All posts tagged 'Margate'

UKIP bouyant after its seaside trip

by Paul on Politics, by political editor Paul Francis Sunday, March 1 2015

If the purpose of party conferences is to send your supporters and candidates away with a spring in their step and a glint in their eye about their electoral prospects, Ukip can claim it more than achieved that after its seaside trip  to Margate.

It wasn't quite on a par with David Steel's exhortation to his party to "go and prepare for government" but the mood in the hall at the end of the Ukip Spring conference in Margate was definitely one of optimism that the party is on course to end up with enough MPs to have a stake in who governs the country and how it is governed after May 8.

What was interesting was  the efforts over the two days that the party is making to spell out what is is for as well as what it is against, what it is positive about rather than what it is negative about.

Although the headline findings of the recent Survation poll - commissioned by one of its donors Alan Bown  - was good news for Nigel Farage in his bid to win Thanet South, some of the other findings were less positive for the party.

Which explains why it has now cast itself as the defender of the NHS. Speaker after speaker came to the platform to declaim they would go to the end of the earth to save the NHS. If you closed your eyes, you could have been at a Labour conference - provided you overlooked the bits about immigration placing the NHS under an intolerable strain.

This was a not-so-subtle bid to appeal to disaffected Labour voters, which party strategists say is where they are increasingly picking up support.

In his own keynote speech, Nigel Farage said the party's campaign would be overwhelmingly positive and vowed to steer away from smears and American-style negative campaigning he clearly expects to be targetted at Ukip in the coming weeks. 

There was a whiff of David Cameron's entreaty to his party to "let sunshine win the day" when he became party leader. Whether the party can stick to this remains to be seen.

The other striking feature about the conference was that it was pretty much gaffe free.

A message has clearly gone out to candidates that they cannot afford to be "off message" and to think carefully about what they are saying in the media. (Paradoxically, the embarrassment caused by the fly-on-the-wall documentary "Meet The Ukippers" has probably helped).

Its MEP Patrick O'Flynn told the conference he did not want candidates to wake up on May 8 to think whether an unguarded remark or slip of the tongue captured by the media might have cost them victory. That may be tough to keep to but it is a sign the party is desperate to be seen as more professional - even if it makes it rather less colourful.

As to how it will fare in Kent on May 7, Nigel Farage slightly rowed back from his prediction on Saturday that the party could be on course to win "four or five seats" in the county, telling me that it was becoming increasingly difficult to draw predictions from national polls about what would happen at a local and regional level.

There is however a growing feeling that there may well be surprise results that confound the pollsters. With so much focus on Thanet South, insiders are saying that in constituencies like Thanet North and Dover and Deal, they are in with a shout.


It was probably not the wisest thing to predict victory quite so explicitly but we have come to expect Janice Atkinson, the Ukip candidate, to be forthright.

Not for her the cautious understatement.

But her declaration that she was going to win Folkestone and Hythe on May 7 - "our own private polling shows that," she said - was the kind of uncompromising forecast that gives party spin doctors palpitations every time she makes a speech.



Nigel Farage certainly doesn't look ill but that hasn't stopped him being the target of unfounded rumours that he is. The speculation, he claims, was spread by the Westminster lobby and although untrue had triggered some concerns among party donors.

He decided the only way he could draw a line under it was to tackle it head on in public.

And it seems he is enjoying himself after his dry January. Asked if he was making up for it with a 'wetter' February, he said: "No, let's just say we re back to normal."

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Categories: Politics | Protests

An exciting year ahead ...

by Collage Kent: discovering art in our county, with Alex Welch Friday, November 22 2013

Hi, welcome to the first post from Collage in Kent. I'm passionate about art, discovering new artists and finding out what inspires and motivates them. Fortunately, living in Kent means I am never short of inspiration and new discoveries. Kent's art scene has exploded in the past few years. Whistable, with its internationally recognised Biennale has long been an arts hub for the county. However, the Creative Quarter in Folkestone is developing rapidly and Margate, of course, has that monolith on the beach; the Turner Gallery. Further north, the Medway Towns  might not be as cute as those seaside resorts but they are home to a buzzing creative industry. Medway was  the creative nursery to such successes as Billy Childish and Tracy Emin and is a centre for the recognised Stuckist movement. With the University of Creative Arts presiding from the top of Star Hill, there are studios, arts centres and craft workshops crammed into every nook and cranny of Rochester and Chatham. Over the next few months we'll be trying to visit as many as possible.

