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RAMSGATE Spring 2021



Modern-day Seaside Stories






Meet the mystery street artist: Mr Tear Gas

A walk through Ellington’s history and renewal

Newington Big Local’s new chef

The benefits of cold water swimming


ramsgate recorder




Editor Lila Allen


Sub-editor John Murphy

Founder & Editor-in-Chief

Welcome to our spring issue!

Clare Freeman

Co-founder & Advertising director Jen Brammer

Publishing assistant Emilia Fuller

Design director Lizzy Tweedale

Social media manager



From the Editor Lila Allen


encourage you to close this magazine, just for a moment, and look at the cover. Really look at it. Of course, I would say that. I spend a lot of time considering the cover of every issue. But this is something different. An exclusive collaboration with the elusive artist Mr Tear Gas. I still don’t know his real name, but that is part of the universality of the message. It is not about a single artist but an invitation to us all to step through a door into an unknown future; to think about the people we are as we go through, and the people we will be as we emerge blinking in the light on the other side. Covid, and everything it has brought with it, has changed us individually and collectively. Ramsgate does not look the same, but isn’t the sand and the ocean beyond eternal, and, as Mr Tear Gas in his interview suggests, there for us all? There is hope in that idea, and this issue reflects that message. Towns change, and a walk along our high street certainly shows that. There is no denying these are difficult times, with many challenges facing us all, but there are positive developments too. In this issue we hear from people bringing new ideas to Ramsgate: a new museum celebrating the synth in surprising guises, a new yoga

studio and café, a newly renovated heritage building ready for its next tenants, a host of new spaces (and old) giving Ramsgate creatives and small businesses new opportunities, and a newly regenerated Ellington Park. Mr Tear Gas’s invitation sees us all stepping into a new future Ramsgate. What exactly lies ahead is still uncertain, but the door is open. Finally, I want to pay tribute to Dominic Grant, who we featured in the last issue of the Recorder. Very sadly, and suddenly, Dominic passed away in November. In the summer he talked to us about his grand project which he was close to completing: a statue of King George IV, sculpted in his Arch20 studio. Dominic had great ambitions for his gift to Ramsgate, giving his time and talent for free, and those plans continue with a team looking to raise £60,000 to have the statue bronzed and installed on the seafront. Dominic was a remarkably talented man, not just an accomplished sculptor, but also a highly successful musician in the band Guys’n’Dolls, and most recently performing with his wife Julie as Grant & Forsyth. The statue, it is hoped, will be a lasting legacy to Dominic, and bring pride to the town which he so loved. You can donate at


Issue eight

sister publications


Spring 2021 - February to May

Kate Walters


Writers Russell Chater Gemma Dempsey Sean Farrell Andrew Flood Rachel Mills Laura Nickoll Emilia Ong Russ Pullen Keith Ross Kate Walters

Photographers Storme Sabine Ed Thompson

Illustrators Molly Pickle Jade Spranklen

cover image Ramsgreat on The Beach by Mr Tear Gas

Print Mortons Print

brightsidepublishing. com

Spring news and openings - what to

look forward to in Ramsgate this spring

Gemma’s Jaunts - our columnist is

feeling hopeful

Putting the great into Ramsgate -

Mr Tear Gas talks about his work popping up all over town

Meet Newington’s community cook the chef stirring up home cooking

12 Tidal high - meet the cold water swimmers: the Mermads 14 Everything but the kitchen synth exploring the soon to open Museum of Everything Else 16 Strike a pose - Union Yoga comes to Ramsgate 18 Meet the musician - from live music to documentary: jazz vocalist Sabina Desir 21 Watch this space - new places offering new spaces for Ramsgate’s creatives 24 Parks and recreation - a look at Ellington Park and its regeneration 26 Rescue renovation - inside the newly restored Celandine Hall 28 Unsung Heroes - dance teacher Heidi Moran, nominated by our competition winner, Millie, aged 11 30 Bird watch - meet Ramsgate’s ravens that helped give the town its name

Thanetians - Russ Pullen’s latest portrait in his series celebrating Ramsgate characters


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Published by Brightside Publishing Ltd © All rights reserved Copyright 2021

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Spring News and Openings Ramsgate in Bloom


hat magic word spring; it can’t help but put a bounce in the step, and even in these challenging times, Ramsgate has lots to keep us on our toes. The town has secured £2.7 million from the Government’s Future High Streets Fund, one of 72 areas in the country, which aims to revive the town centre and ensure sustainable growth. It is welcome news in a difficult time for businesses on the high street, but falls short of Thanet District Council’s original bid. How the money will be used will become clearer in coming weeks. You can keep up to date by visiting Congratulations to everyone involved in Ramsgate in Bloom who picked up a Silver Gilt Award in the South and South East in Bloom competition small seaside town category. Everyone will have benefited from the improvements to our shared environment, particularly as we spend so much time outside.


Gemma Dempsey

Ramsgate is gearing up for the competition in 2021 and looking for volunteers and new areas in the town to get involved. Find out more A welcome new kiddy heaven is Happily Ever Afters (66 High Street) offering sweet treats and gifts in store and to takeaway. They also organise kids’ themed TeePee parties, from wizard and unicorn-wishes to Minecraft. Find out about the magic at After a successful Crowdfunder, Union Ramsgate is pushing ahead with plans to turn the former Homebasics on Queen Street into a yoga studio and café. Founder Amie Evans has spoken to the Recorder about her vision on page 16. The renovation of Celandine Hall is reaching completion after two years of work saving this heritage building. How the space will be used will be decided soon, as the building looks for new tenants. Take a sneak peek on page 26.


Jade Spranklen

A dose of Ramsgate life from a lady about town


pring is on the horizon and we’re slowly climbing out of the abyss. Halle-freakinglujah! And as I wipe the web of winter from my eyes, I thought I’d reflect on my so-called Covid life. One thing I hadn’t expected to feel was hopeful on New Year’s Eve. While the vaccines were great news, numbers were on the up, and celebrating didn’t feel right. So, after a delicious curry (courtesy

The Ramsgate Arts Barge is getting off the ground with a hull survey complete and a feasibility study created by local architects del Renzio & del Renzio, both crucial milestones. You can support the project by donating at crowdfunder. or become a founding member with all funds going straight to the project ramsgateartsbarge. org/founding-membership With time all out of kilter, who wouldn’t want to see a panto in March? Looping the Loop is bringing Jack and the Beanstalk to four nominated streets, and up to 30 households, for a doorstep performance from a safe two-metre distance. Nominate your street and explain why it should win a free one-hour performance of this pantomime classic with its promise of a giant, a magically growing beanstalk and guaranteed panto laughs. We could all do with a bit

of the Chai Stop) with my bubble pal Helen, we decided to hit the hay. However at the stroke of midnight I could hear fireworks and lots of whooping on the Westcliff. FOMO began apace. I pulled some joggers over my PJs and ventured out with my dog, Lottie. Fortunately she’s not bothered by loud bangs, and by the time I’d pulled on my coat almost all had stopped. My first impression was one of stillness, both in terms of weather and lack of people. This surreal feeling was enhanced by the beautifully lit boats in the harbour twinkling in the post-pyrotechnic silence. I exchanged “Happy New Year!” with a few people along the way and found some other folk raising a toast behind Wetherspoons distanced but jovial. Lottie had a run around with Lucy the beagle. We walked back with a neighbour we chanced upon, who’d seen coloured explosions in the sky from Ramsgate to Deal. I was glad I’d got out of bed, and came home feeling a sense of hope; that no matter what life throws at us we can adapt and make the most of it. Not that I’m being Pollyanna about the situation - it has been grim - but I’ve witnessed a huge generosity of spirit from the Ramsgate community throughout the pandemic. Cold-water swimming has become a thing of lockdown and I’ve surprised myself by continuing to have the occasional dip through winter. Some of my fellow Mermads go every day - swimming caps off to them! While the swim is exhilarating, I also really enjoy screaming at the top of my lungs as I inch into the chilly depths - my own version of scream therapy. I think Yoko Ono would approve. And while I’ve missed being able to hug and commune without fear, I’ve been comforted by the embrace of the sea and the encouragement and swimming bravura of my community of swimming friends.


