The Broadstairs Beacon - Spring 2021

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Spring 2021 • Modern-day Seaside Stories






Goes nomad

A groom of one’s own

Exorcisms in Broadstairs

Murder on Harbour Street


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Editor Melissa Todd


Acting editor-in-chief John Murphy

Founder & Publisher

4 The Scoop - new business ventures in Broadstairs


Eileen’s Escapades - Eileen confesses to drinking her way through lockdown


Niema Ash: nomad girl - on a life lived among the stars and why Broadstairs brings her joy


Use your energy wisely - Jasmine Lasslett acknowledges the importance of accepting what we cannot change

Clare Freeman

Co-founder & Advertising director Jen Brammer

Publishing assistant

Welcome to our spring issue!

Emilia Fuller

Design director Lizzy Tweedale

Social media manager Kate Walters


From the Editor


Melissa Todd

Anthony Howard

Martin Charlton Angela Dye Barry Fentiman Hall Eileen MacCallum Jasmine Lasslett Anthony Levings Claire McCullough Andrew Nolan Alice Olivia Scarlett John Reid Seb Reilly Jan Ryan Selena Schleh Christine Tongue Joseph Turner

Photographers Abigail Cardwell Ade Davies Lyndon Fright Eleanor Golding Glen London Steven Todd

Illustrators Griselda Cann Mussett Kyle Llewllyn Roberts Jade Spranklen

Crossword compiler Steven Todd

cover image Niema Ash by Ade Davies

Print Mortons Print

gonzo column, Seb Reilly watches the devil leave one Broadstairs resident

elcome to the Broadstairs Beacon! My first as editor. I moved to Broadstairs in June 2017 when I married a committed Bradstonian, who regularly insists there’s no finer place on earth. I’ll admit, I took a while to be convinced. Originally I was anxious about Broadstairs. I’d come from Ramsgate, and Margate before that, and thought of Broadstairs as quaint, elderly, curtain-twitching and, frankly, a bit too posh for me. I feared the residents might come at me with burning brands and pitchforks. In this, as in most of my ludicrous prejudices, I was delighted to be proved utterly, hopelessly wrong. Broadstairs is a town of contrasts,

Issue Three



- Andrew Nolan introduces us to Broadstairs’ most often seen trees

12 Exorcisms in Broadstairs - in his regular of longstanding residents, mingling alongside an endless of succession of newcomers; of wealth and poverty, jostling for space along the high street and its winding lanes; of pawn shops and tanning salons nestling among tapas restaurants, wine bars, artists’ galleries. While the cold and the plague has kept us all away from enjoying the best of our beautiful town - I admire the hardy souls still making use of the sea, but find myself unequal to matching their courage - we need stories to help us survive: a sense of our history to help us make sense of our present. That’s why this issue is filled with stories from Broadstairs’ past. And a rich and colourful past it proves, once you start digging. Often the most significant moments of human history slip by unnoticed. Not pandemics and changes of regime, but the first moment you lock eyes with the one you love, or the last moment you swing a child on to your shoulders. This issue attempts to capture and remind us of some of those quiet milestones. And when we come out of this nonsense, beautiful Broadstairs will be waiting for us to enjoy it. Broadstairs has been living on its wits for more than 1,000 years. Broadstairs will be fine, and I’m beyond delighted and proud to be a part of it.


10 A stroll round Broadstairs cricket ground

Spring 2021 - March to May

15 Spruce up your home for spring - Selena Schleh suggests ways to welcome longer, sunnier days

19 Dressing for spring - Personal stylist Claire

McCullough with some easy affordable hacks to update your look

20 My vision: a Broadstairs for all - Christine

Tongue imagines our town perfected for all to enjoy

22 The Gents Lodge - old-school charm and new-style pampering

25 Acting through lockdown - your chance to find out whodunnit

26 Kent Sea Swimmers - the hardy take on the channel

27 The Sugar Game - Broadstairs author Ashley Brown tells us about her new novel

29 A light reflection - a flight of fancy from Angela Dye

30 Fiction and poetry - Alice Olivia Scarlett on St Peter’s graveyard, Barry Fentiman Hall contemplates a Broadstairs ant

32 Interview with Lana Arkhi - up close with the woman at work

34 Meet a neighbour - the Rotary Club and me 35 The little free library - an Alice-sized reading room

37 Murder on Harbour Street - Edwardian love, loss and revenge

38 Crossword - Mr Todd tests your knowledge


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Margate Mercury

Ramsgate Recorder

Whitstable Whistler

Deal Despatch


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Start barbecue season with a sizzling banger St Peter’s Sausage Company craft traditional hand-made butcher’s sausages, using only the finest outdoor reared Kentish pigs, sourced from local farmers. Using traditional production techniques and methods, they aim to bring top-quality, great-tasting products to the existing local food scene. All their sausages are made using natural sausage casings, and are mixed, stuffed and tied by hand to produce traditional thick, well filled butcher’s sausages. They sell direct via Facebook and Instagram, supplying local farm shops and independent grocers, and the local catering market. @stpeters_sausage_company



Usher in the roaring 20s at this Art Deco drinking den The Reign Bar at 13 Albion Street should open its doors for the first time on 12 April. Katy and Paul were both born in Thanet, live in and love Broadstairs, and have always wanted to run their own bar. They used local design company Lifeforms Design to create a stylish contemporary Art Deco-inspired décor, luxuriant and relaxing, perfect for a daytime pick-me-up or fantastic evening out with friends. The Reign plans to offer morning coffee and pastries, a traditional afternoon tea experience, grazing platters, a fantastic cocktail selection and wide range of wines. Their friendly staff are very much looking forward to seeing you! See for more details


A Bakery and Cafe located on Reading St, Broadstairs. A selection of homemade cakes, pastries, coffee, sandwiches & sourdough bread. March Opening hours: Friday & Saturday 8am-3pm April Opening hours: Thursday - Saturday 8am-3pm & Sunday 8am-1pm 30a Reading St, CT10 3AZ staple_stores

You heard it here first

Writer Melissa Todd

New Filipino takeaway opens on Reading Street Mesa Ni Aiza is a Filipino takeaway in Reading Street, brand new but already well regarded, using fresh authentic ingredients and offering a regularly changing menu, all created in Aiza’s own kitchen. Aiza explains, “For me, food is meant to be shared, even with people I don’t know. Filipinos are known to be feeders and invite people to their houses for the sole purpose of eating. Food is our language of love and the more food that is laid on the table, the more we show our love.” Try it yourself by calling 07834 914007 or emailing Find the menu and further details at or on Instagram @mesa_ni_aiza

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18/02/2021 12:12:52

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Eileen MacCallum

Jade Spranklen

A brief on Broadstairs life from a lady about town


ell hello springtime, what kept you? Maybe the slow crawl through winter lockdown is best left unmentioned. At best, we were grumpy. At worst, demented. Like most WFH home-schoolers, we reached the end of our tethers long ago, only to discover a whole truckload of tethers we’d never

seen before. But that’s not to say there haven’t been high points. In our case, one thing that helped has been Going To The Pub. Not the real pub obviously. We didn’t roll up outside the Neptune to stare greedily through its shadowy windows. Okay, maybe once or twice. Instead, to differentiate between the week and weekend, we took to calling one half of our lounge The Pub. It’s the side with the turntable, away from the telly. The real pub’s buzz is buzzier, its beer colder and we’re not related to the entire clientele. But on a weekend evening, we’ve been known to say, “Meet you in the pub!”, get up and jauntily walk five feet away. Essentials of these delusional soirées are a hefty drink and salty snacks. The music has to be loud enough to slightly shout over and there’s usually a jostle for “the good seat”. Once we’re having enough fun to forget we’re still at home, our teen flings open the door and yells, “TURN IT DOWN FOR GOD’S SAAAAKE”. (What is wrong with this picture?) A trip to The Pub is something to look forward to after one of the many, many walks. Whether it’s the silent Sulky Walk, the cosmically rare Full Family Harmony walk, or just a stomp up the road for milk because why on earth does no one else ever take the dog out, ever? On occasion, the walk becomes The Pub. Those pre-mixed G&T cans and mini beers – redundant as commuter favourites – fit nicely into a pocket. Or decant something fruity into a water bottle, wear your comfiest shoes and you can meet a friend at The Pub. As long as you keep moving. No wonder minds turn to going out. There must be quite a few folks ready to blowtorch their joggers off and explode into action when the government

says GO. Wearing their out-out gear. Enjoying a quiet midweek brunch down the Albion in a glitter catsuit with snakeskin boots and bejewelled lashes.

“There must be quite a few folks ready to blowtorch their joggers off and explode into action when the government says GO” Friends say they long for pretty simple things: watching Sunday Silents at the Palace Cinema, batting seagulls off an al fresco pint, working in a coffee shop. One pal even misses the crowds of pavement-blocking students who ask you to complete that questionnaire, again. Because going to the pub’s not really about booze, as we know. We just want to exist comfortably, unthinkingly, in the company of others and hear tales that aren’t our own. To have a stupid laugh about nothing in particular or enjoy a surprise get-together that starts slow and ends whenever. Dress code: EVERYTHING.



Niema Ash: nomad girl Writer Jan Ryan

Photographer Ade Davies

Images courtesy of Niema Ash

Inspired by the story of a nomad boy, Niema Ash sets forth to find magic of her own. Along the way she encounters Woody Guthrie, John Lee Hooker, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and, finally, the Dalai Lama


s a child, Niema Ash was enchanted by a story of a nomad boy, whose life was filled with adventure and magic. She determined she would have a life like that. She would be a nomad girl. “The world would be my desert. I would travel the world and wherever I stayed would be my oasis. And suddenly, the dream unfolded like a map, laying out before me a vision of my life. And so it was.” Niema grew up in Montreal in a well-to-do, liberal family who encouraged independence. At fifteen she wrote Diary of a Socialist Schoolgirl, and decided to leave the family home, with no financial support, moving to Boston to prove she could live her ideals. The following year she and a friend hitch-hiked across the US and into Mexico where, by posing as a friend of Henry Ford, she got to spend time with the renowned Mexican artist Diego Rivera. Not long after, a trip to New York brought her into contact with veteran folk singer Woody Guthrie. Disappointed that they couldn’t afford tickets for his concert, Niema and her friend couldn’t believe their luck in seeing him walking down the street. They followed him to the backstage door of the venue, hanging around on the fire escape. Suddenly Woody came out and invited them in. Taking them on stage, he introduced his performance as, “Woody Guthrie and his bobbysocks brigade!” Bliss.

