwilling to categorise it as design rather than art. 


Indeed, the engineer in Bev come when she speaks about the process of hot glass work. It’s a relatively new medium to work in. Fusing glass into a vast wall panel or a three-dimensional sculpture is a technical as well as a creative business. Just as artists enthuse about the joy of the accident in printing so the combination of heat, glass and pigment can create something unexpected in the kiln. Layering glass sheets with different grades of frit create stunning results which play with light, colour and texture. Learning to both master the materials and the process whilst also letting them fulfil their potential, is key to Bev’s work.

“My preference is more abstract because I find myself feeling the energy of it. Other people see something in it. Boats on a wave or hills but that’s not how I work. Everyone has done beach huts… My first exhibition was in June 2012 and it was about the Chinese Five Elements. I had three months between agreeing to do it and the exhibition happening and it took me the first 4 weeks to decide what I was going to do. It’s a lot of work to fill a gallery on your own! But I used to live in Hong Kong where the idea of energy is very important. I did reiki there and the energy of things is how I look at things. I looked at the energy of those five elements and that was how I approached my work for that exhibition and it worked really well for me as a theme. But 80% of the people who looked at the work and had no idea what that was all about. They just said, I like those blues together… or I want a red one. What people chose to buy was nothing to do with the concept. “

She divides her work between three areas; commercial pieces which she sells through craft shops and fairs, pieces for commission and then her own work for exhibitions. This weekend she will be taking hundreds of glass snowmen and penguins (plus many other glass pieces) to the Handmade at Christmas exhibition at the O2. Beautiful, quirky little pieces of brightly coloured glass, they are the perfect Christmas gift and will        no doubt find their way into many stocking this year. But although she enjoys creating work people love, Bev will be glad to get back to her beloved jars of frit come the New Year. “I’m addicted to frit,’” she says, holding a jar of brilliantly coloured turquoise glass powder up to the light. “Working with frit is all about texture and colour and seeing what happens in the kiln. With the jewellery I did a lot of precision work but I’m fed up with cutting straight lines!"

Hoping a bigger kiln and more space to work in, Bev wants to develope her technique and make sure she can establish her glass work fully as art rather than design or decorative craft. Without doubt, herpassion for her material and the exploring it's boundaries place her firmly as an artist.

For more information go to

    Beverley Bunn Glass Art 

 Bev will will exhibiting her work at the Handmade Christmas fair at the O2 this weekend (14th and 15th December 2013)

For more art, culture and politics chat, visit the Collage blog.





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Categories: Art, Art festivals, Art exhibitions | Medway

Fracking - the political divide in Kent. And Farage coy over general election seat

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Tuesday, August 27 2013

There are not many issues where David Cameron and Nigel Farage agree. But fracking is one: both believe that shale gas has the potential to drastically reduce energy prices in the UK and that benefit is one that trumps the enivronmental arguments made against it.

The UKIP leader was in characteristically forthright mood on a visit to Kent to rally his troops when asked about fracking, saying it was a "God-given" opportunity for the county and whatever hazards the process of extracting shale gas may have, they are no worse than other industries, such as coal.

Farage: fracking in Kent a God-give opportunity>>>

This UKIP/Conservative consensus over energy is revealing.

Both parties clearly feel the case for lower energy prices has more resonance for hard-pressed families and pensioners who may consider that the anti-fracking protest movement is a luxury they cannot afford.

Their stance also reflects the scepticism that both have over renewable energy sources, particularly wind energy and is a less-than-subtle acknowledgement that many communities fear the blight of wind turbines littering the landscape.

It is a calculated risk. Events in Balcombe suggest that local communities, presented with the prospect of even just exploratory drilling actually taking place on their doorstep, will find the lower energy bills argument rather less persuasive when contrasted with the disruption.

This means there is politically a lot at stake for both parties. Fracking itself won't determine the outcome of the next general election.

But on the back of Balcombe, it is easy to see how revolt in the shires once companies get the go-ahead for licences could swing votes away from both.


Will he, won't he? Nigel Farage is batting away questions about whether he intends to stand as a candidate at the next general election in Kent.