2014 is going to be an incredible year for the arts in Kent. The 7th Whistable Biennale is being held between 31st May to 15th Junes. This is followed by the 3rd Folkestone Triennial, which runs from 30th August to 2nd November. At the Turner in Margate there will be some fantastic exhibitions including Mondrian and Colour (may-Septmeber 2014) and Jeremy Deller's English Magic, which was originally created for the 2013 Venice Biennale.

But it's not just these huge shows which Kent has to offer. Throughout the county there are small galleries and exhibition spaces which ooze fabulous and exciting work. Everywhere from tea rooms to libraries to train stations is finding room for art work because people are catching on to what makes aspace interesting, dynamic and enjoyable to spend time in: art!

With that, I'm off to the Minerva Cafe in Gravesend Old Town Hall to catch Wendy Cottam's exhibition 'Empty Out Time'. Having been priviliged to witness her working on it in her studio I'm looking forward to see it in situ. A review of the installation will be in my next post and I'll be interviewing Wendy for one of Collage's 'In the Studio with...' features.

In the meantime, if you want more national art and culture chat, visit the main Collage blog at where there's a new issue out and lots going on. 


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Categories: Art, Art festivals, Art exhibitions

Curious Margate

by The Fly Away American (in Kent), with Jessica Galbraith Thursday, June 20 2013

This week I got to know the lovely city of Margate, a delightful seaside town with nostalgic charm and a promising future. I have been wanting to visit the Turner Contemporary Museum for some time now, and decided to combine it with a look around Margate's biggest attractions. I really love this town. The beach is wonderful, the history is even better, and there seems to be some kind of re-emergence in the air which is energizing as a visitor. My tour of Margate began at the Turner Contemporary but took me to the other 'curious' places in Margate as well including the Margate Shell Grotto, Margate Old Town, and the Walpole Bay Hotel. 

Turner Contemporary, Margate

The Turner Contemporary is currently exhibiting Curiousity: Art and Pleasures of Knowing. It is a quirky exhibit that explores the world of human curiousity through historical artefacts, art, and some really random displays. There are several Leonardo da Vinci sketches, (although they looked like doodles), a penguin that was collected by Ernest Shakleton on his Antarctic expedition, a very strange series on mysterious deaths that show corpses in miniature doll rooms, and much more weird and strange curiousities.  I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the Turner Contemporary, and the Curiousity exhibit was one of the best I have seen in a long time. Don't miss the stuffed walrus, it is incredible! The Curiousity: Art and the Pleasure of Knowing exhibit is running until September 15, 2013. The museum is open Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-6pm. Admission is free.

In the theme of the Curiousity exhibit at Turner Contemporary, several local businesses have joined in on the 'Curious Margate' tour. As you walk along the streets, any place that offers something strange or unusual is displaying a 'Curious Margate' window sticker to let visitors know there is something cool to check out. The main places that are recomended are Margate's historical Old Town, the High Street, Shell Grotto, and the Walpole Bay Hotel in nearby Cliftonville.

If you ask me, the Shell Grotto is a curioustiy of England, not just Margate or Kent. I had been to Margate's mysterious Shell Grotto before, and it never disappoints. There are over 3.6 million sea shells adorning the grotto walls, and nobody knows how or why they got there. A walk through the caverns to see these beautiful mosaics is just incredible. The Shell grotto wasn't discovered until 1835, and the efforts to date the shells or determine their origin have been inconclusive. If you visit one place in Margate, this should be it. The Margate Shell Grotto is one of Kent's coolest hidden gems. Admission for the Shell Grotto is a very reasonable £3, opening hours are from 10am- 5pm everday through summer.