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Niema with the Dalai Lama

“Broadstairs gives me solace and comfort. I have the sea and the sky and the sand…” By the 1960s, music was changing. Musicians were focusing increasingly on their own material. Small club venues were springing up in New York, but there was nothing similar in Montreal. So when Niema and her partner Shimon decided to take a break from hitch-hiking through eastern and southern Africa and return to Montreal, starting a folk club was an inspired decision. Niema was pregnant and life on the road had become incompatible with having a newborn. Shimon was a musician and an artist. He needed somewhere to perform ‒ and so the Finjan was born. Named after the Moroccan coffee pot around which folks gather to tell stories and sing songs, Finjan was the perfect name for what Niema and Shimon had in mind. Serving middle-eastern food, with Moroccan décor created by Shimon, it soon became the place to go in the city. Musicians like John Lee Hooker, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee played there early on in their careers. McGee later remarked, “These little places gave us our start. The big guys came in afterwards.” As Niema says, “People felt it was theirs. It was intimate, it was welcoming, and you could communicate with the musicians. There was no backstage.” Since hotels in the area were expensive, the musicians stayed with Niema and Shimon ‒ Bob Dylan spent two weeks in their home. They had first met on one of their New

Irving Layton, Niema and Leonard Cohen

York booking visits, where his early performance attempts were awkward, unprofessional and decidedly unsuccessful. On a subsequent visit, he told them he had a gig in Montreal and asked if they knew somewhere cheap to stay. “Stay with us,” Niema said, “There’s an extra bed in the baby’s room.” And so he did. He performed once at the Finjan and was the only performer people walked out on. Shimon refused to book him again, a decision Niema says was “probably the mother of all regrets”. By the end of his visit, Niema and Dylan had become friends. She had the key to his flat in the East Village, where she would stay when visiting New York. Sometimes he would be there, sometimes not. She was with him the first time fans followed him ‒ much to his surprise ‒ which prompted her to tell him how, as a teenager, she had done exactly the same to Woody Guthrie! The Finjan remained open for four years. Its success prompted Niema and Shimon to open another branch downtown, but it proved to be too big a stretch and both clubs folded. For a while Niema was devastated. But as one door shuts, another opens. While running the Finjan, Niema was also studying for her PhD on the dance dramas of WB Yeats at the University of Montreal and had met Irving Layton, one of Canada’s leading poets and Leonard Cohen’s guru. Her relationship with Cohen

Niema in her Finjan days

was both spiritual and erotic, as illustrated in the chapter “The Healing of Leonard Cohen”. One night Cohen invited Niema to stay over. She declined. “He belonged to the world and to all the women of the world. I didn’t want to be one of them. I had enough knowledge to save myself from that.” Niema remained friends with Cohen for many years. They spent time together in Molyvos on Lesvos, and in England. “Although it was through Irving that Leonard and I became acquainted, it was through music and poetry that we became friends.” Every December Cohen would return to Montreal and see in the New Year with Tibetan chants, awakening in Niema a deep interest in the country. At the time, it was impossible to travel there, but when it opened to travellers in the mid-80s, she was among the first to go and one of very few Westerners to witness a Tibetan sky burial, where the bodies of the dead are ritualistically dismembered and fed to birds of prey. “What amazed me was that despite the horrific nature of what I had seen, I felt no revulsion… Somehow, in that alien environment, it all made sense,” she recalls. Later, Niema met the Dalai Lama in Toronto, where he blessed her and placed a kata prayer scarf around her shoulders. “It was so profound,” she says. “You are transported to another existence. His energy just enfolds you.” If you visit Niema’s Broadstairs flat, the oasis she is now happy to call

home, you will see the kata on one of her lamps. It is among her most treasured possessions. Niema wrote Nomad Girl partly in Morocco, where she normally spends the winter, partly in California, but mainly in her Broadstairs flat overlooking the sea. “I like to have a place to come back to,” she says. “But even though I’m currently in one place I still feel nomadic. I never feel this or that is my place to be ‒ but my flat in Broadstairs gives me solace and comfort. I have the sea and the sky and the sand… Broadstairs has been wonderful for me. I am blessed with exceptional friends ‒ kindred spirits… creative, adventurous, and loving ‒ and with neighbours, not only caring but who keep me dancing. The support and help from friends made this book possible.” Niema’s warmth, humour and generosity of spirit shines through every page of Nomad Girl. Much of what she writes about is dealt with more fully in her other books: Connecting Dors, which she wrote with the collaboration of Diana Dors’ son Jason; Travels with my Daughter; and Touching Tibet. But it’s in Nomad Girl that she brings all her experiences together. Niema is one of life’s truly intrepid adventurers, with more journeys ahead of her and more tales to tell. “I’ve had a lot of lucky coincidences in my life,” she says. “You have to be ready to take advantage of them.”


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Use your energy wisely Writer

Jasmine Lasslett


Abigail Cardwell

So, why is our mindset so important? Our mind is a busy place. The average brain can have up to 50,000 thoughts per day, and those thoughts are hugely powerful: they affect how we feel and how we behave. If you are someone who has a lot of negative thoughts, you probably already know how draining that can be. Whereas, a positive mindset can help us to deal with change productively, cope with

stressful situations, and be really quite energising. We can actually train our brain to think more positively, even if your brain has been a whirl of negativity of late. To help us do this, I wanted to share a really useful tool with you…




he world is an unusual place right now. We are faced with a lot of uncertainty, lack of normality, changes to our routine and different boundaries. Almost every aspect of our lives have changed in some way over the past year. Resistance to change is a completely natural reaction. Change is uncomfortable and it requires new ways of thinking and doing. And I’m sure we can all agree there has been a lot of that over the past year. Something I just want to clear up right from the start: it’s totally ok if you have been feeling a real range of emotions. It’s ok to feel sad, angry, worried and frustrated. Often we are made to think that we shouldn’t feel or express these kinds of emotions; that we should suppress them instead, when actually that doesn’t do us any favours in the long run. Even those with a positive mindset will still have down days or days where they feel overwhelmed or frustrated. It’s normal.


Wellness coach Jasmine Lasslett explores techniques to cope with uncertainty, improve your mood and conserve your energy for the things that matter

The things you have the MOST control over

The circle of control Stephen R Covey introduced the idea of the circle of control in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The circle of control is a tool which I have used a lot in the last year and it has been extremely useful. I like to see it a bit like a dartboard. The bullseye in the middle represents the thing(s) we have the most control over; then, as we get further away from the middle, we have less and less control. So it helps us to determine what we have the most control over and what we have the least or no control over. Yes, there is a lot currently that is outside of our control and we could focus our energy on these things (that is what we cannot do at the moment or what we haven’t got access to). But does thinking in this way actually help us, does it serve us in any way? The short answer is no, no it does not. If anything, focusing our energy on these things will only cause us more stress and leave us feeling even more out of control. However it is good to be aware of what is outside of our control. The sooner we realise that it’s out of our control, the less suffering we face.

Some control No control If we can then accept that these things are not within our control, we can save ourselves a lot of energy and prevent our resilience from getting run down. Acceptance doesn’t mean you are giving in, it doesn’t even have to mean that you agree with the situation. It simply means you are choosing to use your energy more wisely. We must take ownership of what we put our energy into.

Jasmine Lasslett is the founder of The Wellness Pursuit. A certified wellness coach with a BSc in sport and exercise science and a qualified personal trainer, she delivers workshops and webinars which cover a holistic range of wellness topics Read more about her work on thewellnesspersuit and Instagram @_thewellnesspursuit

Examples of things outside of our control: • The gyms are shut. • We cannot visit our family or friend’s houses. • We might be furloughed or we might have been forced to work from home.

Examples of things we do have control over: • Staying active - we can get outside for a beautiful coastal walk, or complete a home workout. • We can get takeaway coffees from all the local coffee shops our beautiful town has to offer. • We can stay connected to our family and friends through video calls, phone calls and messages. So draw out your circles and have a think about what’s currently outside of your control. Ask yourself: can I come to accept these things? Next write down the things you do have control over, and shift your focus and your energy on to these things. It’s important to remember that although we’re going through these difficult times together, everyone will be experiencing different barriers. Be kind always.


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Writer Andrew Nolan

Illustrator Griselda Cann Mussett

Andrew Nolan takes us on a soothing and informative stroll through the trees surrounding Broadstairs cricket ground











alks in green spaces are vital, offering huge benefits for our mental and physical health. Let me invite you now to come on a stroll with me round part of our own beautiful Broadstairs, blessed with such a magnificent array of greenery. In this issue we will take a turn about Broadstairs cricket ground, home to many mature specimens, chiefly varieties of oak. To learn more about tree identification you can start with a few and slowly build up your repertoire, as I have over the years. I admit I’m no expert: I’m still learning more every day. It is a fascinating, neverending process, and of course you see and learn new features through the different seasons. In spring we see the buds opening and the young leaves; in summer we see flowers, seeds and nuts forming, we see the shape of a tree’s full canopy; in autumn we see the seeds, the nuts, the leaves changing colour; in winter we see the bare shape of trees and twigs, the bark and next year’s buds. Usually I approach Broadstairs cricket ground along Park Avenue, a right turn off Ramsgate Road. Drawing closer, we already see many fine mature trees in gardens, especially turkey oaks and beeches, survivors of the old park, still working their magic and making it a pleasant place to live. The turkey oak (Quercus cerris), a native of central and south-eastern Europe, has grey and fissured bark,

a little more silvery than that of our native oaks, while the thinner leaves have lobes which go closer to the central stalk. The acorns have a spiky protection near the cup. The mature trees are almost as elegant as native oaks, but faster growing. After a short walk we turn left into Grange Way, a small leafy lane like a country road. On the right several small paths lead into the cricket ground and we see a real rarity in Thanet, a thin stretch of oak woodland. Tall, young turkey oaks and graceful elms (Ulmus vulgaris, I think) reach up, competing for sunlight. Mature elms are a rare sight locally, since elm disease still kills them. English elms or field elms have an oval leaf, similar in shape to a beech, but slightly smaller, with a serrated edge, and a rough bark. After a stroll through this woodland habitat, dotted with wild flowers, we can take a quick diversion along a public footpath through a private area mostly cleared of trees recently, to see a huge old turkey oak by the other end of Park Avenue. Then returning to the cricket ground I glance at Grange Way and try to visualise the old classical mansion of Dumpton Park, which I believe stood around this spot before fire destroyed it in the late 1960s or early 70s. The 1872 Ordnance Survey map shows Dumpton Park (including a deer park!) stretched from the railway line and train station, almost as far as Bromstone Road. The estate

was once owned by the Crofts family, who have family tombs in St Peter’s churchyard. The land was given by covenant to the people of Broadstairs, though most is now built over.