of that! loopingtheloopfestival. Also from March (24 March 7 April), Art Under £100 is back (restrictions allowing). For the third year running Nice Things (19-21 Harbour Street) and York Street Gallery (22 York Street) are teaming up to curate a show of works priced at £100 and under with proceeds going to the artist. Keep an eye on the East Cliff bandstand which could soon play host to an installation, Beacon, proposed by Margate’s Turner Contemporary and designed by local schoolchildren working with worldrenowned artist Conrad Shawcross. The artwork takes the form of four galvanised steel poles each with a steel disc on top, which visitors will be invited to turn using a handle. If granted planning permission, the work will be mounted in spring for a year. POW! has remiganined the 2021 festival as a series of online events and window displays hosting a live stream throughout the weekend of 4-8 March. See the regularly updated line-up at With events still in plan and new places still opening, we hope this news has brought a spring to your step.

I didn’t think I’d like yoga via Zoom but I do. Tanveer, my yoga teacher, has people zooming in from around the world which makes me feel less isolated geographically. It’s a global event and we are all trying our best to get through it one asana at a time.

“I was glad I’d got out of bed, and came home feeling a sense of hope; that no matter what life throws at us we can adapt and make the most of it” My Italian friend, Livio, initially scoffed at the idea of a Zoom dinner. How could a one dimensional experience replicate being at a table surrounded by friends and delicious aromas? Well, it can’t, but for now I’ll settle for dinner with pals via my laptop until we’re allowed to gather in the flesh - won’t that be exciting! Stay safe and next time you read my column it will be SUMMER!


ramsgate recorder


Kate Walters

Images courtesy of Mr Tear Gas

Known only as Mr Tear Gas, a mystery street artist has been busy loudly proclaiming Ramsgate’s ‘Ramsgreatness’. You won’t find him on any social media (heck, even Banksy has an Instagram account!) He prefers to keep his identity secret. But in an exclusive collaboration, Mr Tear Gas has designed our front cover and here talks about his work and the message behind it



r Tear Gas’ latest message appeared overnight. Coming Soon!! Great Days was emblazoned across an empty building in Elms Avenue for just a matter of days before it was removed, but is just the kind of hopeful and playful work we’ve come to recognise in recent months from Ramgsate’s mystery street artist. His best known piece Ramsgreat, which was built from nine full-size doors and attached to the entrance of Royal Harbour car park last September, sparked hope and positivity for Ramsgate locals when they needed it most. The piece has since been photographed and sold as prints, greeting cards and even a tote bag. None of this was instigated by Mr Tear Gas, though he is happy Ramsgreat has stirred up local perceptions, and the doors have opened up more positive conversations about the town. Like most of his public works, Ramsgreat was unsolicited, but he is starting to receive some commissions. What inspires Mr Tear Gas is an opportunity to flip the script and challenge the status quo. At the time of his first Ramsgate piece in January 2020, Britain was leaving the EU and tensions were visible between communities. So the impetus came to say something positive and open. A simple message, Kindness, was installed on the hoardings at the old Pleasurama site in Ramsgate. The idea was to say something non-didactic and apolitical, which might invoke a sense of unity between people.

Say Yes to Something was another pre-Covid piece, which was attached to a dilapidated local pub. “People are so often defined by what they say no to, so I wanted to ask something different,” he explains. The openness of his message is a theme which runs through much of Mr Tear Gas’s work. At school, he felt stifled by the demand for ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ answers. But when a teacher assigned an essay asking him to simply ‘discuss’, Mr Tear Gas found a sense of flow. His work invites people from all backgrounds to question their beliefs and “complete the sentence” for themselves. Reaching a wide audience is important to Mr Tear Gas, who has inspired people with little experience of visual art to get involved with his installation process. Several pieces have been graffitied recently, but Mr Tear Gas sees this as evidence that his work is successfully reaching beyond the confines of a traditional art gallery. He has kept one “customised” object at home, to be re-imagined in a future project. Although he works in the shadows, and his installations are often put up without permission making them illegal, Mr Tear Gas is careful to ensure his art causes no damage to property, is safe for the public, and can be easily removed. His canvas of choice is often dilapidated buildings, which he feels he can re-energise with his positive messages. Superheroes Wear Masks, which was installed on the sidewall of a building close ►

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to the Kwik Fit garage, West Cliff Road, last December, was powerful and perhaps more didactic than his usual style. Mr Tear Gas wanted to celebrate the unseen heroes caring for the sick and elderly. “I also didn’t understand how mask-wearing was being seen as repressive when it’s the ultimate gesture of togetherness, and selflessness for the benefit of others,” he says. His anonymity, aside from questions of legality, adds to the roguish mystery surrounding Mr Tear Gas’s work, and embeds a sense of playfulness and discovery which is so vital to him. He admits Mr Tear Gas has also become a kind of personal avatar. “It gives me a freedom to experiment without judgement and removes some of the background chatter which comes from revealing oneself to the public,” he explains. Mr Tear Gas’s projects are made from found or re-used objects to reinforce his view that art doesn’t need to be expensive, inaccessible or harmful to the planet. His most recent piece, which was installed in February, took a small departure from this principle by incorporating a bold ‘Coming Soon!!’ sign made in

China. The piece, which read Coming Soon!! Great Days, was attached to the hoardings around Ramsgate’s Elms Club (previously a working men’s club), soon to be demolished and turned into flats.