He says speculation will detract from his focus on the European elections next year.

My suspicion is he that he doesn't actually know or has a few seats in his mind but can't decide. The list may include a few Kent constituencies.

Had the long-standing Roger Gale opted to retire from Thanet North, he might have fancied his chances there.  

While UKIP has taken votes away from Labour in recent elections, its support will probably hold up better at the general election, meaning seats like Dover and Thanet South are probably out of the question.

Which leaves Folkestone and Hythe as one possibility, but even here he would face an uphill battle.

Still, it does incorporate Dungeness, where he does like to fish for sea bass. 

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Categories: Medway

Mayors must look the part but not wear fancy dress

by The Codgers' Club Friday, May 17 2013

by Alan Watkins

he Mayor of Medway has cost local council taxpayers £150,000. But is it so shocking?

Looking at the figures unearthed by the Labour councillors it’s not too surprising.

Whether you think it is right the mayoral office exists at all is more relevant.

According to the miffed opposition, the bill breaks down as staff (£74,000), another £24,000 went on parties and events, £1,200 on ceremonial clothes and £12,000 so far on his chauffeur-driven car.

These days the mayor is no more than a symbol. But he does an important job – one that goes back more than 400 years.

He is the Queen’s representative, the first citizen of the borough. He’s the meeter and greeter of the council and chairs their often acrimonious meetings.

Some mayors can be self-important prigs, others hard-working servants of an authority that needs to wave the flag. All raise a lot of cash for local charities.

Those staffing costs are reasonable.

There’s a secretary plus three officers that need to be on hand at different times when he is on duty. Then there’s things like computers, phones, cleaners, paper, postage and photocopying.

The cash spent on parties and events is a bit of Medway cheap-skating, to be honest.

Take out cleaning, repairs, room rental (well, someone has to meet the cost so why not the mayor?), hired waiters and maids, cooking and preparing everything from petits fours to biscuits you can forget the pate de foie gras.

The days of a roast swan with all the trimmings were long gone even before I got involved with events as a cub reporter. So £24,000 seems to cover a fair number of stale biscuits!

Ceremonial clothing costs are questionable.

One mayor whose name I have since forgotten spent more than four hundred quid on a fancy hat with black plumes. There were no queries from the politicians then: it was left to the Medway Messenger to uncover the truth.

The lady was never seen in it after its debut at the mayor-making ceremony. (She did look as though she was auditioning for a bit part in an Edwardian drama though).

Do we actually need our mayors to appear in flowing fancy dress? – No. Should they dress up at all? – Definitely. It’s a visible sign of their office (along with the civic chain).

It’s a tradition as important as Queens, uniformed soldiers and bewigged judges. Our outgoing, machismo mayor, Vaughan Hewett is one of the modern breed of Tory councillors.

He’s ideally suited as figurehead, chairer of meetings and shaker of hands.

The question is, will he gain a position of importance within the council now that his year has come to an end.

Or will he be one of the numerous Conservative cast-offs – which seems to happen to most of this council’s civic “leaders”.

Labour councillors are annoyed because they are being barred again from holding the civic office. Fair or not, it is politics.

Would Labour ever allow the Tories to hold office in future if they gain overall control of the council?

Meanwhile, their task should be holding the administration to account. I see little sign of that.

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Categories: Medway | Moans and groans

2012: My Year In Music

by Kent music reviews and teenage views, with Nick Tompkins Tuesday, January 15 2013

So we’re at the very beginning of our new year, 2013, so I think it’s important to look back on what turned out to be such an exciting year (for me) in terms of Indie music.

I’m going to start the year all the way over in May because that’s when the hangover of 2011 had truly lifted and the real magic started to happen. On May 21st, The Enemy released their third full-length album, Streets In The Sky, which after the heavy criticism of album number two (still a great record in my view), had plenty to answer to. Luckily, these guys knew just what to do, and they came out with an album stripped right back to the raw power we heard from The Enemy in their debut, but with a far more optimistic message behind the album as a whole. The sound was aggressive, guitar dominant, as well as being simple and brilliantly catchy which is what can only be expected from a songwriter like Tom Clarke who prefers to throw music snobbery aside for a decent tune. Tracks such as This Is Real, Gimme The Sign and Bigger Cages Longer Chains give us the raw power we crave while Two Kids and Get Up and Dance show us the sensitive side of the Coventry trio.