Turning right and walking westwards we come to more open ground. Walk past the cricket clubhouse and you will see a fine evergreen tree, a holm oak (Quercus ilex), so-called because the dark leaves resemble holly, but have no prickly edge. Native to the Mediterranean but common in Thanet, they tolerate salty sea air. Continuing along the boundary, careful not to walk on the cricket pitch, we see another small wood on our left and in front of us a row of fine old trees growing by Park Avenue, including a walnut (Juglans regia), a species introduced by the Romans for their autumn nuts. They have grey bark, often with cracks and holes, and usually a strong central trunk, but this one divides low down

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into several branches. The leaves are long, similar to the horse chestnut, but smaller. Next we see the oldest of the turkey oaks, maybe 200 years old, whose many great limbs like an upraised hand suggest a long story of pollarding, twists and turns. Further along are more oaks and hawthorns (Crataegus monogyna), a tree more familiar in a hedge, but these old ones show what fine, rugged character the trees have. Turn right to see a beech (Fagus sylvatica), with grey bark, long thin buds and oval shiny leaves, similar to an elm but bigger, and an oak that puzzles me, with leaves lobed more like our native Quercus robur, although some lobes look deeper. Maybe it’s a hybrid. Here I often pause to rest on one of the benches, breathe the fresh air and imagine deer grazing and the mighty forms of trees departed. After another fringe of young oak woodland we return to Grange Way and end our walk. I hope you have enjoyed it, and that I might tempt you to join me again for another stroll through Broadstairs.








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The suburban exorcists Writer Seb Reilly

The devil comes down to Broadstairs. Seb Reilly meets the people prepared to do battle with him


esus looks down from a crucifix above an empty wooden armchair, the only religious sign in Helen’s tidy and minimalist living room. I can hear her singing along to some Christian soft rock in the kitchen until the rumble of the kettle drowns her out. Across from me sits John. He must be in his seventies, at least. He speaks with soft gravitas and seems suspicious of my presence, yet he makes small talk as we wait. I’m here to witness an exorcism, or so I’ve been informed. There are fresh flowers in a vase and the air smells of vanilla. “Are you a man of God?” John asks in a low baritone. “Not particularly,” I reply. “Spiritual warfare can be quite powerful,” John says with a slow nod of his head. I realise he closes his eyes as he speaks, as if his words are so powerful they might blind him. “But please, do not be afraid. The Spirit will guide us.” Helen’s home is a semi-detached house in Broadstairs with a neat front garden and a brightly coloured door. She brings us tea in slate-grey mugs. She is a short, older woman, with white hair and large-framed glasses, and she seems to be permanently smiling. Exorcisms are not a new arrival in Thanet. In 2011 BBC Radio 4 presenter Jolyon Jenkins attended an exorcism in Margate delivered by Vincent ten Bouwhuis, now Pastor Vincent Bauhaus, who claims he can heal schizophrenia and recommends deliverance for victims of abuse. The Reverend John Richards, a former student of St Lawrence College and secretary of the Bishop of Exeter’s study group on exorcism, published

◄ Courtesy of Toa Heftiba: Unsplash

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But Deliver Us from Evil: Demonic Dimension in Pastoral Care in 1974. The book remains a standard text on Anglican exorcisms. Of the 14 churches in Broadstairs and St Peter’s I approached in 2021, four of them state that they still undertake some form of deliverance ministry, though all are keen to point out that they involve medical professionals. Eight churches refused to comment or did not respond. The Methodist Conference, which is the governing body of the Methodist Church throughout Great Britain, has directed that Methodists do not take part in exorcisms while the church is revising its guidance on deliverance ministry. On the other hand, the Diocese of Canterbury, the oldest Anglican diocese in England, has appointed an ordained former GP as bishop’s adviser on the deliverance ministry. Only one church in Broadstairs, the Quakers, said they directly oppose the practice. Helen offers me a chocolate digestive. She’s treating me like an old friend, though I’ve only spoken to her once. She lives alone, is active in her local church, and volunteers most of her time for good causes. John does not tell me much, but wears a wedding ring and has reading glasses hanging from a chain around his neck. I ask why they would let a nonChristian writer attend. “People need to understand the burden,” John says. Helen refers me to John Chapter 1 Verse 2:17, which in her well-thumbed NIV Bible reads: “The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” They don’t charge for their services, but others are more capitalist. An hour-long exorcism over Skype with Vincent Bauhaus will cost around £250. In a 2018 Freedom of Information request, Kent County Council was asked to disclose how much had been paid to exorcists over the previous year for properties they owned or operated. It took twelve working days to respond, twice as long as to provide a breakdown of local authority and independent foster carer allowances. The request was denied. The relevant information was not held. When the doorbell rings, Helen rushes out of the room. John looks me in the eye. “Please hold your tongue until he has left,” he says, without blinking this time. A thin man in his early twenties is shown into the living room. He looks a little lost and his face is melancholy. He sits below Jesus and introduces himself as Dan. “In your own words,” John says, “explain what troubles you.” Dan sighs and looks at his trainers. “I feel weights, you know? Like clouds on my shoulders, pressing me down. Everything goes wrong, but it’s me, I do it.” He shakes his head. “Everything good, I sabotage it. I get these

thoughts, like I should ruin things. I don’t know. Am I possessed?” John asks for examples and Dan shares specifics of friendships, jobs and relationships. In every case he describes a moment when he felt tempted by self-destruction. John asks when the first instance was. Dan sighs again. “When I was, what, sixteen, maybe?” Dan suddenly becomes calm and lifts his head to look at John. “I said, ‘Satan, do what you will with me.’ I said that. I asked for this, you know? It’s my fault.” John leans forward in his chair. “What you are experiencing is not possession, but oppression. There is a difference.” He closes his eyes. “Possession is the Devil taking control of you. Oppression is a demon sat on your shoulder, whispering in your ear.” He puts a hand on Dan’s arm. “You must be very important to God for the Devil to go to all this trouble. Can we pray for you?” Dan nods. John grips Dan’s arm and lifts his head as if addressing the air, his eyelids descending. “Heavenly Father, we thank you for bringing this young man to us today.” John raises his other


hand, palm upwards. “We thank you for your grace and forgiveness. We worship at your feet.” Helen springs up from the sofa, hands either side of her face. For the first time since we met she is not smiling. Her lips move quickly and she is mumbling but I cannot make out any specific words. John gently asks Dan to kneel, put his face to the floor, and hold his hands open to receive God’s blessing. He then, impressively, kneels beside Dan. “Heavenly Father, we thank you for

“What you are experiencing is not possession, but oppression. There is a difference”


blessing us this day.” John raises his voice a little, but his speech is calm and controlled. “We kneel prostrate before you.” I can hear Helen getting louder. She is praying in tongues, where sounds are subconsciously formed into wordlike utterances then strung together as sentences, sometimes believed to be a divine language. She steps side to side, frowning. “Demon, I speak to you now.” John points at Dan’s right shoulder. “In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour, light of the world, be gone from this man. Leave him, for he is a man of God.” John repeats this, pointing at Dan’s left shoulder, and then lays both hands on Dan’s head while praying softly. Helen quietens also, and the room falls calm until John kneels upright again. “Thank you, Lord, thank you. Your Spirit is our guiding hand. Glory most high and blessed be your name. Amen.” Dan is guided by John up from the floor. He looks shell-shocked, as if he has spent an hour crying and then another in darkness, waiting. I cannot tell if he believes the demon has left, but he is hesitant to speak. “It may take some time to feel different,” John says to him. “Be patient. God will be with you, now and always.” Dan mutedly thanks them and then a strange uncomfortableness fills the house. He seems hasty to leave, but John prays for him once more as he stands awkward in the middle of the living room. Helen shows them both out shortly afterwards, though they speak for a while at the front door, beyond my earshot. The entire experience is less dramatic than I had imagined it would be, yet more sincere. I wonder what drives John and Helen. Perhaps it is a sense of helping others, or it could be the empowerment of taking control of a situation and channelling a perceived higher force. That spreads, in some way, to Dan, as the comment about his importance to God stays with me. There is an aspect of egotism to being spiritually attacked, yet also a realisation of guilt combined with an excuse for destructive behaviour. Responsibility can be passed to the demonic entity. The question of vanity hovers in the air, yet when Helen returns, she is humble and pleasant, and I realise she simply wants to make the world a better place. I ask why she feels this is the right thing to do, and she picks up her Bible. “Ephesians,” she says, flicking through the pages. “Chapter six, verse twelve.” She clears her throat. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Helen closes the Bible and holds it gently upon her lap. “Would you like another cup of tea?” ◄ Writer Seb Reilly

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Spruce up your home for spring Writer

Selena Schleh

As the days lengthen and lighten, and we emerge from a long winter indoors, it’s the ideal time to refresh home interiors and gardens – with a little advice from local experts

Scrub up nicely Lockdown has meant spending more time indoors, leading to increased dirt and moisture in our homes. Springcleaning the whole house can be overwhelming, so tackle one room at a time, advises Sadie Barton, owner of east Kent cleaning company Miss Green Clean ( Always clean from top to bottom, remembering to pull furniture away from the wall to clean behind and underneath, and lessen the need for elbow grease by soaking “high traffic” areas like ovens, sinks and shower screens for as long as possible. If you’re baffled by the array of cleaning products under your sink, “a drop of washing-up liquid on a damp, clean cloth” will work for most jobs. For an eco-friendly approach to cleaning, Miss Green Clean’s range uses a blend of just three ingredients – castile soap, essential oils and cleaning vinegar – or make your own. “Bleach is high on the list as the most harmful home cleaning product,” says Monica Coles, owner of Salt of the Earth ( Instead, create a natural toilet cleaner by mixing up equal measures of bicarbonate of soda and white vinegar

and decanting into an old spray bottle. For extra freshness add half a lemon to the mix. Old (clean) socks and T-shirts can double as cleaning cloths, while scrunched-up newspaper brings a shine to windows and glass. It’s not just cobwebs and dust that need banishing. Michelle Dorman of The White Room Meditation ( recommends burning sage or palo santo and placing selenite crystal in neglected corners of your home to cleanse the space of stale, negative energy. Once “cleaned”, add carnelian or orange calcite to help attract positive vibes.