It posed a question about what gentrification feels like in Ramsgate, how people interpret it. “For the regulars at Elms Club, they have lost something very real to them,” Mr Tear Gas says. “The sign from China

explores how external influences are shaping our town today.” His message could also be a timely reference to the end of lockdown, and perhaps a restoration of far-off freedoms lost in the months since the pandemic started. “There is no right or wrong way to interpret the work,” Mr Tear Gas stresses. As for many, the pandemic gave Mr Tear Gas an opportunity to stand still. “Having moved around a lot for work, I realised I didn’t really know what being home felt like,” he says. The Ramsgreat doors were intended to make people feel proud of their area. Before removing them in December, he repainted the doors to briefly read Christmas. The letters of Ramsgreat were also used to create light installations in the front windows of nine Ramsgate houses last October, celebrating home as a place of safety and comfort. Mr Tear Gas’s exclusive cover for the Ramsgate Recorder is a further invitation to think about what will happen next, to find a little positivity in the place we call home, where the beach is always open. It is an open door into a shared future, for which Mr Tear Gas has more plans. ■

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Meet Newington’s community cook Writer

Laura Nickoll

Photographer Storme Sabine

As household food budgets are squeezed tighter than ever, and the crisis of child food poverty is back in the headlines, the need for food heroes in our community couldn’t be greater. Ramsgate’s Newington Estate has an ace up its sleeve


n the spotless stainless-steel kitchen at Newington’s Community Centre, chef Mike Spackman and his culinary teammate Jason are packing up 100 portions of chilli con carne ready for local children to pick up when they leave school. Today Mike is in the thick of it, delivering on a nationwide Operation Kids at Christmas initiative to help target winter poverty, funded by the FareShare food charity and applied for by Newington’s Big Local project. In 2012 Ramsgate’s Newington Estate was awarded £1 million by the nationwide National Lottery-funded Big Local programme to set up a resident-led community development and outreach scheme. Cara Thorpe, who runs the Community Centre and is community development worker for Big Local, was working in the voluntary sector in Margate when the Lottery team visited, and she knew that winning the funding could change people’s perception of her home turf of Newington and enhance the lives of those who live there. National and local statistics see the ward ranked as one of Thanet’s most deprived areas, with high levels of unemployment and food poverty. The 54-acre Newington Estate was built on the north border of Ramsgate in the late 1940s, responding to a need

for housing following the second world war and the return of servicemen and women and evacuees. Cara has lived on the estate for decades: “We love it here. The buildings are solid, there’s lots of green space, a tight-knit community and outstanding schools… Yet Newington has been forgotten. People just pass through, as there are few reasons to stop, and it has earned a bad reputation over the years. But things have completely changed now. People look out for each other.” Managing Big Local’s team of local residents, she’s determined that Newington not be overlooked, and together they have established events such as the annual Best Fest arts festival on Newington Green, a Monday Chill Club for older children and teens, and created a woodland retreat, The Copse. Cara knows that tackling nutrition and bringing good food to the heart of the community is critical. “It’s upsetting, because for me it defies logic that any child should be hungry,” she says. Connecting with FareShare, a food redistribution charity, Cara set up a twice-weekly food club for local residents, selling £5 bags which provide enough food for at least four nutritious family meals, including a selection of tinned goods, cereal, fresh fruit and veg, meat and dairy products, all bought from FareShare

or donated by local producers. The first bags went out on 23 March 2020, coincidentally the first day of lockdown. Within a few months 120 families had signed up. Mike’s arrival a few months later couldn’t have been more timely, as the pandemic brought the reality of food poverty into focus. A former primary school teacher, Mike worked with Kent County Council in an early education advisory role and became increasingly concerned about children’s relationship with food and “fascinated with the principle of getting the best start”. He signed up for a Certificate in Professional Cookery at the former Thanet Catering College in Broadstairs (and achieved distinction), and took on consulting work at Sheppey Matters, a health and wellbeing charity on the Isle of Sheppey, initially to help them draw up plans for a community chef role. He ended up taking the job himself, leading a life-skills cookery programme focused on healthy eating, becoming renowned for his veg-packed paellas. Before long he was developing food education initiatives in children’s centres across Kent. “I was determined that people should work with real food and real equipment,” he explains. “The sharing of food as a family unit is vitally important.” His work took him to ►

We miss you all and hope to be open again soon! 17 Military Road Ramsgate CT11 9LG instagram: @archiveramsgate

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Mike’s turkey meatballs in tomato and fennel sauce This is a great recipe for introducing families to a less familiar alternative to beef mince, and the wonderful taste of fennel works so well with tomatoes. Try using the simple tomato sauce for other meals, such as pizza, or to make homemade baked beans. Children love getting involved in making the meatballs.

SERVES 4 500g turkey mince (or pork mince) 30g fresh white breadcrumbs 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Mike with the food truck on loan from Sheppey Matters

2 tbsp olive oil prisons, community centres, homeless shelters and Job Centres, and won him Cook of the Year at the 2017 BBC Radio Four’s National Food and Farming Awards, dubbed the “Oscars of the food world” by Jamie Oliver. “I almost fell off my chair when my name was read out,” He recalls. When the shock subsided he realised his work wasn’t done, and in 2020 took a two-year secondment from Sheppey Matters to join the team at Newington Big Local as their community cook. On food club days, Mike cooks taster pots of simple, hearty yet healthy dishes using ingredients from the bags, such as squash and lentil dhansak, and posts the recipe on Big Local’s Facebook page. The response has blown him away: people are discovering new flavours, getting excited about food (transforming a garlic refusenik to a garlic-lover fills him with pride) and realising that turning an ingredients list into something delicious and nutritious isn’t as daunting as it might seem. “It’s a lovely position for me... The more resistant people are, the quieter I say, ‘Let’s find another way,’” Mike says. “One way to start the conversation around food is to ask, what meals are you making? Then, what meals would you like to be making?” When gatherings are possible again he plans to create a community kitchen and get residents - particularly parents and children - cooking then eating together. He has ambitions to team up with Newington’s outstanding schools and work on counteracting nutritional and educational deficits in early years education. “Food needs to be an integral part of education, not a bolton. A good diet is key to the ability to learn,” he explains. Responding to the unexpected hardships caused by Covid has been Big Local’s main concern of late, but there’s a palpable sense of excitement

“The more resistant people are, the quieter I say, ‘Let’s find another way’” and anticipation about what’s next. Key to Big Local’s success is Newington residents adopting a sense of ownership over what the team do. The recent transfer of the centre to the residents as a community asset, enabling it to be used to raise funds for local projects and make Big Local selfsustaining, can only reinforce this. For Mike, the power of cooking to connect people should not be underestimated, and establishing a vibrant Ramsgate food culture - and inspiring and educating a new generation that can cook a good meal from scratch - is part of this long-term vision. Echoing the words of Allegra McEvedy, restaurateur and judge at the 2017 Food and Farming Awards, Cara, who won the Ramsgate’s Society’s Civic Champion Award in 2020, gives Newington’s chef top marks: “This man needs to be reproduced - the country needs lots of Mikes!”

Find out about Newington Big Local’s latest projects (and how you can get involved) at facebook. com/NewingtonBigLocal and

1 onion, chopped 1 or 2 carrots, diced 1 tsp fennel seeds 400g tin chopped tomatoes or plum tomatoes 1 tbsp tomato purée 200g dried spaghetti Salt and black pepper 1 Put the mince in a bowl with the breadcrumbs

and half the crushed garlic. Season and mix well to combine. Using your hands, shape the mixture into 12-16 balls, then chill for at least 10 minutes (chilling them helps them hold together when they cook). You can freeze the meatballs at this stage, if you like.

2 Meanwhile heat half the oil in a saucepan. Add

the onion, carrot and remaining garlic and cook for 5-6 minutes until softened. Add the fennel seeds and cook for a few seconds, then tip in the tomatoes (crush them with a fork if using plum tomatoes), fill the empty tin half-full with water and tip that into the pan too, stir in the tomato purée, season and simmer for 15 minutes until thickened.

3 While the sauce cooks, boil the spaghetti according to the packet instructions.

4 Heat the remaining oil in a non-stick frying pan and fry the meatballs for 8–10 minutes until cooked through (in batches if necessary, to avoid overcrowding the pan).