My last stop was at the Walpole Bay Hotel, an Edwardian era hotel with a really neat  living history museum. The Walpole Bay Hotel is approximately a 20 minute walk from Turner Contemporary, along the coast. There are 4 floors at the Wadpole, and the hallways on each are overflowing with antiques from a bygone era. My first impression of the museum was that it was highly disorganized, items strewn here and there, stacked on top of each other in tiny rooms. This quickly grew on me though and became part of its charm. Expect to see anything and everything at the Wadpole Bay, closets stacked with dozens of old typewriters, nurse uniforms from World War I, old urinals, ancient sweepers, and even an assortment of gloves that cover 200 years of fashion pinned to the hallway wall. The highlight is the working elevator from 1927, which you can ride to the 3rd floor and see the mechanical workings at the very top. There are no tour guides here and the receptionist will kindly let you wander to your hearts content. The Walpole Bay Hotel Living Museum is open everyday, year round, from 10am-5pm.

If you are on a budget or just looking for a great day out in Kent, go explore the 'curious' of Margate. Most of the attractions are free, and an afternoon on the sandy beach is well worth the trip alone. This weekend the Margate Jazz Festival will be on, for the 8th consecutive year. See you next week for the next installment of my travels around Kent!


Coronation pomp left me turned off

by The Codgers' Club Friday, May 25 2012

by Alan Watkins

It can't be 59 years since the coronation – I remember it as though it was yesterday, for goodness’ sake.

It was a sunny day. The road was full of bunting and flags, and our council house was covered in St George’s flags. The local paper came along and took a photo of our house.

Dad had the day off and we had a new addition to the lounge – the first TV in the street. It had a 9in screen enclosed in a massive wooden cabinet, and all the furniture was re-arranged so that we sat with our backs to the window.

Well, we sat there for a short time, until the neighbours began to arrive. They all pushed their way into the house and sat on the seats until there were no spares. Then they sat on the arms of chairs, the floor, or simply stood as the TV flickered into life.

The curtains quickly had to be closed: you couldn’t see the blue and grey picture of the carriage as it made its way towards the Abbey. The sun burned the picture, which was full of snow from the poor reception from an aerial about 100 miles away in Wenvoe, near Cardiff.

The sandwiches and cakes, biscuits and drinks were soon being picked over, and just as quickly my friends and I became bored with the pretty young queen and the droning of the Archbishop, Dr Geoffrey Fisher.

Lots of shushes greeted protests about comfort (or lack of it), boredom and wasted opportunities. In fact we were turned off. We went into the back garden for a kickaround to the echoes of “Vivat! Vivat!”

It was much better to climb the wall, ride a bike, fight over the game rules, throw stones, and do what kids do when they are five and six years old.

Yet if we thought that was it, we were sadly mistaken.

Some time later – it may have been days or weeks, but it was certainly another sunny summer day – we all flocked to the city park. That was because our Queen and her handsome Duke were visiting us.

Most of my chums were in the park, but mum and dad opted to wait outside so we could see them when they arrived and left. We might have done – I don’t remember anything but flags. There were swings on the far side of the park.

I wasn’t allowed to go there, and instead was stuck in a crowd of sweaty people.

At last the coronation was over… or so I thought. Back at school in September we were suddenly ushered into the hall with our parents as guests, the curtains once more closed on a perfect Indian summer’s day, and we sat on unyielding benches to watch the coronation repeated.

It was enough to turn toddlers to republicanism! At least the film was in colour, but it went on, and on, and on.

Was it almost 60 years ago? Where have the boys in their thick woollen shorts and buttoned-up shirts gone? Those that scrapped in the sun – Ronnie and the two Peters, Alistair, Clive and the brainy brat across the road? Several are dead, the rest scattered to the winds.

I shall celebrate the Diamond Jubilee in the garden. I’ve seen too much pomp and majesty to thrill over it.

But, God Bless Her, she’s not been a bad monarch.

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Categories: Moans and groans | Royal

Gig of the year will go in a Blur...

by Tuned In, with kmfm DJ Andy Walker Friday, May 25 2012

Brit pop had a kickstart back in February when Blur were given an Outstanding Contribution to Music award at the Brits. That spurred further album sales for them and talk of them not splitting up after the Olympics concert.