Cut from a different cloth As the owner of Broadstairs Location House, Virginia Armstrong knows a thing or two about home styling. A lick of paint can transform not only shabby walls, but also chairs, cupboards, and even lighting; while changing up soft furnishings, like cushion covers and throws, is a quick way to update the look and feel of a room. Invest in new art from Thanetbased artists like Clare Youngs, Maxine Sutton and Margo McDaid ►


to brighten up your walls and support local talent at the same time. “We’ve seen so much grey in the last ten years, so don’t be afraid of using colour, texture and tone,” adds Broadstairs resident and interior creative director James Coates ( Restoring, repairing and reupholstering furniture is another good way to breathe new life into tired sofas, armchairs and footstools. While more complicated jobs and awkward shapes are best left to the experts (Virginia recommends Broadstairs Upholstery), why not try DIY? There are YouTube tutorials for everything from re-caning to stripping and waxing water-damaged wood. Choosing cheaper fabric for upholstery projects also minimises the risk of costly mistakes: The Haberdashery and Fabric Shop in Ramsgate has plenty of affordable options. Sometimes, simply rearranging your furniture is enough to rejuvenate a room. Just because residential rooms may be square or rectangular, don’t fall into the trap of pinning sofas and seating to the wall – bring them into the environment. Virginia also recommends repurposing furniture for maximum usage: moving a set of shelving from the office to the kitchen, for example, provides more storage and display space. Above: A “gallery wall” of local art Left: Vintage interiors by Albie & Pearl

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In with the old While it’s tempting to splash out on brand new, trend-led homeware, a more sustainable and individual way to refresh your décor is to buy second-hand. If you’re new to vintage shopping, Marie Pontefract, the Broadstairs-based curator behind vintage interiors brand Albie & Pearl (@albieandpearl), suggests starting small by adding a single item that complements colours or a theme you already have in your home. A hand-painted vase, a table lamp updated with a pleated coolie shade or a ceramic candlestick accentuated with bold coloured candles, will all bring personality into a room without breaking the bank. If money’s no object, Marie recommends hunting on high-end online emporiums like 1stDibs or Vinterior, but don’t dismiss local charity shops (once they open) as a source of hidden gems: “You’ll be surprised how taking a vintage piece out of a cluttered environment gives it a new lease of life.”

Space out Home working is a trend that’s here to stay well beyond spring, and whether you have the luxury of a spare room to act as an office or one side of the kitchen table, it’s important to create a functional space. For

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James, the key to a healthy home working environment is natural light and ventilation for wellbeing, complemented by a clean and clutterfree surface. Having a designated “tranquil” area is equally important to create balance in our multi-tasking homes. You don’t need much space for meditation – it can be done on a table top, window sill or corner – provided the area is clean, simple and chaos-free. Michelle recommends adding items which bring you joy or evoke pleasant memories, air purifying plants, soothing music and a salt lamp.

Turn over a new leaf Spring is synonymous with gardens bursting into life – but if you’re lucky enough to have one, you’ll need to get it match-fit after a long, hard winter. The spring to-do list for local garden designer Tom Drake ( includes pruning summer-blooming flowering shrubs, feeding flower beds with organic compost and dividing perennials. When it comes to spring planting, Jackie Young, co-owner of Youngs Nurseries (,



recommends easy-to-grow roses, forsythia (perfect for Easter trees), spring pansies, primroses and cyclamens for early colour, along with hardy herbs like thyme and rosemary. Broad beans and seed potatoes are also easy to grow, making them perfect for novice gardeners. Even a window box offers greenfingered opportunities. Tom suggests making your own planters from old metal guttering, remembering to drill holes in the bottom for drainage. Break up supermarket-bought herbs into sections before planting and spread them out: they’ll last longer than in the original, overcrowded pots. And if you’ve no outside space at all? As Izzi Brown, owner of Broadstairs store Plantlet (@plantlet) points out, the benefits of houseplants are endless: “As well as many having air-purifying qualities, studies have also shown them to boost your mood, productivity, concentration and creativity.” Cacti and succulents, snake plants, spider plants and devil’s ivy are all low-maintenance options, while wall planters and clips make for interesting displays: use lots to create an impactful living wall or train a single vine around a mirror or dressing table.

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Dressing for spring


Here are some standouts of this year, some of which you may already own...


Claire McCullough

Photographer Lyndon Fright


Fed up of lockdown chic? Unwilling to spend a fortune on a new wardrobe? Claire McCullough shows you how to rejuvenate your look for spring

This is by far the colour of the season, and in an explosion of tones ‒ fuchsia, bubble-gum, watermelon… If the thought of wearing bold colour like this scares you, you can start adding it into an outfit with a headband, or on your feet with a pair of sandals. You can even incorporate it into your make-up palette. Perfect for last-minute Zoom calls.

SIMPLE LAYERING This way of styling allows an earlier introduction of pieces usually intended for warmer weather. Cardigans, no longer considered frumpy, are great for layering over spring dresses, and can make jeans and a simple tee look really chic. If you’re feeling a bit braver, the same can be said for knitted vests. You can also approach layering by wearing body-skimming tops under dresses or shirts, helping to weather-proof strappier styles, and lower necklines.



am so fed up of elasticated waistbands. I miss getting dressed. It makes you feel better, more motivated, like a better functioning human. Writing this on a miserable February morning, but dreaming of sunnier spring days, I wanted to share with you a few insider tips on how to get a new wardrobe without spending a penny. Before thinking you have to go out and buy for a new season, stuffing more clothes into your already bursting wardrobe, have a pre-spring spruce-up. This will help to re-energise your space, without having to add anything new. It often feels like a daunting task, so here is a bit of direction to help get you started. Work through by item type. Start with your dresses, then skirts, trousers and so on.

Ask yourself these questions. When was the last time I wore it? Why don’t I wear it? Why do I love it? Does it fit properly? You will probably find the answer to why it’s been sitting screwed up at the back of your wardrobe. Create two piles, one for charity, and one for resale. Allow someone else the chance to wear anything you won’t be keeping. Repair the hem that’s fallen down, or that button that’s fallen off. Clothes don’t get worn sitting there flawed. Now you have a clearer space, think about the items you own, and different ways these can be worn. For each bottom item think of at least three different tops, and experiment with accessorising. Playing dress-up can be fun! Finally, organise your wonderfully clutter-free wardrobe as you started, by item shape. After having a declutter, you may

feel some newness would really help to elevate what you already own. Entering spring feels much more optimistic, and you should absolutely let your clothes reflect this. Over the years there has been a definite slowdown of “trends” in their traditional seasonal cycle, and more focus on considered purchases, with longevity.

Claire McCullough is a personal stylist, and founder of Style. Edit. Fix., a platform designed to help you wear more of your wardrobe, and to shop smarter Contact at To check out the services offered go to Follow on Instagram for regular updates @styleeditfix

Steal them from his wardrobe. In an oversized fit, these can be worn over leggings, open over a summer dress, tucked into the front of your favourite jeans, tied up at the waist with a skirt… The list continues. Go for a versatile yet traditional blue and white stripe.

FLORALS While florals for spring may not be ground-breaking, a gorgeous print can appear effortlessly stylish, and a welcome seasonal update. Swap your jacket for an oversized blazer, for a fresh spin on last year’s dress.

WIDE-LEG TROUSERS This shape will help to lengthen your legs, and tucking your top in will define your waistline. With remote working here to stay, you don’t have to compromise on comfort. Ditch those bottoms, whose name I will not mention, and you will feel more put together, and your outfit more considered.


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My vision: a Broadstairs for all Writer

Christine Tongue

Photographer Steven Todd

Broadstairs has been promoted as a place to convalesce for two centuries now. But we could so easily do more for our disabled people, residents and visitors alike


am old and disabled. I fall over a lot and find steps difficult. I depend on a stick to walk. A few years ago a woman with a small child who was hurtling towards me on a scooter shouted: “Mind the lady with the stick!” So now I am the lady with the stick. There are more than 14 million people like me in the UK, 1.2 million wheelchair users and 12 million aged over 65. In Thanet there are 31,348 people with disabilities, which accounts for around a quarter of its residents, the highest proportion in Kent. And we need a lot more than just “minding” and pitying. We need to be listened to! We want to be able to do everything you can do and get to everywhere you can go. Broadstairs has attracted the sick and infirm for two centuries now, selling itself as a place to convalesce in its bracing air. But it could be much, much better. So here’s my vision of a Broadstairs that would be ideal for disabled visitors and elderly residents alike. Warning: these things are not yet true. It’s my future fantasy. Let’s start with the beach. The lift to Viking Bay is easy to use, well maintained and open all year. (The slopes at Harbour Street and Louisa Bay are too steep for most wheelchairs so the lift is vital.) Once on the beach, a gentle, well

swept path leads along the bay and out to the tidal swimming pool (the old paddling pool), easy to get into for people with walking problems, with handrails all around and a non-slip ramp to get in. A hoist helps wheelchair users to access the water. Another walkway takes wheelchairs to the water’s edge and largewheeled chairs are available to hire, which make sand more negotiable. The seawall has many ramps ‒ not steps ‒ to the beach, and built-in concrete benches every 20 metres. There is another lift at Stone Bay, and good disabled toilets on all bays, open all year round and accessible to all. We all have moments of disability, suffer a wobble of some kind, when a loo with good grabrails is a comforting space to retreat to. All the high street shops, cafés and restaurants have disabled access, ramps, handrails or alternative entrances. The Palace Cinema has a wheelchair entrance and puts on special shows with reduced sound for people whose nervous system

can’t take loudness, and subtitles for the deaf. Not all disabilities are visible. Specialist cafés and shops cater for all dietary needs and advice is on offer for diabetes, gluten-free diets and allergies of all kinds. Broadstairs residents and visitors eat well from local sources: fresh veg, just-caught fish and locally reared animals. No junk food is sold anywhere. Market gardens surround the town and community allotments and orchards fill the old airfield. Westwood Cross is now an artificial mountain covered in forest gardens with a cable car and wheelchair routes to the top. Transport is easy. Ramps are built into buses and trains, staff are always at the stations to make sure passengers are happy and toilets clean and open. No new houses are allowed unless they have disabled living built into the design. Solar panels, insulation and renewable, community-owned green energy is used for all machines, cutting air pollution to an absolute minimum. Broadstairs is once again

a haven for asthmatics and people with lung problems. Patients are referred here from all over the country for recuperation. A joy and big draw for visitors is the Crampton Tower Spa and local history museum. Hot water pools, relaxing massage, full-size swimming pool, vegan café, and just across the road, where the station car park used to be (now underground), is an indoor water play centre for small children, surrounded by the orchard that becomes the linear forest along the railway line. Supervising all this is a disability specialist on the council, dedicated to making provision for disabled people across Thanet. They’ll be looking at all building projects, road schemes and new shops to work out disabled access, with campaign groups consulted on everything. Sounds expensive? In fact making Broadstairs a haven for the disabled visitor would repay the investment many times over. At the moment all this is just a sweet dream. But the war cry of the disability movement is NOTHING ABOUT US, WITHOUT US. Mind our words ‒ there are millions of us and we want a better world.