While we’re on the subject of glorious comebacks, let’s talk about Lex Hives, the fifth album from Sweden’s greatest Rock’n’Roll band (as they have modestly dubbed themselves) after an agonising five year wait- FIVE YEARS! This self-produced record was released internationally on June 4th, and like a hungry lion on an unsuspecting gazelle, I pounced on it. In the process of bringing it home for my first listen, the fears of “what if I hate it? Maybe I should just never listen to it to avoid disappointment…” kicked in. Of course this was all ridiculous because The Hives produced one of their best records to date. It’s so hard to find consistency in modern music- it’s hard to find a band that shows the same genius for more than two albums; however, much like a modern Stones, The Hives have so far come out with five consecutive albums jam packed with sheer awesomeness. With the addition of a brass section, tracks like Go Right Ahead and UK bonus track, Midnight Shifter were an exciting new element but if it ain’t broke, The Hives won’t fix it, so for the remainder of the album these music legends stuck to what they’re best at: fast paced, no nonsense Rock music. For the record, The Hives put on the best live show of any band I’ve ever seen, so if you ever have the rare chance to catch them in the UK, for goodness sake take it!

As the sun was setting from the UK’s wettest summer on record, all was not lost for on August 13th, Indie newbies, Spector released their debut album, Enjoy It While It Lasts, after a string of singles including Chevy Thunder which was to shake Britain. Spector produced a record where every single song, even the slower ones, like an exceptionally vigilant koala bear, clings to your brain for the rest of the day- sometimes even longer. What makes Enjoy It While It Lasts such a marvel is its shameless simplicity, its lyrical charm and, of course, Fred Macpherson’s smooth vocal throughout. If you haven’t experienced Spector, you ought to be ashamed of yourself.

The very next week, on August 19th, a band I think we’ll hear a lot more of pretty soon, Life In Film, released their first five-track EP entitled Needles And Pins. With a sound that’s both slightly melancholic in a Morrissey kind of way, whilst also being summery with a beautiful trebly guitar tone, the EP is so understated, often leaving me to question whether there is any justice left in this world. Title track Needles And Pins is sad and beautiful in its melody, while Until It’s Over, with its clever guitar riff, and perfectly placed bass drum during chorus giving it some real power behind it. I had the pleasure of interviewing lead vocalist Sam, and not that it makes a difference to the music, but he was extremely pleasant! Anyway, keep a close eye out for these guys because I think once they get an album out there will be no stopping them.

September 3rd marked both the release of The Vaccines’ second album, and The Milk’s debut album. Let’s start with The Milk- Tales From The Thames Delta: I watched this band in the summer of 2011 and thought they were absolutely great- they were energetic, musically flawless and all in all gave memorable performance. This still didn’t prepare me for the impact their first album would have on me. I was completely blown away by the record. I’d forgotten how R’n’B influenced it was, and just how strong singer Clarie Robin’s vocals were. The album is instrumentally excellent; featuring irresistibly dance-worthy drum beats working perfectly with the guitar. Stand out songs would have to be Broke Up The Family, B-Roads, Chip The Kids and my personal favourite (All I Wanted Was) Danger, but album closer, Lay The Pain On Me, is fragile, as well as soulful and is a testimony to Robin’s vocal range.

The Vaccines second album, Come Of Age was surprisingly different to NME golden boys’ first album. The style was essentially the same: still very much a guitar band, still very much Indie music, but this second taste of The Vaccines gave the feeling they’d gone deeper into music than before, experimenting with more unusual melodies, seen in Aftershave Ocean and Weirdo. The album probably doesn’t quite match its predecessor but is nonetheless a great set of tracks.