5 Blitz the sauce with a stick blender until smooth. 6 Drain the meatballs on kitchen paper then

transfer them to the sauce and simmer until piping hot. Serve with the cooked spaghetti.

TIP: if you have any bread going stale, blitz it in a food processor until it forms crumbs. You can keep these in the freezer to use in the meatballs above, coat meat or fish before frying, or fry in oil to add crunch to other dishes like mac and cheese.



Image by Sophia Schorr-Kon. The Mermads at Western Undercliff: Viv in the middle, Jane to her left


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Cold water, wild, or simply swimming: call it what you will there’s no denying Ramsgate’s waters are busier. The Mermads are a lockdown phenomenon, an online group with kit to loan so anyone can enjoy the benefits for brain and body. Lila Allen speaks to these Mermads about what gets them in the water

Dani Brock

Viv Yankah

Despite moving to Ramsgate 12 years ago, last summer was Dani’s first time in the sea. “I was never getting in... too cold!” he laughs. Now a cold water convert, he has been swimming through the winter. Dani says he has always struggled with his mental health, and began swimming when he was going through a rough patch last summer. His partner suggested getting in the sea. “I had all this nostalgia of being a kid,” he recalls. “The cold water shock was visceral, it engaged a part of my brain where everything else melted away, it was freeing, the fluidity of the water… I walked out with a smile on my face.” He hasn’t looked back, at first swimming once or twice a week for just a few minutes, slowly building up his confidence. There he met the Mermads and calls the group his “sea family”. Dani says he feels safer with other swimmers in the water, and enjoys seeing familiar faces, especially at a time when social interaction has

In the five years since Viv moved to Ramsgate, the town has made a mark on her and she on it. From her ceramic work inspired by the coast, slab-built and thrown forms incorporating the markings of stones or buoys with glazes and slips mimicking the reflective qualities of water, to starting up the Mermads group. Perhaps it is no surprise that Viv is “totally addicted” to sea swimming, but this will be her first winter doing it. The Mermads started up in lockdown, and Viv thinks the pandemic has been a motivator. “Things aren’t normal,” she says. “Swimming has been a lifesaver. It has brought a sense of normality, being at one with nature.” The popularity of the group suggests this need is shared. What began as a group of five women (the Mermaids) has grown to over 70 members today

RNLI SAFETY TIPS - Be prepared. Check the weather and tides, choose your spot, have the right equipment.

been discouraged. He now tries to swim three times a week, which he says is ideal. “I feel energised, engaged, my sleep has improved,” he explains. Each swim feels “like a rebirth”.

TOP TIP: “Don’t rush in, let your breathing steady. Always check the weather before you swim. High winds often result in larger breakers and strong currents. The water will always be there another day if it’s too rough.”

- Make sure you acclimatise to avoid cold water shock. - Be seen. Wear a bright coloured swim hat and take a tow float.

- Don’t swim alone if possible, and always tell someone where you are swimming.

- Stay within your depths.

- If in doubt, don’t go out. No matter how much preparation you do, or how experienced you are, if a swim doesn’t feel right there is no shame in getting out of the water straight away, or not entering.

- Swim for the amount of minutes equal to the sea temperature: if the sea is 4ºC then only swim for 4 minutes.

- Swim parallel to the shoreline not out to sea.

- Float to live. - Call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard in an emergency.

Jane Hetherington As a psychotherapist and supervisor of the University of Kent’s psychological services, Jane is well placed to extol the virtues of swimming on mental health. She has seen the devastating impact of the pandemic on people’s wellbeing with referrals skyrocketing. Swimming in the sea is something she recommends clients try, having enjoyed the benefits herself. As one of the Mermads’ founding members, Jane is swimming through the winter for the first time. “It’s addictive,” she explains, and leaves her with a “bracing

(changing its name to the inclusive Mermads), ensuring people can swim safely in (distanced) company, while sharing knowledge about the tides, sea conditions and even sewage overspills. “We’re a friendly group of people,” Viv says, “there’s no vanity.” So successful has it been that Viv applied for a KCC Members grant with the support of the Addington Street Community Group - from Ramsgate Kent county councillor Karen Constantine, to buy kit including socks, gloves and robes. These are distributed on a loan basis so anyone can swim through the cold months safely. To find out about joining the Mermads Whatsapp group email

TOP TIP: “For winter swimming, go into the sea slowly to acclimatise, then submerge. I’ve found this has made all the difference.”

sense of being alive”. In a time of social isolation, the group has been a way to meet new people, while respecting the guidelines around social-distancing. It has provided Jane with a focus for her day; a swim helping her to relax and feel a sense of achievement. She praises the benefits of getting in cold water as a mindful practice helping regulate breathing, much like meditation, and is quick to point out that the sea is a free facility, accessible to everyone for nothing.

TOP TIP: “Gloves and booties are essential in winter, and bring a hot drink.”

ramsgate recorder


Wendy Jones

Melanie King Overcoming fear is what brought Melanie to sea swimming. Originally from Manchester, and having always lived in cities, she moved to Thanet to see the night sky as part of a practise-based PhD in fine art. Her journey began with her fear of space. “Stars, time, space freak me out, but it’s also a fascination,” she explains. The ocean is similarly “vast whilst also teeming with life”. She first took to the water to understand why people swim in the sea. “I enjoyed it but also felt trepidation, just like I do in the dark.” The experience informed her work which is concerned with how landscapes affect us. Swimming in the sea, she says, is as immersed as you can get

in a landscape. “The landscape is literally touching your body,” she explains. “You are interacting with the minerals and sea creatures. It changes me… It jolts me into the present and I notice the natural landscape. It makes me happier, more focused.” Melanie has translated this physically into her work, using seaweed from the ocean to develop photographs in her Ramsgate studio. The work, she says, comes from her sensory experience, “my personal understanding of the ocean”.

“The sea has saved me,” says Wendy. Getting in can be tough, “you have to push yourself ”, but it has made her realise she can “overcome anything... be brave in this world”. Having conditioned her mind to find no excuses, her daily swim has left her feeling “amazing! I’m so surprised at myself ”. It is the first year she has swum in winter, and, in a year of lockdowns, the Mermads have ensured “you’re not on your own”. The experience has inspired her poetry:

I’m part of the sea And the sea is part of me No waves no foam Just a mill pond of my own A gentle stretch A frosted breath So quiet time stands still And I’m in the moment Right here right now My moment Taking up my space In the shores heavenly gift I drift And just for that moment There’s peace in my world

TOP TIP: “Use the opportunity to observe. Whether that is the seaweed, or the light of the sky reflecting on the sea. This promotes mindfulness, and may lead to unexpected ideas.” Pegwell Bay photographed and developed in seaweed developer by Melanie.