What do you think of Christine’s vision for Broadstairs? Email and let us know



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THE GENTS LODGE Writer Melissa Todd


Klaxon Creative

Step into a different era and indulge your every sense in Brroadstairs’ first gentleman’s grooming parlour


s I step into the Gents Lodge, the dreary, rainy, outside world ‒ indeed, the entire 21st century ‒ falls smoothly from my shoulders. Instead I move into a Mayfair gentleman’s club from some other, timeless era, a time when living was an art, when idling over the papers with a good whiskey in a plush leather chair was every gentleman’s right and privilege. From the dark navy walls and subdued lighting, the gentle music, the musky spiced scent, every sense is utilised to bring about this sensation. The walls and shelves are crammed with fascinating pictures and artefacts, a mishmash of styles and times: a matador’s sword, an Indian sitar, a Rolls Royce Spirit of Ecstasy, a map of the British Empire, a Space Invaders table, a Singer sewing machine. They have a fabulous array of reading matter, a brimming bookcase and a huge stack of newspapers. With a difference: none of the newspapers were printed after 1945. Whatever time we have entered, it categorically isn’t now. There’s a wonderful incongruity in this snug manly cave being primarily devoted to making men look good: the only aspect of 21st century manhood that’s allowed to make an appearance here is their yearning to have pedicures and anti-ageing facials, their eyebrows threaded and beards shaped. And why on earth not? Winston Churchill seems to approve, beaming out stolidly over the drinks trolley.

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“Feeling good about yourself can encourage feeling good in yourself”

Men’s grooming products and parlours are now a multi-billion pound industry, growing at a much faster rate than women’s. Salon Services UK predict that 21’000 jobs will need to be filled in the next twelve months in order to meet the rapidly growing demand. Relatability is a significant factor: male celebrities and influencers unashamedly paying attention to their faces, beards and bodies. Some reseachers have dubbed this, rather scathingly, the “Love Island effect”. But the interest in male grooming has reached far beyond bronzed, chiselled teens to a widely divergent range of generations and social groups. The Gents Lodge was created last December to cater to their demands. It was inspired by Tommy Parkin, who, pre-Covid, unashamedly adored having facials and getting his eyebrows and beard professionally tailored; and Bradley Page, who owns several other local businesses and was inclined to gently mock Tommy’s propensity for pampering and sunbeds. Until the first lockdown hit and he started to ponder on the nation’s mental health ‒ particularly the mental health of men having seen several of his pals struggle ‒ and how he might help. “Feeling good about yourself can encourage feeling good in yourself,” says Bradley. “Last year my wife and I went for a spa day together, and while I loved the treatments, it was all clearly marketed towards a female clientele, and I was left feeling sidelined, a total spare wheel. Why


can’t men have a space that’s primarily theirs, caters to their interests and tastes, attracts like-minded souls?” Bradley’s enthusiasm is as intoxicating as the soft spicy musk that permeates his gentleman’s den. I nod vigorously and demand to be shown everything. “I’ve always wanted to do something good for the community,” he continues, leading me through a labyrinth of treatment rooms, pointing out artefacts every inch of the way, bubbling with pride. “See that? My granddad brought that back from India. Oh that? That was in my gran’s loft, she was quite glad to see the back of it. Gorgeous eh?” He stops proudly before the enormous sauna, then the ice fountain, for use by those hardy sorts who choose to alternate temperatures for maximum benefit, if not pleasure. The products used on hair and skin are all organic and sourced from small independent producers, predominantly local. In the middle of the “cryo lounge” there’s a grooming station offering a selection of complimentary products, moisturisers and beard wax, among Smoked Oud candles and enormous mirrors. It’s like wandering about a stage set for a Jacobean drama. I am taken to admire his bathroom walls, covered in paintings from the Kama Sutra. “See, the Gents Lodge isn’t primarily about making a profit. This is a true labour of love.” Bradley’s own passion is cooking, so he’s particularly excited about rustling up lunches in the tiny kitchen, which offers local produce on toasted


sourdough, homemade cakes and “gent’s platters”. “I started work at fourteen in the kitchens at Phineas Fogg and Smugglers,” he explains. “I’m happiest when I’m chopping. I can’t wait to get in there and start making people smoothies and sandwiches.” Despite their marketing themselves primarily to men, they are very happy for women to use the facilities too, I’m relieved to hear: I’m already aching to sink into one of their plush massage tables and surrender to those musky, manly aromas. There’s an option to hire out the eminently instagrammable venue, and they’ve even had enquiries from hen nights, which they’re happy to host. Bradley also hopes the space can be used by men’s groups such as Man Club, an organisation that raises awareness of men’s mental health. “Better to meet in vintage leather chairs surrounded by books and lamps than a chilly, strip-lit church hall,” says Bradley. “The space is here. I want it used.” He also plans to keep some hours free to offer haircuts to neurodiverse children and adults, who can struggle in barber’s chairs: the peaceful ambience, and no expectations to behave in a particular way, should make the situation easier for all. “I feel brilliant after a treatment,” says Tommy. “It’s not simply superficial. It’s a mood enhancer and boost that really lasts. Taking care of your appearance, taking your own wellbeing seriously, that sends a signal to yourself that you matter.”

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Acting through lockdown Writer

Melissa Todd


Eleanor Goulding

Missing a night at the theatre? The audacious murder mystery company is here to help

I’ve put perfume on to speak to you! Isn’t that mad?” Jane Pulford tells me from her Broadstairs seafront apartment, via my laptop screen, after we’ve squealed “hulloo!” and waved excitedly at each other. “But then, this is the most fun I’ve had all week!” Lockdown has been rough on actors. Rough on everyone, of course, but the art of an actor is dependent upon interaction, like boy scouts creating a flame by rubbing sticks together. But they’re an innovative, adaptable bunch, and lockdown has offered a chance to prove it. “I hadn’t realised how much I miss acting until I got a chance to do some,” says Jane, all scarves and

curls and excited energy, a modernday Sarah Bernhardt. “I play Raina Koblinska, a maid who knows all the family’s secrets, while hiding plenty of her own. Rehearsing with a cast and crew, then spending a couple of days filming together, was an absolute joy. I got a buzz and rush from it like nothing else on earth.” Audiences have missed actors too, and all they bring with them. Stories are how we make sense of the world, and if ever the world needed some sense brought to it, surely now is that time. Stories help us explain ourselves, but also escape ourselves. So step up Audacious, the “ultimate online murder mystery” company. Last summer seven cast members,

musicians and actors, met to create a little piece of online theatre, imagined and created by Gordon Clarkson and Moira Pearn. The 30-minute film they produced is called The Underhand Affair at Lovelie Villa and, in truest whodunnit tradition, takes place in the 1920s, when a grisly murder is found to have been committed during a dinner party. Naturally all those present have a motive and an opportunity to commit the act, and that’s where the audience get involved. On the day of your choice you’re sent the film, which was shot and edited by Eleanor Goulding, along with questionnaires and background information, to assist you in nailing the murderer. As you watch the story unfold, resplendent with glamorous costumes and period settings, you must seek out clues, and look out for the plentiful red herrings. Having studied the film, you get a chance to quiz the entire cast via a 40-minute Zoom call. “It’s beyond weird,” says Jane, “acting alone, at home, dolled up in a 1920s maid outfit, yelling at my computer, trying to improvise a scene with the rest of the cast, while sparky audience members interrogate you mercilessly and try to shred your alibi. Goodness, it’s fun though. For everybody! Gets the brain whirring and the blood flowing.” Ian Douglas, another Broadstairs actor, completely agrees: “It’s a marvellous way to entertain each other whilst sprinkling a tiny bit

of theatre magic. We encourage everyone to dress up, not just the actors, to make a proper night of it, and the improvisation element keeps everyone on edge. I play a chap called Mr Welton Smythe, a sinister solicitor with more to hide than most. “Instead of feeding on an audience’s energy, we had to keep each other buoyed up through the day of filming, which was different, but still really good fun. We managed to squeeze in filming between lockdowns, and were very careful to socially distance while filming. At one point my character is offered a handshake, but declines it because he has ‘touched something sticky”’. It provided a different set of challenges, and proved absolutely engrossing, much as I missed performing in the same space as an audience.” Once the various sleuths have finished roughing up the cast there’s a short interval in which they can confer and submit their conclusions. The winning team get their money back as a prize, so if you stay alert and watch out for clues, you might even get to enjoy your evening for free.

If you’re interested in bringing their grim doings to light while keeping theatre alive, do check them out on Instagram @audaciousultimatemurder mystery or email them at audaciousmurdermystery@


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Writer Anthony Levings

In 1975 a hardy bunch swam the channel. Duncan Gill and Jane Huntley, active members of Kent sea swimmers, reminisce with Anthony Levings


n a sunny day, in early September 2018, the Kent Sea Swimmers gather on the steps of Turner Contemporary in Margate. This is the beginning of a swim-walk to Stone Bay in Broadstairs. The plan is to swim first at Walpole Bay tidal pool, then Kingsgate Bay, and on around the Kent coast. It’s the ideal opportunity to speak to two members, Jane Huntley and Duncan Gill, about the day they swam the English Channel. It’s 1 September 1975. Jane is 13 years old, the youngest in the team and the only girl. Her team members are all 16, with the exception of the captain who is 27 years old. The swimming has been arranged and paid for by Dover Lifeguard Club (DLC). There are no qualifying swims or land training, no nutritional diets to follow. Jane joined the DLC aged nine, two years after first learning to swim in the sea at her hometown of Dover. “In those days the club had a very

SWIMMING THE CHANNEL: A conversation with Jane Huntley and Duncan Gill active outdoor swimming section,” she tells me, “and I was probably about eleven when I first became interested in long-distance swimming.” Fellow DLC member Duncan began swimming at a slightly earlier age. He was only two when taught by his parents. His mum was a civil service diving champion and his father took part in the Billy Butlins cross-Channel swimming races. Training took the relay team a year. There were ten swimmers, from which John Carron, the coach, selected a squad of six. Jane’s father was delighted to see her succeed in sport: he’d been a very talented footballer and hockey player. Her mother was more apprehensive but agreed Jane could go ahead. This is how she describes the swim: “I remember the day very clearly. We all arrived at Shakespeare beach. My parents, sister and grandmother came to wave us off. The captain started the swim. We were all very

excited and very nervous. Fourth to swim, I had four hours to wait until I got in the water. The boat was very basic and we all just sat on the deck, the six of us, an official observer and my dad, who was there due to my age. The weather was calm for the first six hours, but despite this I became seasick after just two hours. The only time I wasn’t sick was when I was swimming (thankfully). The atmosphere on the boat was fun and supportive. We watched the person swimming and shouted plenty of encouragement. I was the only swimmer to have to negotiate debris in the channel. At one point, I had to avoid a floating fridge. I swam through masses of seaweed and jellyfish but was never stung. We had trained for this ‒ our coach used to throw objects at us when we trained. A little unorthodox but it worked. “The weather deteriorated throughout the swim and the conditions were atrocious by the

▲ Duncan Gill (left) and Jane Huntley (second from left) collect their certificates at the Channel Swimming Association Awards Dinner in 1975

last hour. It was our captain’s turn to swim, our strongest and bravest swimmer. The tide had turned and we were in danger of getting pushed out again. The captain wasn’t having that and put in an amazing final leg. I don’t think it ever occurred to any of us that we wouldn’t make it.” The swim was completed in 12 hours 46 minutes. Each member swam two one-hour legs, with the captain swimming three times. Jane describes the horrendous journey back to England, with big seas and the boat rolling. She tucked under Duncan’s arm, and he covered her in a blanket to keep her safe and warm for the journey back. And they’ve known each other all this time, still swimming in the sea together. As we turn down some steps to reach Stone Bay, Duncan recalls the force-five winds and the rough conditions. “After our channel swim,” he tells me, “I went on to do it again with an American team who needed a sixth person. I then joined the Royal Navy and the British Long Distance Swimming Association and raced across Lake Bala in Wales and swam Lake Windermere. I also swam around the Rock of Gibraltar and in San Carlos water in the Falklands.” Jane left major swims behind after the Channel, although the 3km swim events she regularly enters would be regarded as significant challenges to most, myself included.