Late September saw the long awaited return of Mumford and Sons who managed to find a place in most of the world’s hearts in 2009 with Sigh No More. Their follow-up release, could never be anything other than a great album- the reasons for this being it is too darn similar to their first album to be classed differently! So, yes, Babel, is full of beautiful harmonies, the rustic sound of a banjo and a double bass, which is all great- in all fairness it is a great album! It has to be said, however, that it could easily be mistaken for the first album, in the strumming patterns of the songs, particularly the likes of I Will Wait and the undulation of Marcus Mumford’s melodies in tracks such as Holland Road do seem slightly similar to previous Mumford songs. However back-handed this may seem, I do genuinely love the album, it’s an easy listen, it’s full of beautiful harmonies, and if Sigh No More had never existed I am confident this would boost Mumford to stardom all the same, I just think the third album needs to catch us off guard slightly.

By October the 8th, Nottingham’s new boys, Dog Is Dead, released their debut full-length album, All Our Favourite Stories. I have already raved about this in a review but just to reiterate- the album, to me, is more or less perfect. Dog Is Dead have found a sound so unique to them and with such credibility: refreshingly, each of the five members can sing, and in turn their harmonies are phenomenal; Indie music seems to have gone crazy for harmonies lately but these guys really know how to do it. All Our Favourite Stories is a great summer soundtrack (despite it’s October release), with tunes like their self-confessed “American douchebag song”, Talk Through The Night as well as the classic Glockenspiel Song. Dog Is Dead convey real emotion and meaning in their songs without being pretentious and are definitely only going to get bigger and bigger from here on out.

My final two albums were released the very next week on October 15th. Firstly: Little Comets’ follow up to In Search Of Elusive Little Comets, named, Life Is Elsewhere, is an interesting one. While the band’s debut was pretty straight forward, generally speaking, with some brilliant guitar parts and extremely impressive vocals due to Robert Coles’ impossible vocal range. With the latest album, the Comets have produced material far more complex than before, with unusual, almost mathematical timing in several tracks. This, on the one hand makes it a great listen while by yourself because you get to listen to every fragment of every song and think “how are they doing that?!” but it also means the second album is far less dancy than the first. It depends what you’re into really, but I’ve found the second album has some extraordinary tracks on, such as Bayonne, Worry and an unusual and vulnerable number, Violence Out Tonight.

Finally, although he’s been given enough attention by most of the music world just recently, I have to mention Jake Bugg’s self-title debut. With a retro sound and a simple approach, Bugg at just eighteen years old has done exceptionally well for himself. The album is filled with part Cash, part Dylan-esque tunes, delivered with a kind of teenage aggression, evident in Two Fingers and Lightning Bolt. I don’t really need to say much else on the album because it’s been plastered all over NME for months but Jake Bugg is an album with great integrity, sung by someone far beyond his years, that simply does not get old.

So that’s been my 2012 in music- a year I feel has been one of the most exciting I’ve encountered and one I feel is leading somewhere really special, that I can only hope to follow just as closely. 2013 promises much from bands such as Haim and Swim Deep as well as a supposed comeback from Kings Of Leon. All in all I think this will be a good year.

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Categories: Medway | National Grid

When the Olympic dart strikes through the heart

by The What's On blog, with Chris Price Thursday, July 26 2012

I thought I’d been there, done it, and bought the t-shirt.

My Olympic Torch Relay party at my flat on Friday went without a hitch as the flame which began burning on Mount Olympus passed through Gravesend on its way to the London 2012 Games.

A dozen or so cups of tea were made for family and friends, who piled in to my flat at the normally highly unsociable hour of 9am, ready to claim our spot on Saddington Street in plenty of time, to see the procession pass in and out of the Gurdwara.

We got two bites of the cherry and barely had to walk any distance at all to see such a momentous occasion in British sporting history.

Job done I thought. I’d taken a couple of pictures, waved and cheered like I was at a football match (everyone was doing it so I felt ok) and even seen the torch bearer trip on a sleeping policeman – although thankfully he had kept his balance.

Yet none of that compared to the excitement when Julia Chilcott from Maidstone came into the office for an interview with my colleagues at kmfm about her torch bearing experience.

Julia carried the flame into Leeds Castle and lit the cauldron at the end of Thursday’s run from Deal to the county town.