Well that still has not really been answered but Blur have announced they will be performing at Margate Winter Gardens on Wednesday, August 1.

This is going to be the biggest band to perform there for some years. Expect a sweaty atmosphere and a self-made mosh pit. That is what happens at rock gigs. Totally different to pop.

Pop concerts are more about screaming, dancing, cheering and waving. Rock is about cheering, shouting and jumping! Those are your main ingredients. You can imagine the heights Blur fans will reach when the anthem Song 2 is played.

Next week on kmfm you could win afternoon tea at Chilston Park Hotel, Lenham, plus, by the end of the week, an overnight stay there.

Coming soon kmfm has your chance to win your way to Florida. We will also be at the forthcoming Dover Tattoo on Friday, June 1 and Saturday, June 2.

The Jubilee weekend is fast approaching and the kmfm Street Team plan to be out across Kent. If you are having your own street party let me know and the team could be coming to see you. Email

As summer approaches, the tunes are all big anthems and feel-good. Coldplay have duetted with Rihanna for Princess of China. Taken from the band’s album that no one still knows how to pronounce – Mylo Xyloto. The guys have produced a mix of rock, electro-pop and R&B. Listen to kmfm to hear it.

The very talented Emeli Sande has released her next single – My Kind of Love. Sande is very soulful and this song really expresses that side of her voice. She is going to be a massive pull at Canterbury’s Lounge on the Farm this summer. Oh, and if you want to be there stay, listening to Kent’s kmfm.

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Categories: kmfm

Tracey's a great ambassador for her childhood home

by The Business Blog, with Trevor Sturgess Friday, December 30 2011

You may not like Tracey Emin but you have to hand it to her – she's a great flagwaver for her home town of Margate.

She guest edited the Today programme earlier this week and featured a piece on the town's economic revival and the importance of Turner Contemporary in that process.

Emin has not always been a good role model for young people. Her Turner prize-winning unmade bed with associated detritus was not to everyone's taste and did not endear her to traditionalists.

Her ripe language in some of her work also upset the purists, even though it's pretty commonplace to anyone listening to yoof chatter.

But things are changing. As she gets older, she is becoming less of a wild child, more an inspiration to a new generation, and more an ambassador for Thanet.

Despite a minor outcry – the lot of most artists while they are alive - she has just been appointed professor of drawing at the Royal Academy and pledged to donate her fees to students.

Young people can identify more easily with Emin than a stuffed shirt like bumptious art critic Brian Sewell who became a target for East Kent abuse after dismissing Turner Contemporary as a white elephant and Margate as Slough-on-Sea.

Emin also went back to King Ethelbert School in Birchington which fostered her love of art and still has a strong art department. She spoke to young people about their feelings about art and its importance to their lives. It was all good stuff and a positive perspective on a reviving East Kent. It might well encourage a few more visitors to the area in 2012.

And while on that subject, I wish you a profitable and healthy New Year.

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Categories: Business | Margate

What High Speed have done for us

by The Business Blog, with Trevor Sturgess Wednesday, December 22 2010

Protests about the proposed route of High Speed 2 from London to the Midlands and the North will provoke hollow laughter in Kent. I remember reporting on marches from South Darenth and Sutton-at-Hone that demonstrated fierce opposition to the initial route.

There was the admission that a map had been drawn up on an official’s dining room table using out of date information and putting the route through a new housing estate near Blue Bell Hill, Chatham. When a Mid Kent Parkway station was proposed between Medway and Maidstone, there was an outcry that the “green lung” would be removed and prompt the creation of a “Medstone” or “Maidway” conurbation.

There was dismay with the proposal to put the link down the pretty Nashenden Valley. When construction started, there was outrage over the “scar on the landscape.”

I can hardly remember a good thing being said about the proposed railway, wherever it went. Maidstone council bowed to this anti-sentiment and voted not to have anything to do with what eventually became HS1 And yet, and yet...

Taking a lesson from the French city of Lille, which battled for the TGV line to go through its heart, Ashford council fought tooth and nail to have the service re-routed through the centre of the town. Look what that decision has done to the prosperity and potential of the town.