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The permission you seek to write, lies with you

We writers are sensitive souls. My whole life, I have carried around a deep-rooted fear of rejection that turned me into a chronic peoplepleaser. When I discovered my love of writing, that fear was of course still lurking around. Things changed when I started to realise something: the only person that could give me permission to do what I love is myself, not friends, family, agents or strangers.

Writer Melissa Todd

Broadstairs author Ashley Brown on her second novel, The Sugar Game, and why we should emulate sugar babies when pursuing our dreams


Write the stories that call you


shley Brown looks surprised when I tell her I’d stayed up to read her latest book, The Sugar Game, in 36 hours straight. But it gripped me by the throat from the first sentence, shook me about and kept tight hold until I finished the last word with a gasp and plaintive cry of, “More!” Happily there will be more. This is the first of a three-book series. Ashley, raised and schooled in Broadstairs, has just finished the third book in the trilogy, and is now starting on the second: she decided to write them backwards. “I knew where I wanted my characters to wind up,” she explains, “but I was less certain as to how they might get there. Gradually, that’s become clearer.” I can’t dispute her methods: she’s a writing coach as well as a writer. “I’m a life writer,” she says. “Life is my greatest library. Every experience, every feeling I’ve ever undergone, has wound up in my work. I’ve not experienced everything I write about, but I’ve certainly experienced the emotions and connected to them similarly. Fear, anxiety, anger, regret ‒ these are universal, and whatever the story, however far outside your own experience, that’s where you will connect with your reader.” The Sugar Game tells of two young women who pursue a “side hustle” as sugar babies, renting out their companionship to sugar daddies, wealthy, successful professionals who are looking for fun, rather than a serious relationship. Ashley doesn’t pass judgement on the morality or likely consequences of this decision, which felt pleasantly refreshing. Instead she plunges us straight into the photo-shoot they attend as their first step towards getting work.


You know, those ideas you can’t evade and must dare yourself to explore. Writing what stirs your passion will save you the half-written manuscripts. I have tried at times to force myself to write stories on subjects I’m not connected with, and always get writer’s burn-out.

“There’s light and dark in every career, every life choice,” she says. “I wanted to make that clear. And also, I felt a responsibility not to portray these women as downtrodden victims. Those who pursue this work do so for many reasons. Often they are working their way through university, looking to buy property, keen to intern as a means of pursuing their dreams, but equally keen to eat. It’s not all brainless teenagers desperate for the latest handbag and luxury yacht break ‒ not that there’s anything wrong with that. These women are all learning to understand themselves through the choices they make.” It’s a clever, nuanced read, constantly surprising, peppered with insights into her characters’ minds and lives. Ashley has done her research, befriending several sugar babies to hear their tales. There are thought to be around 8.9 million sugar babies registered with assorted websites, and around 2.9 million sugar daddies. (Considerably fewer sugar mummies ‒ men do pursue this line of work, though generally with less success.) “The more time you spend around other people’s success the more you can convince yourself it’s yours,” Ashley says. “Sometimes the SBs can get a nasty shock when it’s all over and they find they’ve built nothing truly

their own. But others have found love this way, or got the degree, financial stability or work experience they needed to launch another career.” But exiting the sugar game can prove tricky. “It’s not easy money necessarily,” says Ashley, “but it is quick money. The babies need to undergo a complete financial and emotional detox before they can reenter the real world, where success is only enjoyed by the privileged and well-connected, and most women would at least hesitate before shelling out £2,000 on a handbag.” Ashley is a full-time writer and writing coach, offering courses on becoming a writer from the initial spark all the way to getting your book published and marketed. More, she is looking to launch a writing community called Curious Minds, a virtual writers’ space where people can trade ideas, insights and comment on each other’s work. As with writing, so with the sugar game: “Don’t allow one choice to define you. You are always only one choice away from a different future.”

Find out more about Ashley’s work at and follow her on instagram for regular writing tips and inspiration @ashleyloubrown


The magic happens with a writing routine

A writing routine is the only way to bring your writing dreams to life. We are all at our most creative at different times of the day. I have finished most of my books in the mornings over copious amounts of coffee. Keep showing up even on the hard days. Remember creativity requires discipline.


Never give up

Writing can be a lonely, tough road to take. Keep going, make writing your home. The only difference between the books that make it onto the shelves and those that got lost along the way? The perseverance of the writer.


You do not have to climb the mountain alone

Boy, do I wish someone had told me this when I was eighteen and had a very different perspective! “If you want something doing, you’re best doing it by yourself ” was my mantra then, but often this simply didn’t work for me. If you want more support, it’s out there, you just need to give yourself permission to find it. Head over to my insta for more support.

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A light reflection Writer Angela Dye

Photographer Joseph Turner

The North Foreland lighthouse has kept the town and its sailors safe since 1499. Angela Dye considers the symbolism and mythology of lighthouses throughout literature and history


inead O’Connor howls through the squalls, “You should have left the light on.” Can we trust, in this digital age, with an unmanned lighthouse, that boats, like love and whisky, won’t end up on the rocks? Our lighthouse, once the shepherdess of the ships, now more Dalek-like: these magnificent buildings no longer have eyes or heart. Broadstairs’ very own beacon stands alone. Imprisoned in lockdown in my tiny house, with a ravenous family of six who will eventually eat each other, I wound my way up those lighthouse stairs, like a ghostly anaconda. I would stare sharply, warn sailors of sirens, go gently and beautifully mad ‒ although I did not wish to die from a molten lamp pouring mercury down my throat as befell one keeper. It was a lovely dream. Elwin Hawthorne’s painting of the North Foreland has that strange light before a storm, with an unromantic view, a desolate prison watchtower. When Dickens wrote of lighthouses “built upon a distant reef of sunken rocks” he wasn’t talking of this, 85foot octagonal tower on a flat green, as seemingly useful as a set of traffic lights in the middle of a field, far from the road and the ditch. Since 1499 her flickering gaze has saved more men than she lost ‒ even with a silly single candle on a stick. She was bought by Greenwich Hospital to collect shipping taxes, to pay to save the gasping sailors thrown up barely breathing. Even recently in 2018 a yacht ran aground on the ten-mile sandbank known as the Ship Swallower. Not only are the gruesome waters

shallow, but their quicksand gobbles the ships after breaking them in half ‒ only just giving the sailor’s spirit time to possess the seagull, as old sea lore will tell you. These watery graves hold the highest density of heritage assets in UK waters, a 2015 report from Historic England claimed. Some wrecks are protected with special sovereign status. A bit like the Queen, who owns the seabed for twelve miles out. Tragically, ships sink as we are near a “safe” anchorage point called the Downs, a truer name than intended. A local resident, Claudia Waters (yes, that really is her name), said that it is a worry that perhaps more will sink. Would you ever get in a car solely operated by computer? Could you trust it to guide you, see that actual zebra in the road? Ships have to trust that the giant storms across the seas don’t bring the wi-fi down in Harwich HQ. It is still more reliable

than blowing bellows on the fires that keepers tended through the night ‒ until 1860, when alternating currents of electric light flew between the North and South Foreland lighthouses. John Buchan’s The Thirty Nine Steps had his protagonists fail to escape in these treacherous waters. How did the guardians of the sea escape boredom? Goodreads lists 24 “lighthouse” books: keepers steal floating babies, commit murder, drown, go insane from lead poisoning or, as the last lighthousekeeper said, radio friends all around the world, embroider and make lace. On 26 September 1998, the last six keepers said goodbye to the quiet life and went home to their families. The job offered £27,000 a year, which, unless one is ordering loads of goods from Amazon ‒ unlikely, given all the stairs ‒ is a decent wage with a good pension. No degree required, child-care vouchers part of

the package ‒ if you ever had time or space to make children. In Virginia Woolf ’s exploration of loneliness and the human mind, To The Lighthouse, she writes a stream of consciousness, to remind us of the stability of objects in a fluctuating world. Today lighthouses are one of those rock-solid stabilities. As ships are repelled from them, we are drawn to them. No longer a romantic venture, it’s all about the gold. Trinity House, the owners, have saved £5 million by going auto: the telescope and barometer sadly sold to a museum. Sinead was wrong when she screamed, “And the door wasn’t closed.” It is now, save for an occasional cleaner. The lady of the sea has to have clean lamps. You cannot climb those magical steps, but you can book and pay to crash out in the keeper’s cottages to make your own light and stories.