She walked in almost hugging the golden beacon and its appearance quickly gained more attention than when a newborn baby is brought into the office.

I’d tried to play it cool and watch from afar as colleagues gathered around the torch but before I knew it, I was up there like a wide-eyed schoolboy asking for my picture to be taken with the little piece of history.

As with every torchbearer I’ve met or read about, Julia was delighted to tell everyone her story and more than willing for everyone to get their moment with her treasured possession.

More than seeing the flame, more than cheering and even more than my faultless Olympic Torch Relay party (honest!), this was the moment when the cupid of the Olympic Games drew his arrow and fired it straight through my heart.

There’s a magic to how the torch relay brought everyone in the county together and how it has demonstrated so simply the power of sport.

Boy I cannot wait for the Games now.

  • For daily updates on what is going on at the Olympic Park, follow our man Alex Hoad’s blog. He will be following Kent athletes’ performances throughout the Games. You can follow him on Twitter @KentOnline2012.


The Opening Ceremony on Friday, July 27 will be too big to watch in your normal, comfy armchair in your uninspiring living room (oh, that’s just me then.)

A large open-air screen will be at Rochester Castle Gardens showing the event live from the Olympic Stadium for free.

A similar big screen will show the ceremony at Gravesend Community Square. Then after watching the spectacular coordinated by film director Danny Boyle – the man behind Slumdog Millionaire – party into the night at a silent disco on the upper Community Square. Tickets are £8 from the Woodville on 01474 337774.

The ceremony will also be shown on the big screen in Dover’s Market Square from 9pm for free, with a Zumbathon getting the atmosphere going from 7pm to 8pm.

Categories: Entertainment | Gravesend | kmfm | Media | Medway | Olympics | Rochester | Sport | TV

The Deccas have been decked

by The What's On blog, with Chris Price Wednesday, June 29 2011

It is with great sadness that I heard the news of the disbanding of Medway band The Deccas.

The foursome were one of the first Kent bands who let me in to their little world as a features reporter for What's On.

Chatting to them at their practice sessions at Def Studios in Chatham's Historic Dockyard, I was struck by the way the produced tight, typically Medway-Mod recordings.

Their only album Ways To The Sun was typical of the spiky power pop that has gripped the Medway scene for God knows how long. Short, sharp tunes with a good hook.

Never afraid of admitting they were hoping to "make it" they had that pure quality - not found in nearly enough bands - of just being four good mates.

In an email Twydall-born singer-songwriter and guitarist Wes Wren, Gillingham guitarist Phil Crane, Rochester bassist Dave Sawicki and Rainham drummer Tony Hetherington announced: "It is with heavy hearts that The Deccas are saddened to say that they are no more.

"After four and a half years, over 120 gigs, four CDs and six different members and numerous Subways the time seems right to stop."

For nostalgic Medway-scene followers, the good news is that the band will finish their latest EP and put it out on a limited run for free.

Until then, we mourn you The Deccas. Is it too late to reconsider?


For anyone who wondered why I suddenly stopped tweeting when I was at Hyde Park for the Kings of Leon concert last Wendesday, it is because the whole thing was too awesome to take my eyes off.

Great support shows from Mona, White Lies and Paul Weller capped off by a stonker of a set by perhaps the biggest band on the planet right now.

I was so impressed that I am heading back to Hyde Park tomorrow to see Arcade Fire, with support from The Vaccines, Beirut and Mumford and Sons.

Then Kent's festival season kicks off with the Hop Farm Music Festival at Paddock Wood the next day and Lounge On The Farm at Canterbury's Merton Farm the following weekend.

If the updates slow down, it is because I've developed a very serious case of tweeters finger.


If you fancy getting your music, latest gig or theatre production reviewed on this blog or inside the KM Group's What's On magazine, drop me an email at

You can also follow me on Twitter @TheChrisPrice and follow What's On @kmwhatson. Join us on Facebook by liking

Categories: Chatham | Entertainment | Gillingham | Historic Dockyard Chatham | Medway | Rainham | Rochester

Far from the Champions League it's still a pricey business following football

by The Gills Blog, with Luke Cawdell Tuesday, February 22 2011

Gillingham fans at Swindon in 2008THE lack of visiting fans at Priestfield on Saturday highlighted a few problems afflicting football at all ends of the spectrum.