Commuter journeys have been transformed. Look at the potential for regeneration in Dover, Margate and Folkestone from the presence of what is a brilliant service on state-of-the-art Hitachi trains. Look at the great advertisement for the county. Kent, a railway back-marker since the 1800s, is no longer on the wrong side of the tracks.

While third-rail trains were stuck in the snow, HS1 kept on rolling. More than seven million passengers took HS1 in its first year and I bet that figure will be a lot higher next year. It is a powerful economic driver for the county, raises our game and is proving a powerful incentive for firms to move to the county.

Just as 19th century steam trains and track came to blend into the countryside, with pressure groups lobbying to preserve threatened lines, so the railway that sparked so much protest in Mid and North West Kent is now part of our landscape. Nothing much to protest about now. The engineers did a great job.

Maidstone is left on the sidelines, now pleading for a high-speed station that was once there for the taking. Prosperity is slowly shifting to Ashford and will in time flow to Dover, Margate and Folkestone. House prices will rise disproportionately in towns with good access to the trains. A Manston Parkway station is on the cards.

HS2 protesters should look to the Kent experience and see that while they should ensure the route is tweaked here and there, and tunnelled under beautiful places, there is so much to gain from high-speed rail in terms of greener travel and greater convenience in a modern world. Things we fear in advance often come to be loved. In a 100 years’ time, HS2 and HS1 will be celebrated as much as the steam railways of another era.

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Categories: Business | Trains | Transport

A missed opportunity

by The Business Blog, with Trevor Sturgess Thursday, December 9 2010

Two iconic Margate buildings highlight a misguided gulf in priorities.

Turner Contemporary, designed by top architect David Chipperfield, may look a bit odd outside but inside it’s bright, light and spacious.

Expansive views over the seascapes so beloved by Turner when he lived in Margate will amaze visitors. Yesterday’s handover ceremony - from Kent County Council to Turner Contemporary Trust - was held in front of huge windows giving the audience a remarkable ring-side view of waves lashing the sea wall.

It will be great to see the first Turner paintings – on loan from the Tate - hanging in the place they belong. KCC deserves plaudits for sticking to its plan to build an art gallery in Margate, and for having the courage to ditch the earlier near unworkable and costly gallery-in-the-sea model.

Backed by the nation’s art experts, the county’s Guggenheim will put Kent on the international cultural map and slowly transform East Kent’s economic fortunes. So it should, given the £17 million invested in a leap of faith.

Local cynics may say that sum should have been allocated to other worthy projects, but they said the same in Bilbao, and look what’s happened to that once - but no longer - rundown Spanish city But a few hundred yards away, languishes a building that should be a jewel in Kent’s entertainment crown. In contrast to the “eggheads” palace down the road, The Winter Gardens is the forgotten “people’s palace.”

Hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers and locals flocked through its doors for nearly a century. The place echoes with the sounds of legendary artists down the ages. You can almost hear the applause and singing at those colourful summer shows that rounded off a bucket-and-spade day.

Party political conferences were once held there rather than Blackpool, Brighton or Bournemouth. It is a superb venue, architecturally stylish, a large stage and an auditorium that lends itself to large award and corporate ceremonies as well as popular entertainment.

But it has been terribly neglected. It looks unloved. Its sea-facing wall is crumbling. The final straw was seeing staff rattling a few buckets after a performance of The Sleeping Beauty by Margate Operatic Society to help fund essential renovation.

A few 10p coins from Brownies, Cubs and pensioners will hardly dent the sums needed to give this venerable lady a new lease of life. Now public sector funds are squeezed, it will be hard to find the money.

But if £17m can be found for an art gallery, it should not be beyond the wit of KCC, Thanet council and investment companies to come up with a revival plan for a place held in great affection by both by locals and others well beyond Kent. The Winter Gardens is a special place and should not be left in the shade by that shiny new structure down the road.

If it is not listed, it should be. It may not be as highbrow as Turner but is no less respectable. It’s surely time to properly invest in this wonderful theatre of dreams – 100 years old next year - before it’s too late.

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Categories: Business

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