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Everything but the kitchen synth

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Andrew Flood

Images courtesy of Sam Battle

What do you do if you’re a musician with hoards of gadgets, storage at bursting point, and a penchant for inventing new instruments? If you’re Sam Battle you open the Museum of Everything Else

Sam Battle by Johnny Godard


hurch Hill is slowly evolving into Thanet’s own Museum Street. After securing the former Games Gallery from the Micro Museum at the beginning of 2020, Sam Battle has spent the last 12 months establishing the space as the soon-to-be Museum of Everything Else. Opening this year, once lockdown regulations allow, it will be a creative and interactive musical hub specialising in obsolete and experimental technology. Sam is not your average musician, inventor, Youtuber, producer, engineer, songwriter or Ted-talker. For the last five years he has operated under the alias of Look Mum No Computer, sharing his creative contraptions and musical machines with a wealth of online fans. “I got hold of this place just before lockdown,” Sam explains. He struck a deal over a drink in the pub with Carol and Mike Deer, owners of the Micro Museum, which houses the couple’s collection of early computer technology. They agreed Sam could take the adjacent site off their hands. “I’m a hoarder. This stuff was literally going to be sat in storage, it seemed a shame for it to gather dust and not be seen by people,” he says. Furby dolls may be a distant memory for most of us, a premillennium fad that struck fear into the National Security Agency in the US and felicity into the hearts of children worldwide. But to Sam, Furbies are very much alive throughout his museum, repurposed

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as cogs in his electronic instruments. The Furby Organ, which went viral when Sam demonstrated his invention a few years ago, amassing six million YouTube views, is a synthesiser containing a choir of 44 cuddly Furbies each with the ability to hold a note. Such is the loyalty of his fan base that through the artistfunding platform Patreon he was able to make the museum a reality. “I jokingly put the top donation amount on my Patreon to be to open a museum, never thinking I would get there. So I had to do it,” says Sam. I meet Sam at the museum one morning. Upon ringing the buzzer, he cheerfully emerges from behind an automatic swinging door of Gameboys. “Oh I’m going to build a new entrance bell with 16 buttons of different animal sounds,” he says excitedly. Inside I’m greeted by stacks of 1950s signal generators. “Nobody wanted them. I got them from universities and on eBay. I’ve been trying to collect enough to build a polyphonic synth out of them,” he explains. To my left a colossal synth measuring eight feet by 12 feet stares me down. “The first thing I thought was that I should build something interactive. I’ve always wanted to build a 1000 oscillator mega-drone, so I figured why not build it onto the wall?” he exclaims. This thing is monstrously intimidating in size, with its thousands of knobs and diodes glinting. On the opposite wall, a telegraph key mounted to the wall allows visitors to tap Morse code signals around the museum. Despite the relatively small size of the space, it is teeming with gadgets. There is an owl organ, a synth



HARBOUR BIKES bike, a “cat synth”, which Sam will be encouraging visitors to bring their cats to play on, a “Gameboy megamachine synth”, an interactive “synth jamming” area and glass cabinets full of instruments and equipment. “It’s going to be a constant work in progress, adding interactive features. We will be doing residencies where other people will come to build things here, other YouTubers,” he says. This space will inevitably be a valuable lure for the town with many knock-on effects for local business. “There has been quite a lot of interest actually. Worldwide, it may attract quite a few people who are into scientific tech and musical tech down to come see it. I get daily emails asking when it’s opening from people all over, some asking because they will need to plan a holiday around it for instance,” says Sam. The loyalty of his online fan base and their excitement and anticipation for the space is evident. But he is also very keen and aware of the need for the museum to become part of the community, a space to educate and create for all ages. “It will be a place of creation for people who want it,” he says. “Not everyone has played a synth before so there’s an opportunity for people to come and try for themselves.” He is particularly excited about the prospect of inspiring the next generation: “To organise school days for small groups, to be the place to come if your kid wants to get into engineering, science or even music. That would be really cool.”

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Strike a pose

Amie with her mentor David Michel, lead teacher trainer at Union Yoga

Images courtesy of Union Yoga

In the wake of the pandemic, our town centre is looking different and one of the biggest changes is the opening of a new yoga studio complete with café. Sean Farrell meets its founder, and asks if Union Yoga is the shape of things to come for Ramsgate


his year will see the transformation of one of Ramsgate’s longest established business premises in a move that could help energise the town centre. Homebasics on Queen Street closed for the last time in 2020 when owners Ivan and Pam Todd retired after running the homewares store for 26 years. The Todds had wanted to sell the business as a going concern but the building was bought by a local landlord and rented to Union Yoga who are transferring from Margate to Ramsgate. After moving to Thanet from her native Birmingham, Amie Evans opened Union at Margate’s Printworks building almost four years ago and has hosted thousands of yoga classes, training sessions for aspiring yoga teachers and creative events. Amie and her partner Sean Riddington settled in Ramsgate for its harbour, architecture and mellow vibe. When her business outgrew the space in Margate she decided to move to her adopted hometown. She has grand ambitions for Union Ramsgate and aims to open soon subject to Covid-19. As well as classes and teacher training, the building will house a wholefood café and a refillable food store. Amie also wants the building to be a focal point for events such as craft workshops, book and supper clubs and exhibitions. “Margate has been an incredible experience but we got to the point

where the space was too small for what we were doing and I thought I should be in Ramsgate, so it felt like the right move,” Amie explains. She has been on the lookout for the right space for a couple of years and when the Homebasics site came up she found what she was after. “The aim was always to open a destination place,” she says. “The space is terrifyingly big but I wanted somewhere we could grow into over the long term.” Converting the space according to plans drawn up by Sean, an architect, will cost at least £25,000. To finance the project Amie ran a Crowdfunder in late 2020 with a target of £10,000. By the time the Crowdfunder closed she had raised almost £19,000 from 232 supporters, indicating plenty of demand. Alex Middleton is joining Amie as the café’s kitchen manager, he was previously junior chef at Hantverk & Found in Margate, and brings an enthusiasm for organic, small-scale and local produce. Union have also teamed up with Curve Coffee who specialise in responsibly sourced beans, roasted locally in Margate. Ultimately Amie wants to convert the basement into therapy rooms with showers and a sauna as well as flexible workspace, though these plans will cost more. Union Ramsgate will launch in tough times, with strict Covid-19 restrictions in place and the economy predicted to get worse before it

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recovers. But Amie is undeterred. “I’m so confident,” she says. “I’ve been walking up and down the high street getting to know people for three years now and everyone has said, ‘I wish there was a... yoga studio in town.’ People said I was crazy to do the Crowdfunder because it’s such a difficult time, but I had faith in the project. At least 150 of the people who contributed I’ve never met before.” Yoga and healthy eating fit the bill for Ramsgate’s growing band of new arrivals, but Amie stresses Union is for the whole community. Existing students are a mix of ages, including a strong contingent of nurses, doctors and others from Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital. “I’m not cool and I’m not from an upbringing where it was normal to eat vegetarian food and practise yoga,” she says. “The whole point of yoga is allowing people to come together and feel better.” Amie has always offered free and discounted classes to those without a disposable income, a core principle of the business. Union could be a shot in the arm for the town centre, drawing more people in to support other businesses. The future of Britain’s high streets was a subject


for debate even before the Covid-19 crisis put extra pressure on Britain’s shops. Experts say town centres of the future will have fewer shops and more social and leisure venues. There is even a name - the experience economy - for people spending less money on physical stuff and more on meeting up, eating and keeping well. Rebekah Smith, chair of Ramsgate Town Team, says: “I’m delighted to see a space that was occupied by an independent business for almost 30 years be reoccupied so quickly, especially in these times. The high street has to adapt and that probably means it will become more experience-based and social.” Union could be a trailblazer for this shift, bringing footfall to the town and adding vibrancy. There is certainly plenty of enthusiasm in the community. “I still feel a bit speechless about how supportive people have been,” Amie says. “This town has something very special about it.”