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The seriousness they call life Writer

Alice Olivia Scarlett


t was a slow, sleepy, dusty day, and the girl was walking in St Peter’s churchyard. She’d been coming there since the beginning of the year, and she had seen the ground harden from grey mud to brown earth, the tangled brambles soften with wild roses and the sudden flash of scarlet poppies, bright white daisies growing tall in the long overgrown grass that hid the paths and trailed over the older gravestones that had fallen or crumbled with age and weather. The girl was there with her neighbour’s dog Bailey, a wild and exuberant ball of black curls, who was currently studying a patch of buttercups shining at the base of one of the stone angels in the very heart of the graveyard. The girl watched the dog, then looked up at the angel’s weathered face, which was tipped back, watching the brilliant summer sky with an attitude of serenity that the girl found intensely irritating. She thought about spitting on it, then she thought about toppling it over and watching it smash against the ground, artistry and grief brought to nothing in a few seconds. That would be a metaphor, after all, wouldn’t it; ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Everything is worthless. “That’s not what it means.” The woman hadn’t approached her as much as appeared before her, leaning against a nearby headstone as

though she’d been there for hours. The girl didn’t startle, but was dully aware that once upon a time she would have. She was dully aware of most things that happened to her now. The only thing with any edge to it was the anger chewing on its claws inside her. She searched for a response and eventually dredged up “Yeah?” from that part of her that continued to smile at retail assistants and thank bus drivers. The woman nodded at the angel. “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. It doesn’t mean that everything is worthless.” Bailey came to her with wagging tail, and the woman bent and offered him her hand. Bailey carefully sniffed her knuckles and wagged his tail in approval. “I didn’t say everything was worthless.” “Because it’s not, you know.” The girl let the words sit in her mind for a moment, feeling them seep into her like a boot into dirt. She was very tired. “It is a bit, though.” The woman shrugged. “Okay.” “It is. Or it’s pointless, at least.” “Because…” “Because it is.” The girl felt the anger uncoiling inside her, ready to pounce. The unfamiliar sensation of emotion motivating her body was like drinking ice water on a hot day; it shocked through her and she could have wept for joy at feeling something, even if it was the desire to destroy this stranger who thought they could stand in front of her and tell her that life meant something as though she was in a

Robin Williams film. “And that bothers you.” The girl made a fierce promise to herself that she would not cry. “Yes.” “Because…” “Because life should not be this hard.” “Because life should be easy.” The girl shot her a swift, savage look. “And that makes me young and naïve?” “Not necessarily.” “But you think I’m stupid. For wanting life to not be painful.” “If you want a life without pain, you’re in the right place.” The woman cheerfully patted the headstone she leaned against. “Because if you really wanted that, you’d be dead. A life without pain isn’t real.” “So this is it, then.” The girl’s anger vanished as potently as it had arrived, leaving her dull and grey again. “This is all there is.” “Yeah.” The woman looked at her oddly. “This is everything there is.” She looked past the girl, and the girl turned to follow her gaze, taking in the long dry grass, the daisies, the carved messages of love on heavy headstones freckled with golden lichen; and soaring overhead, the weightless pressure of the brilliant sky.

“I don’t want it,” the girl whispered. “Don’t you?” “I don’t want… It’s complicated.” The woman pushed off from the headstone and stretched. Bailey looked up at her eagerly, waiting for something exciting, and she shook her head at him. She made a movement toward the girl as though to touch her face, press her shoulder, stroke back her hair; and the girl flinched, desperately wanting but suddenly terrified. “Tell the doctor what happened,” the woman said. “You don’t have to tell your mum. But tell someone.” “I thought life was pain.” The girl’s voice was an ache. “That’s why we have doctors.” The woman pulled a face. “That’s why we have each other.” She touched Bailey’s head, and walked away back toward the path. The girl tried to watch her go, but the woman didn’t leave so much as her presence thinned and grew fainter with each step until finally there was only a memory of her on the pollenscented air. The girl stood very still, her hand clenched around the phone in her pocket, Bailey and the stone angel watching to see what she would do next.

He dreams of ants Writer

Barry Fentiman Hall In sleep he sinks below the surface of his bed of leaves, electric in his dreams, such heat rises envelopes, makes it hard to breathe equatorial clicks and songs call out for mates making music unintelligible to human ears, but sweet still, surfing on pure sound he lets the swamp earth take him, binding under shade of Kapok, consuming, heart beating, slowing, as the steps of a man becoming lost in the forest do, losing faith, accepting fate, rare light plashes random like being inside a migraine falling hot as anvil sparks on deep green matter that beds him and enters him and he feels them coming, their feet within him marching, a union of bullet and fire ordering, rejigging, fizzing beneath his hide, activating digits, operative golem all eyes are one eye, ommatidia reality, pinhole image, conjures death vision sudden alarm provokes sting, embedded nails in flesh, sun hot, legs shot from under, bright metal to the bone shocks awake, shrugs off damp tropics in the shape of winter blankets, bones bagged and bruised, fingers twitch, a fever memory of ants prickle under skin...

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Small wonders Writer Selena Schleh

Images courtesy of Lana Arkhi

Russian-born, Broadstairs-based artist Lana Arkhi talks about her journey from painting political murals to crafting exquisite ceramic miniatures, and why she believes everyone can make art

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How did you become an artist? Were you interested in art from a young age? Growing up in Moscow, my earliest memory was drawing a horse aged four and struggling to get the legs right. I think I inherited my artistic genes from my dad: he owned a building company but his hobby was metal embossing. I was always fascinated by the little tools. At 15, I went to art college and began my artistic career painting huge, often political murals in schools and universities across the former USSR. There were no computers or printers at that time, so instead of posters we painted on the walls. After college, I studied arts and crafts at the Moscow University of Lenin and became an art teacher. Now I am a member of the Royal Society of Miniature Painters, Sculptors and Gravers.

You’re known for your awardwinning ceramic miniatures. What’s your favourite medium to work in and why? I first started working with traditional blue and white Gzhel porcelain, in the studio of a famous Russian ceramicist. Traditional Russian folk art is very simplistic, so when I’d learned the technique and style I opened my own studio to focus on smaller, more detailed pieces. I’m very patient: I can sit for hours painting tiny details, and I fell in love with that aspect of ceramics. I don’t use a potter’s wheel: my miniatures are made from liquid clay poured into plaster [moulds] which I made specially in Russia. For my other ceramics, like cups and teapots, I buy ready-made moulds from Stokeon-Trent. That way, I can devote more time to painting them: I use very thin “000” brushes and ceramic pigments, and then fire them in the kiln. Of course, I’m not only a ceramics artist: I work in many different mediums and styles, from watercolours to acrylics, oils and pastels in both realistic and abstract forms.

What inspires your work? Tell us about some of your favourite pieces. Some of my ceramic pieces, like “The City”, are inspired by memories of my life in Russia and the incredible architecture. “The Family” doesn’t represent any family in particular, although some people think it’s a Russian royal family and others look at little details, like the corgi and the

► The City by Lana Arkhi


handbag, and think of the Queen. Each piece took six months to finish, and the family is still growing. I’m making new figurines for an exhibition at the Royal Miniature Society in London this year.

“For many years I daydreamed about living in a small town by the sea...”

Now that I live in Broadstairs, I paint a lot of local landscapes. I’m inspired by nature and animals in general, but I do have a particular love of hedgehogs ‒ there are hedgehog [memorabilia] everywhere in my home!

What brought you to Broadstairs? For many years I daydreamed about living in a small town by the sea, and after I moved to England from Russia, I visited a friend here. When I saw Broadstairs I thought, this is my place. I’ve been here for six years. My studio and gallery are only a few minutes’ walk away, so it’s perfect.

What do you cover in your Kent Talents art classes and can anyone learn to draw and paint? At the moment, I teach around 40 students: adults and children


[from five years upwards]. We cover practical techniques ‒ how to draw, how to use different materials like watercolours, acrylics or pastels ‒ and also some theory. We also study different artists: Monet, Van Gogh, Kandinsky and Dürer. And styles, such as the traditional Russian art on matryoshka dolls, as well as themes like wild nature, where we’ll paint animals or landscapes. I have some very talented students. One girl’s work was accepted to a young artists’ exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art last year. But many people who come to my classes tell me they can’t even draw a line. However I believe everyone can “do” art. When you first start drawing, it’s important to try out different techniques. Then, when you gain confidence, you can develop your own style.

For more information about art classes or commissions, visit


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MEET A NEIGHBOUR: John of the Rotary Club Writer John Reid

Images courtesy of John Reid

The Rotary Club is renowned for its commitment to great charitable causes. John Reid gives us an insider’s view


came to Broadstairs in 1982. I wasn’t born in Thanet but moved here in 1948, aged 6. I can think of no better place to live. All this and Rotary too. There are several Rotary clubs on the Island and, within a couple of years, I had joined the Westgate and Birchington club, which met at lunchtimes. This was fine, until my job took me to London and I could no longer get to meetings. I had the good fortune to meet a member of the very newly formed Rotary Club of Thanet, who suggested I come along to their evening meetings. I was immediately made to feel very much at home and became club president in 1989. We are a bunch of 30 or so likeminded professional people from the private and public sector. My wife says that we are more like a family than a club, and we are certainly friends. We raise funds, support the community and enjoy every minute. In “normal times “, we meet on Mondays for a meal at the Royal Temple Yacht Club in Ramsgate. But of course, Covid has severely restricted our meetings. Until March last year, few of us had ever heard of Zoom, but now we rely on it to get together virtually. We’ve been putting some of the money which would have been spent on dining towards a special fund to help Thanet people respond to Covid. So far, we have given out more than £11,000 from this fund and from the club’s own charitable Cinderella fund. We took advantage of the relaxation of restrictions in the summer to organise our second annual sponsored walk to raise funds for causes which are close to our hearts. This has raised over £11,000 over two years, thanks to the generosity of Thanet people. I am proud of our partnership with Jan Collins MBE at Millmead Children’s Centre, which does such

Rotary Club Broadstairs sponsored walk to Reculver, 2020

great work with young families. For many years, thanks to the admirable Michael Wheatley Ward at the Sarah Thorne Theatre, the families have been our guests for the Christmas pantomime. And then there is the annual concert by the Broadstairs and St Peter’s Concert Band, who for ten years have entertained our elderly guests. We’ve had great nights with wonderful playing by this mix of former professional and amateur players. And I love the finale, when I have the excuse to belt out “Rule Britannia” and “Jerusalem”. The last year must have been tough for the band, but I hope that they can come through and help us all lift the roof in a renewed celebration of life. So, all back to the Pavilion, Frank Thorley’s place, just as soon as we can. And since I am name dropping, what about the late Sir Henry Cooper ‒ “our Enery” ‒ who was twice our guest at the boxing event which we helped organise at the Winter Gardens and which over 14 years raised some £400,000 for local causes. We are an international movement and have raised lots of funds to end polio, which persists now in only two countries. Our club has supported other projects in Africa and south east Asia. And our latest venture has been to collaborate with a number of French and Belgium clubs in the provision of eye treatments for the people of Cambodia. We have particular ties with clubs in Comines in Belgian and Bourbourg in France. We have developed strong friendships and we are never slow to socialise, home and away.