Bury are one of the lowest supported clubs in the league, obviously not helped by their geographical location, meaning the lure of the Manchester clubs is just too much for some.

They brought just 146 fans to Kent this weekend but is it any surprise when you look at the expenses that go into following even the lowest league clubs?

For their fans it cost £23 for a ticket on the gate and then another £25 for coach travel. That’s a heck of a dent in someone’s wallet to do a 500-mile round trip to sit in the rain.

Thankfully someone this week sensibly took the decision to house the small contingent of Bury fans in the Gordon Road stand, rather than leaving them out in the wet behind the goal.

Is it realistic to be expecting people to shell out in excess of £50 to watch League 2 football?

This week ticket pricing was thrust into the spotlight with the astronomical admission charges being asked for fans to buy tickets for the Champions League final, which takes place at Wembley on May 28.

A certain amount of tickets are being reserved for fans of the two teams making the final, with the cheapest category being £80 (they won’t be around for long), but for the rest it’s going to cost a fortune.

General sale tickets are being sold at £176 (with a £26 admin fee) but look around and you’ll see these prices aren’t going to last. On Tuesday morning there were tickets on sale at at between £1,490 and £2,490. Best to shop around though as had them for a bargain £841.91!

For League 2 fans it might not be so bad, but following your team on a weekly basis is still for only those with cash to burn, or the foolhardy.

The Gills face two away games in the coming days, at Shrewsbury and Aldershot, and with terrace tickets and coach travel they’ll be looking at £72 before they even thinking about hitting the burger bar or the pub.

The last time I bought a hot dog, at Lincoln’s Sincil Bank, it cost the best part of £5! It is certainly not a poor man’s game.

At least this week’s prices for the League 2 play-off final are, in comparison to spiralling football costs elsewhere, pretty reasonable.

The Football League have held their 2008 prices with category 5 pricing at £26 for adults, rising to £56 for the top priced tickets.

Just a shame the game is in Manchester - thanks to the decision to oust the play-offs to the north because of the Champions League.

I imagine that’s going to put a few fans off if the Gills make it through to the final.

Gillingham are one of the most expensive clubs to visit in League 2 for both home and away supporters. The low gates are sure to hit the Gills in the pocket this year, with visits from Bury and the like being a complete contrast to huge followings from Leeds and Southampton last season.

This season’s average attendance is around the 5,000 mark, dropping significantly on the 6,335 average from last season. It must make a big impact on the finances.

Pricing needs to be looked at across football before the working man is priced out completely. It’s already been happening for years and those prices for the Champions League show just how greedy and ludicrous football is becoming.



Categories: Football | Gillingham | Gillingham FC | Medway | Sport

Southeastern on the rack again. Will the government step in?

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Tuesday, January 4 2011

I've a distinct feeling of deja vu even though the new year is only a few days old.

Why? Well, Kent MPs are back on Southeastern's case, this time raising concerns about its claim to have reached punctuality targets that means it does not have to give season ticket holders a discount.

The reason why some MPs are uneasy is that the company did indeed pass the threshold but only by the narrowest of margins. 2010 was a pretty miserable year for rail travellers in the region and I get the distinct impression that MPs have pretty much had enough of Southeastern and feel that even if it is strictly within the terms under which discounts are offered, it is rubbing salt in the wounds of long-suffering commuters who have endured delays and cancellations.

It looks increasingly likely that our MPs are moving to some kind of collective position that calls - as a minimum step - on the government to prevent Southeastern being granted an extension to its franchise after 2012.

Beyond redemption - one Kent MP's view of Southeastern>>>

A couple have already gone public with calls for it to be stripped of the contract (Thanet North's Roger Gale and Rochester and Strood's Mark Reckless, who labelled the company in characteristically uncompromising language as 'beyond redemption'). Meanwhile, the Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clarke told me in carefully chosen words that when the government came to any view about the franchise "the quality of service to the customer is an important factor" and Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch has today written to the secretary of state for transport asking for an independent audit of Southeatern's punctuality claims.