For updates and to sign up for classes visit

Architect image by Sean Riddington

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Unable to tour, celebrated jazz vocalist Sabina Desir tells the Ramsgate Recorder about how she has found another way to bring her work to a wide audience. Freedom Road began as a live performance at Turner Contemporary telling the story of the civil rights movement through song, and has evolved into a forthcoming documentary film, transforming its creator with it How did you find your voice? I’ve only just arrived at a place where I can hear my voice without cringeing. It took a while before I felt I could rightfully claim I was a vocalist. So many elements impact on the voice: confidence, wellbeing, for me my emotional and spiritual state. My voice is and has always been a huge part of who I am and it continues to grow and evolve with me.

You also promote other jazz artists. How did the Jazz Sessions begin? As a contribution to Ramsgate’s music scene, I decided to bring mainly London-based international musicians to play in the intimate setting of Vinyl Head (now Eats’n’Beats). The nights were brilliant, great music across the spectrum of jazz. The opportunity came up to collaborate with Gulbenkian in Canterbury, which DJ Hooch (promoter, DJ and Ramsgate resident) and I did together. We welcomed some incredible artists: Camilla George, Jazz FM’s Instrumentalist of the Year 2019; Grammy award-winning saxophonist Jean Toussaint; Jessica Lauren’s Naga Five played our first show which was incredible, there was so much support from Thanet for that.

It has been an especially hard time for musicians. What was your last gig and how have you coped with not performing? It’s been incredibly hard with so many of us losing our income almost immediately. The last live gig I did was Freedom Road at Turner Contemporary as part of the POW! Festival in March 2020. Created with my frequent collaborator Jessica Lauren, we

produced an immersive performance using art from local artist Karen Vost and archive recordings of Angela Davis talks. Taking songs associated with the Black American civil rights movement, the performance looked at the narrative from a historical perspective and weaved the story around the music. We began working on the show before we knew about the We Will Walk exhibition at Turner Contemporary. When it opened (showcasing work by artists from Alabama and the surrounding states who lived through the civil rights struggle) it refocused us and influenced Freedom Road.

Freedom Road was performed just weeks before George Floyd was murdered. People took to the streets around the world and People Dem Collective organised marches against systemic racism in Thanet. Coming so closely together, how did this impact your work? It’s been shocking. We have been living within a system that favours one group above all others. To see this recognised globally and for people to come together to protest against systemic racism is powerful. We happened to be working on Freedom Road, and Jessica and I were already on emotional tenterhooks. We were raw from reading so much, immersing ourselves in the history, and had a heightened sense of awareness of the struggle. As a Black woman, creating a show about people that looked like me, experiencing this trauma through the work, it was difficult, and of course this wasn’t just historical: it was and is still going on. Then within a couple of weeks the very thing we were talking about happens again: someone else is murdered, only this particular killing is the one that makes the world sit up

Jessica Lauren and Sabina at Turner Contemporary by Inky Durant

and react. In the wake of all that was happening people kept asking me if I’d experienced racism. Of course I’ve experienced racism. My parents are part of the Windrush generation that were invited to help rebuild the country, and that generation experienced abhorrent racism. I am a child of the ’70s raised within the Black community in London. I had to respond, and the way we did that was to create a film where as artists we could comment using our talents. The film was shown online. My older son Taariq Forder is the narrator, and we had many conversations about how our lives and choices can make a difference. One of the things he said that stuck with me was that perhaps our job is to help create conversations that provoke the impetus to make a change in an individual, perhaps influence a change of mindset instead

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Phillips, Vanley Burke and Ashley Verse. The music is incredibly important and beautifully arranged by Jessica Lauren. We recorded Nina Simone’s ‘Mississippi Goddam’ for the film, which has a dynamic pace and energy. I’m looking forward to sharing trailers soon.

What does the future look like for you? I’m focused on establishing the production company and committed to producing projects that engage and entertain. The next six months will be spent wrapping up the film, screening it and hopefully setting it off on its journey. I’m working with the brilliant team at West Coast Kent CIC, Olby’s TV on a monthly chat-show In The Living Room with Sabina where I’ll be in conversation with interesting people from Thanet and beyond. That launches at Easter.

“The year that highlighted inequalities and social injustice, the year of renewed hope”

of being overwhelmed by changing the world. Everyone has the right to change, to do better once they know better. As Nina Simone said: “It’s an artist’s duty to reflect the times in which we live.”

What has been the response from audiences to Freedom Road and the film? It has been incredibly positive and supportive in the main. Our intention was to bring an informative, meaningful and perhaps educationally useful short film. With West Coast Kent CIC, based at Olby’s, Margate, being so forward-thinking and reconfiguring their space to create a recording and filming studio where it was possible to maintain social distance, we were able to express our Black British experience in response

to what we were seeing. This is not only a US, or UK story. It reflects global experiences.

You’ve now set up a production company and are working on a new film. Can you tell us about that? The company is called Freedom Road Project Ltd. I was inspired by my life’s experience and recent events to address historical disparities by creating projects and opportunities for artists, creatives and audiences. I successfully applied for Arts Council funding for the first phase of a film project. The saying “be the change you want to see” encapsulates how I feel about presenting projects with depth and heart rooted in stories that need to be shared. Representation is so important. When I was growing up, Black women in leadership positions

were barely visible. There have been improvements, no doubt, but we are not yet near anything resembling parity. Bringing together people of varied cultural backgrounds broadens the scope of work and gives voice to marginalised communities. I’m passionate about that. The arts documentary explores the Black British experience in contemporary times, looking at the direct influence events in the US had on the UK. It takes the viewer on a journey through discrimination, using music, dance, song, spoken word, and looks at the achievements of a community that have fought for equality for generations. The film features many US visual artists and photographers, including Dr Doris Derby, spanning the 1950s to today, alongside multi-generational UK photographers including Charlie

The Jazz Sessions will host a very special event at Gulbenkian later this year: a double-bill featuring The Jazz Ambassadors, a Peabody Awardwinning music documentary film, followed by an outstanding line-up in the shape of a nine-piece band playing music from the film composed by Ramsgate’s Michael J McEvoy.

How will you remember 2020? It will be the year that highlighted inequalities and social injustice, the year of renewed hope, and for me personally another year of gratitude for my family and friends.