I hope that if any of this is of interest to readers, they will check us out at then get in touch

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The little free library Writer Melissa Todd

Images courtesy of Kerry Millett

Melissa Todd encounters Pierremont Park’s own Alice-sized reading room, and the team behind it


he little free library concept, like every great concept, is brilliant in its simplicity. Erect a sturdy waterproof box ‒ often shaped like an old American schoolhouse, although some look like a Tardis, a spaceship, or a fridge ‒ and fill it with books you’ve read and enjoyed; then invite others to take something they fancy, and if they choose, leave something behind. There are no rules or stamps or opening hours, no admonitions to hush. Keep the book as long as you please, or pass it on to a friend. “It’s a chance of virtual human contact that doesn’t involve a screen,” says Kerry Millett, chair of Broadstairs Town Team, a group of volunteers who work together to make Broadstairs even better. “And they’ve been far too rare these last few months. My 87-yearold dad loves it. Usually he visits once a week to see what’s new, take books back and get something fresh. It gives a walk in the park additional value, and means the pleasure and benefits of that walk will last longer too. The randomness and serendipity of the selection, and wondering who chose to leave that particular book for strangers, what it might have meant to them, is all part of the joy.” Originally established in Wisconsin twelve years ago, there are now more than 100,000 little free libraries worldwide, in 91 different countries, and now eight in Thanet. Many of these are in private gardens, but it was always Broadstairs Town Team’s dream to have one accessible to everyone - ideally in Pierremont Park, given its proximity to the High Street and the footfall resulting from its boasting Broadstairs’ biggest children’s play area. Chris Bashford designed and made the box, alongside Peter Stockwell, both members of the Shed. This is another Broadstairs Town Team

initiative, a space in Oakwood industrial estate used by older people to socialise, develop practical skills, and work on woodwork and metalwork- based projects which benefit the community. They crafted double-sided, schoolhouse-shaped shelves, boasting front and rear access, so adult’s and children’s books can be separated, and parents can browse opposite their children. Once built, the box sat in storage at the Shed for many months, looking for a safe and appropriate permanent home.

“My 87-yearold dad loves it. Usually he visits once a week to see what’s new” The transfer of Pierremont Park from Thanet District Council to Broadstairs Town Council, along with some new town councillors keen to work with community groups, gave them the opportunity they needed. Volunteers from the Shed, Town Team and TDC’s tree warden worked together to prepare the ground, dig the hole, pour the concrete, install its post… And on 4 November last year, at a well-attended ceremony, Pierremont Park’s own little library came into being. The Town Team advertised for “library custodians”, volunteers passionate about reading, who take turns to visit every other day,

ensuring the library is well stocked with a variety of literature, fiction and non-fiction, and that all new donations are sanitised. The library can hold around 20-30 adult books, and perhaps 50 for children. The team have received plentiful donations and the stock changes constantly. It’s a glorious way to encourage reading, but also human interaction, if only in the imagination. You can share something that was valuable and useful to you, the joy a new book can bring, like extending a virtual helping hand.

Kerry adds: “Bradstonians are borrowing books, reading them, adding their own books in turn and talking about them to their friends. We’ve made provision for wear, tear and repair to keep the library sustainable for everyone, and it’s worked. People love it.” As soon as the Shed is permitted to open, commissions for more little libraries for shared spaces, and other community projects in and around Broadstairs will be very happily accepted.

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Murder on Harbour Street Writer Martin Charlton

Illustrator Kyle Llewllyn Roberts

Edwardian Broadstairs was stunned when Sonia Ramsay’s battered and bloodied body was discovered at the Harbour Street café


t was Friday afternoon, 3 June 1927, and the tiny recreation room at Broadstairs Police Station was crowded almost to the point of suffocation. In addition to the jurymen, the only other persons present at the coroner’s inquest into the death of Mrs Sonia Ramsay, aged 36, were the witnesses and journalists. So limited was the accommodation that some members of the press were compelled to kneel on the floor. There was no room for the general public. With pens poised the small army of reporters waited for the proceedings to begin. No doubt some were attending because Sonia’s older sister was the famous novelist Louise Heilgers. Two days earlier, on a bright sunny Wednesday morning, Sonia’s battered body had been found in an upstairs room of the café which she ran with Charles Robinson. The gruesome discovery was made by her mother, Mrs Heilgers. She had gone to the café after realising Sonia hadn’t returned home the previous night. In some respects the murder of Sonia Ramsay began during the first world war. Her husband David, a former flying officer in the Royal Flying Corps (forerunner to the RAF), was crippled in a plane crash. The couple had met in Folkestone in 1908 and married in Fulham in 1910. By the time they moved to Broadstairs in 1924 they had three sons between the ages of six and twelve. Described as petite and having a vivacious spirit, Sonia had been raised in India but loved all things oriental. ►




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Mr Todd’s brain press-ups

She opened the Chinese Lantern Café, situated on Harbour Street, during early summer of 1926. The interior was lavishly decorated with Chinese dragons on the walls and scarlet lanterns hanging from a gaudily painted ceiling. Dressed in traditional silk robes and with her hair suitably styled, Sonia would flit between tables with flair and elegance. Charles Robinson, by contrast, was “a very reserved sort of man”. At the inquest into his death, held at Ramsgate Town Hall on the same day as Sonia’s, he was described as a “most able and entertaining conversationalist”, but that had been before the 54-year-old’s nervous breakdown. A qualified nurse and masseur, he was originally employed to look after David Ramsay but, as Mrs Heilgers explained, he wanted more: “He soon tried to rule the household… took his meals with the family… and from the start he began to take liberties.” Robinson also developed an unhealthy obsession towards Sonia. He once asked if he could accompany her dancing but she refused. Feeling rejected, Robinson’s mental state grew erratic. He would fly into violent rages, and moments later drop to his knees at Sonia’s feet and beg her forgiveness. He objected to her choice of friends, to her attending dance halls, and more than once threatened to kill her. Sonia never took these threats seriously. To add to the tension, the café was also in serious financial trouble.

Robinson had sunk his entire savings, £150 (about £9,485 today), into the venture, but, according to the Thanet Advertiser, Sonia’s “love of fine clothes” was ruining the business. When police surveyed the crime scene they found Sonia’s body on the floor. A bedsheet covered her head and shoulders. The room showed signs of a violent struggle and blood spattered the walls. She had been bludgeoned to death. A towel was also found tied around her neck. Bloody footprints led to a room opposite. There police found a blood-stained suit, a pair of shoes (the soles caked in dried blood), a bloody hammer and an eight-page confession. A description of Robinson was issued. He was found the following day lying unconscious among bushes at North Foreland, having swallowed an unidentified corrosive substance. He was quickly admitted to Ramsgate General Hospital but died shortly after. At the coroner’s inquest it was discovered that his actual name was John William Robinson. He had left his wife and children shortly after being employed by the Ramsays. His daughter Constance told the inquiry how his sister had, some five years earlier, committed filicide and then suicide. When asked about her father’s general mood, she replied that before his breakdown he’d always been a devoted father and loving husband. A verdict of “suicide while of unsound mind” was return at the Ramsgate inquest, and “wilful murder” in Broadstairs.


Real name of author featured in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s most prolific, with an estimated 100 million words written, resident of Kingsgate 7,8


Longest running British comic, first published in July 1938, featuring Lord Snooty and Biffo the Bear 3,5


Fictional chappie, protagonist of Peaky Blinders 3,6


Puppet able to extend his arm but not his career, as his TV show lasted only from 1957-59 7

12 Jamaican music that preceded reggae, of which island inhabitants insisted it was not calypso 5 13 Discontinued chocolate biscuit, the consumption of which assured you that you could “stand it” 6 14 River whose name is derived from the Welsh word for river 4 15 Wonderful jazz pianist and band leader born in Alabama, but who claimed to be from Saturn 3,2 16 Dr Crippen’s mistress 5,2,4


Hair accessory named for Miss Liddell who went through the looking glass 5,4


Strictly judge and winner of the one-off New Year Taskmaster 7.6


Former Scottish goalie whose middle name is Primrose 3,6


Lancashire lass who plays Chloe Atkinson in Emmerdale 3,7


Comedian who unaccountably failed to chart in 1962 with the song My Brother 5,5

10 Canadian author of Connecting Dors and Nomad Girl, featured in this magazine 5,3 11 Hilarious US comic strip created by Sergeant George Baker during WWII 3,4

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Whether you’re in search of help with household tasks, eager for tasty treats, seeking a gift for someone special, or ready to relax on a yoga mat, you can trust a local, independent business to meet your needs

LOVELYS provides a bespoke picture-

framing service, gallery, exhibitions, art supplies, gifts and cards. You can visit us at 248 Northdown Road, Cliftonville, or our website: where you can order art supplies for delivery or click and collect. Framing consultations are by appointment only. Email: caroline@lovelysgallery. Phone: 01843 292757 Instagram: @lovelysgallery Facebook: Lovelys Gallery

D C BLACK DECORATORS is a SquirrelARTS is a community hub

for all types of artists. We run art workshops across different media disciplines, family workshops, and one-to-one teaching. Drop in and have a cuppa, relax, make art, meet with friends and see our exhibiting artists! Our facilities are also available for hire.

trusted, high-quality, fully insured, painter and decorator, with over 30 years professional experience, specialising in hanging high end wall papers. You can check out some of our work on our Instagram @therockindecorator Checkatrade ID: 861616 Phone: 01843 447798 Mobile: 07970 333612 Email: Website:


£15.00 per hour – one cleaner / £20 to Covid clean and fog a taxi/car We provide: • End of tenancy cleans • Gyms/spas/hot tubs • Remove rubbish/waste, fully licensed • Children’s play areas • Fogging (price on quote) • Fully insured (up to £2 million) • Trained in Covid-cleaning Products supplied Call Kyla on 07516 282608


Based in Margate, RECOVERED BY OLLIE provides quality bespoke upholstery services utilising both traditional and modern upholstery techniques for domestic, trade and commercial clients. Please contact via email for a free quotation.

PIE FACTORY is a unique exhibition


Instagram: @piefactorymargate Facebook: Pie Factory Margate Website:

Insta: @RecoveredByOllie Tel: 07789 720 477

space in Margate Old Town, specialising in a broad range of weekly exhibitions. For current exhibitors and for details on hiring the space at competitive rates, please check our website or social media.


complete printing service from design to delivery with a team of highly experienced designers, printers and print finishers. Your friendly local printer offering quality print and exhibition services. Claim 10% off with this advert (excludes online purchases). Telephone: 01843 220200 Email: enquiries@truprintmedia.

Fifty-three-year-old family run patisserie, bakery and retro coffee shop. Freshly baked bread, croissants and Danish, tortes, fresh cream cakes and savouries daily. Celebration cakes made to order. Tel: 01843 221227 FB: @BatchelorsPatisserie Instagram @batchelorspatisseri (no 'e' on the end)

Professional picture-framing and mount-cutting in Birchington. Visit us for unique handmade gifts and unusual greeting cards. Passport/ driving licence photo service verified with HM Passport Office, or print off your photos on our excellent quality printers.

facebook.combirchingtonframing/ 07980949954

An open and friendly yoga studio, welcoming beginners to more experienced. Join our yoga community for classes workshops and teacher trainings. In studio and live stream. @margateyogastudio

love local love local

love local love local

love local love local

love local love local