Political predictions are tricky but I wouldn't bet against the government deciding that it too has had enough of Southeastern, particularly if - as seems inevitable - we get more bouts of bad weather and restles MPs representing heartland constituencies continue to demand that "something be done".

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Categories: Medway | Politics | Southeastern | Trains

Ugly maze is no Eighth Wonder

by The Codgers' Club Friday, November 19 2010

by David Jones

There's a master plan for Chatham. I know this because I have just read it on Medway Council’s website and this newspaper has been writing about it for years.

It all looked rather wonderful – or at least the computer-generated impressions did. Sadly, the 'real’ Chatham looks somewhat different right now.

It’s a traffic-clogged eyesore, now more-down-at-heel than a year ago when I last had to pay the town an unavoidable visit. But that’s progress for you...

Stuck in a traffic jam at the junction of The Brook and Dock Road last month and trying to work out how to get to the Staples store in Medway Street, I was reminded of a sentence from Bill Bryson’s excellent book, Notes From A Small Island: “Bradford’s role in life is to make every place in the world look better in comparison and it does this very well.”

Delete “Bradford” and insert “Chatham” and you know exactly how I felt trying to negotiate the ugly maze that is now Chatham town centre.

You needed to stop and park to understand the road signs and I probably broke half-a-dozen traffic regulations trying to reach Staples.

Confusing doesn’t begin to describe it. Other drivers were equally baffled, not least by the ambiguous 'dead end’ sign at the start of Globe Lane.

Meanwhile, Chatham High Street must take the prize for the most unwelcoming, and at times intimidating, pedestrianised shopping area in Kent. None but the brave – and those who want to visit Debenhams – venture there.

Sorry if this all sounds harsh and I know I’ll be accused of being 'negative’ or unsupportive of the council’s efforts to regenerate Medway and Chatham in particular, but it has to be said.

The team of 19 which comprises Medway Renaissance, the grandly-titled organisation tasked with the regeneration of Medway, is being made redundant.

It’s all down to the private sector now, we are told. Great news but, er, who’s going to pay?

The Renaissance team has been given the chop because of the government’s public spending cut-backs and Medway Council has to save £50 million over the next four years.

So, somebody please tell me: when is Chatham going to end up as the city centre for Medway? 

Wait a minute, the Thames Gateway Kent Partnership can answer that: “Medway is undergoing major regeneration and aims to be a city of Culture, Learning, Tourism and Enterprise. Chatham will be the cultural and civic heart of this new city, a city of 300,000 people by 2026.” 

That’s in 16 years’ time. The regeneration of Chatham has been under discussion for about the last 10. It won’t be much of an exaggeration, given the inevitable delays, to say that the transformation will have taken near enough 30 years. Am I alone in thinking that, to put it kindly, it will have been rather a long wait?

Strangely enough, 30 years is the same time it took to build the Great Pyramid of Giza, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

As the Renaissance team had previously declared its intention of making Medway 'a world-class city’ we must hope its aspirations did not stretch to turning Chatham into the Eighth Wonder of the World, a laudable aim though that might be.

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Colossus of Rhodes, the Lighthouse at Alexandria… the Waterfront at Chatham. You must admit it’s got a nice ring to it.

On a more serious note, I can only say this: last month, if I had been an out-of-area visitor to Chatham, about half-an-hour in all that mayhem would have been enough to convince me never to return, no matter what the computer-generated images look like on the council website.

No doubt Messrs Chambers, Jarrett & Co will be doing their best to persuade us that better days are coming in Chatham.

I know that Chatham has some great assets, notably the Waterfront  area and that the River Medway is the key to making the town come alive again. 

No one can doubt that some progress has been made but Chatham needs more than a demolished flyover and a new bus station. The town’s beating heart has died. It needs a serious injection of the character it once had.

But when? I want a straight answer to a simple question: When will Chatham stop looking like a depressing bomb site and start to have the warm, inviting feel of a place worth visiting?

Will it be in 16 years or 40? Or is that question now impossible to answer because of the Spending Review?

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