You can keep up to date with Sabina’s work by following The Jazz Sessions: info.jazzsessions In the Living Room with Sabina: Look out for dates of a live show from Sabina and Jessica Lauren at Ramsgate Music Hall

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Laurent Delaye at Vinyl Head Gallery




Artist Margo McDaid aka Margo in Margate


Russell Chater

Something is happening: artists and small creative businesses are finding new places to exhibit and set up pop-up shops. We meet the people providing these sought-after spaces, and ask if Ramsgate’s creative scene is making it something of a destination Viv Yankah’s ‘Buoyed’ exhibition at 28 Addington Street


alking along Addington Street it is clear to see Ramsgate’s original high street is enjoying a revival. In between the enforced silences of lockdowns, the street has been buzzing. One of Ramsgate’s best known artists Margo McDaid, aka Margo in Margate, has opened her own shop, and there have a been a host of pop-up exhibitions, including ceramic artist Viv Yankah with her tactile creations inspired by the sea; photographer and artist Sophia Schorr-Kon exploring the erotic feminine through collage and a surreal lens; and a winter salon showing international works from a former London gallerist. Ramsgate’s established galleries have long supported local creatives, while projects like the Ramsgate Arts Barge will hopefully play a huge role. Although pop-ups are nothing new,

there is a sense that the increase in new spaces could herald a more lasting creative scene. Humberto ‘Humbi’ Sanjurjo is the owner of Vinyl Head record shop and the adjacent gallery which opened in 2014. Although he is shortly planning to expand his record shop into the gallery, many creatives have benefited from it. A couple of doors down, Margo McDaid has opened a shop. She exhibited at Vinyl Head gallery, finding it an invaluable testing ground, and took over running the space for almost two years. The hire fee was kept low. Margo took no profit, wanting to help promote fellow creatives. Although the bulk of her own sales are online, she has close to 50,000 followers on Instagram with customers around the world, Margo is aware of the power of place: her brand name Margo in Margate attests to this. She

has now taken on a year-long lease and intends to extend it, explaining that a physical shop provides valuable space to work, store and test displays, and to “meet people and get feedback”. Illustrator Molly Pickle, of Molly Pickle Design, and Dani Woolley of Push Design Store, offering sustainable illustrated home décor and children’s clothes, reiterate the value of a physical space alongside online platforms. Both have benefited from pop-ups at Vinyl Head gallery and are now seeking permanent shops. Margo believes it is “independent and small businesses who can adapt to change” that will ultimately revive high streets. Buyers want to see “the fingerprint of the maker”, she says. Former Mayfair gallerist Laurent Delaye recently moved to Ramsgate with his partner Clare Bradley, and staged two exhibitions, including a winter salon, at Vinyl Head gallery

last year. Laurent brings a wealth of experience and the ability to attract international artists and audiences. In London he ran an “experimental programme of young unknown artists”, many of whom have become famous, including Grayson Perry. A specialist in post-war British Constructivist art, Laurent has organised major institutional shows in Brazil and Britain, and worked with a number of top private collectors as an advisor, continuously defending the avant-garde. Laurent acknowledges Ramsgate’s potential: the breadth of talent quietly working away, and residents very much invested in the town. The success of his pop-ups has inspired him to invest, and he is looking for a permanent gallery space. “The distinction between local and international artists does not really exist in my mind,” explains Laurent. ►



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The Front Room, Bellevue Road

“A local artist can have an international career. If we are the platform for this, that’s all for the better.” Further up, at number 28 Addington Street, Ruth Clarke is creating a new community-focused space in the shopfront of her home. Ruth, whose background is in music and advertising, knows that accessibility, affordability, and working with and for locals and existing businesses will be key. Reflecting on her recent exhibition at number 28, ceramicist Viv Yankah says, “The footfall was great and translated into a healthy amount of sales.” With positive feedback and interest in the space from fellow creatives, Ruth plans to host further pop-ups before opening permanently later this year. One of these will be Anna Woods’ Positive Retail, a social enterprise initiative selling quality second-hand clothes and homeware from Ramsgate residents, with any profits ploughed back into the local community. Her aim is to establish demand and fundraise for a permanent space in Ramsgate. “It would be great to see some of those empty spaces on the high street loaned out to local creators and independent businesses to help them get off the ground and re-establish the centre of Ramsgate as a destination,” Ruth says, adding that we should

“create more opportunities for people to spend in a way that really benefits Thanet’s economy”. Just off Addington Street, in Albert Street, is the new Hold Creative Spaces (CIC). Julia Rogers, perhaps best known locally for teaching life drawing classes, and Bev Howard have taken on a seven-year lease. Julia had long been seeking a permanent space to teach and create in. Although Bev’s background is engineering and business, the two share a vision to “provide a platform for artists to support their practice by teaching, exhibiting, collaborating and connecting”, explains Julia. “We hope to hold talks, events, installations, group, solo shows, studio open days, continuing professional practice for artists.” An initial group show is planned as soon as restrictions permit. “The scene seems more weighted to Margate due to the greater variety of venues and, therefore, opportunities,” says Julia. But she feels the challenges facing creatives in Ramsgate have made them “particularly inventive things are happening”. Further afield on Bellevue Road is the Front Room. Owner Phil Oldfield ran Isle of Thanet Arts (IOTA) until 2010 and continues to support local creatives by offering a hire-free space, taking a nominal percentage on sales. It opened in 2019 and has already seen a mix of art and retail pop-ups. Ami


“It would be great to see some of those empty spaces on the high street loaned out to local creators and independent businesses to help them get off the ground” Harvey of Wild Lodge was its latest resident, selling plants, jewellery and homeware. “I had so many compliments on the styling of the shop and that gave me a new-found confidence in my vision and abilities,” she says. With local estate agents Lovetts confirming that a Ramsgate retail space costs between £700-1000 per month, it is easy to see why running a permanent shop remains a dream for many. Celandine Hall will soon be opening its doors and could be an example of a larger space being occupied by multiple tenants taking on smaller, affordable units. Back on Addington Street, the demand for flexible creative commercial space is evident, and it

is not just artists, or their customers, that are benefitting. Other businesses are enjoying increased sales as a result of the extra visitors drawn by pop-ups. Nicci Rosengarten of Moon Lane Children’s Books and Toys confirms this, adding that it works both ways, with “lots of collaboration between shops”. Shoppers are coming from further afield, seeing the street as a “destination” due to its range of businesses, many of which are draws individually as well as collectively. These projects demonstrate that in spite of, or perhaps because of, a bleak economic backdrop, community, creativity, generosity and flexibility continue to thrive in Ramsgate: a community to buy both from and into. ■


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PARKS AND RECREATION: Ellington then and now Writer

Rachel Mills

Images courtesy of

Friends of Ellington Park Archive Collection and Thanet District Council

Ellington Park is having a very modern update but its history is long, sometimes grisly, and it is the Victorians we have to thank for this welcome green space

The newly restored bandstand


n the 16th century, if you stood in Ellington Park where the bandstand is today, you would have seen Ellington House and a few other buildings around it. Ellington was a tiny hamlet in the historic parish of St Laurence, separate to the fishing village of Ramsgate (or Ramesgate, as it was known then). The house was the seat of a freehold farm of medieval origin that passed from the Thatcher family to the Spracklings (also spelled Sprakeling), then the Troward family - who demolished and rebuilt the house in the early 1700s - and the Garretts, before it was bought by Edward C Hales Wilkie, Deputy Lieutenant and Justice of the Peace in Kent and the Cinque Ports, in the mid 19th century. The most notorious of all the owners is Adam Sprackling, grandson of a knight under Queen Elizabeth I. A handbill from 1653 described how in a drunken rage, he “cut, mangled and murchered” his wife Katherine Lewknor and butchered her six dogs. He was hanged in Sandwich for her murder and is thought to be buried in St Laurence’s Church. Some say that his wife’s screams are still heard in the park today. By the end of the 19th century Ramsgate had been transformed into a fashionable seaside resort and Victorian developers had turned their attention inland. Much of Ellington Estate was sold before the Ramsgate Corporation stepped in to purchase some of the town’s last green space,

along with Ellington House, which they demolished. Despite Victorian values being as much economic as philanthropic (recreation and exercise helps people live and work for longer), parks had become a source of civic pride across Britain. When it opened in 1893 Ellington Park became the beating heart of Ramsgate’s leisure time. Maureen Walker, who was born in Ramsgate in 1924, contributed her memories of the park to the council’s digital archive project. She remembered “evenings full of pleasure… firework nights once a week in the summer season, community singing and people selling magazines like Tit-Bits and John Bull”. There were fairs, pageants, carnival queen contests and Empire Day celebrations when thousands flocked to the park; the St Lawrence Bowls Club started playing here in the 1940s and a miniature steam railway was opened in the 1970s. Fast-forward to 2010, and things weren’t looking so bright. Community police officers organised a meeting to generate interest in a community group for Ellington Park, which had become a ‘no-go area’ due to anti-social behaviour and a lack of basic amenities. The Friends of Ellington Park was born and, in 2012, Beverley Perkins joined as chair. Despite describing herself as “not a joiner by nature”, Bev headed up a decade that saw over 700 shrubs and trees planted in the

◄ Sketch of Ellington House, as shown in 1831 guide book to Thanet

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“When it opened in 1893 Ellington Park became the beating heart of Ramsgate’s leisure time”


wildlife garden (a copse is planned in an extended area) and herb beds, benches, picnic tables and a tennis table installed. Bev sings the praises of the 300-strong membership of the Friends of Ellington Park and “a team of volunteers that work tirelessly”. The Friends went on to partner with Thanet District Council and, after years of fundraising, secured £1.8 million in National Lottery Heritage Fund money for a fiveyear park regeneration project. Professional tree surveys were carried out by the council, which led to the recommendation to fell trees that were “diseased, dead, dying or at the end of their natural life”. As a landscaped park, it has always

been managed, but the removal of cherished decades-old cherry trees was met with some local protest. Bev says not a single tree has been removed for aesthetic reasons and the council states that 50 mature trees, not saplings, are to be planted in their place. The council’s project officer Hayley White is passionate about the park’s long-term regeneration. As she walks the pathways laid out by the original landscape architects, Joseph Cheal & Son, she points out where the new toilets and not-for-profit café and community space will be, and enthuses about the restoration of the 110-year-old bandstand. The bandstand - not the original, which was sadly dismantled less than a decade after it was erected, but a late Victorian replacement made by the historic MacFarlane iron foundry in Glasgow - has been restored by Lost Art. These Wigan-based bandstand specialists have revived traditional British crafts including blacksmithing, pattern-making and stonemasonry. Hayley explains that they stripped back decades-long layers of paint to uncover, analyse and recreate the original green-and-yellow colours from more than a century ago. Local specialist conservation and heritage bricklayers Georgian Brickwork, have worked alongside to restore the brick and stonework. As the regeneration work in Ellington Park progresses, with the bandstand back in its place, albeit still under wraps, and diggers at work, the connection between those forward-thinking Victorians who purchased the land, and the Friends and volunteers who so lovingly tend it, is apparent. There are plans for future events focused on the park’s history and people are invited to submit their memories to grow the digital archive. Ellington Park has 80,000 individual visits a year. For Hayley, the past shapes the vision for its future: “How amazing to build and input into something that has this really lovely rich history.”



Ellington House passed from the Thatcher family to the Spracklings


Adam Sprackling hanged for murdering his wife Katherine at Ellington House


Ellington estate divided up and sold; house and grounds bought by Edward Wilkie


House and grounds sold to the Ramsgate Corporation


The house is demolished, the grounds landscaped and Ellington Park opens to the public


Empire Day celebrated with huge crowds in the park


Ramsgate Historical Pageant and Charter Jubilee Celebrations


Mayors of Boulogne, Dunkirk and Calais visit the park


Pageant to commemorate 900th anniversary of St Laurence’s Church


Friends of Ellington Park formed


National Lottery Heritage Fund awards £1.8 million


Ellington Park Regeneration Project, including community café and toilet, bandstand restoration, and landscaping works begin, due to complete summer 2021. An ongoing community digital archive project begins collecting memories of Ellington Park


Planned activities to encourage engagement with the park’s landscape and history

GET INVOLVED Find out more about Friends of Ellington Park: Ellington Park’s new website and online archive will be launched in June 2021. To sign up to the mailing list visit Architects image of the new community café


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Rescue renovation Writer Emilia Ong

Images courtesy of Ian Titherington DesignIT

As Harbour Street’s Celandine Hall prepares to open its doors to new tenants, we go behind the scenes of a restoration project that has brought this historic building back to its former glory and ready to welcome the modern age


hink of a building as a body, a person, a life. As the years roll by, time takes its toll. Sometimes the building exceeds expectations, sometimes it falls short of them; sometimes it meets challenges, sometimes it succumbs to them. Gradually, plans are replaced: like a person in crisis, adaptation is called for. If it doesn’t adapt in time, the building starts to drift. It doesn’t know what it’s meant to be or what is coming next; it has no sense of purpose. Change becomes urgent, but the building can’t change on its own. An intervention must be staged. A “rescue mission” is an apt description of the task architectural designer Ian Titherington undertook. Indeed, when he first saw it, Celandine’s interior looked, he says, “like little more than a hotel for pigeons”. Tired was not the word: the

place was broken by neglect. Walls were “raw, scarred, and undecorated”. Worse, water had got in, wreaking profound internal damage. This was never going to be a merely cosmetic renovation. Ian has been working on the restoration for nearly two years - a period which, even extended by multiple lockdowns, is indicative of the effort, passion, and pure love being plunged into Celandine Hall. Now on the cusp of completion, and set to be ready for tenants in March, the building is once more showing off its true magnificence. The proportions are grand: with 7,500 square feet of space stretched over four floors, it is now a light-filled, elegant example of how heritage properties can excel when tended to with care. Ian Smith and Ryan Morgan, of East Kent construction company Morgan & Smith, have been working with Ian to realise the new vision. They tell of the extensive structural work they have done, including the installation of a new roof, repair of the first and second floors, and virtually a total rebuild of the back of the building. Grade II-listed Celandine Hall was built in the early 1800s and registered first as a toy shop in 1849, before being transformed into a drapers and gentlemen’s outfitters in 1885. Subsequently it was annexed by the Hyland, Lewis & Linom department store. Celandine’s most recent incarnation was as an indoor market, which shut in 2014, after which the building proceeded to fall into a near-

derelict condition. Morgan & Smith’s first job was to gut the place, but this turned out to be the least of what lay ahead: they discovered that five original windows had been completely bricked up, whilst the grand skylights - “lanterns” - over the main hall had been “held together with duct tape”. The latter have now been replaced by soaring glass in the original design: throughout the building both designer and builder have, where possible, endeavoured to retain and seal historical features “as found”. This means that asides from the restored ceiling rose, cornicing and decorative pilasters, future visitors will be able to see, for example, panels of exposed brickwork. This was not mere rescue: Celandine was on life support. Together, the team have effected a miracle resuscitation. They have not, however, done it on their own. It takes a very special sort of owner to commit to realising such a project, and such owners are rare. But 29-31 Harbour Street has been fortunate: sisters and owners Bella Landen and Sophie Hubble are passionate not only in, as they put it, “repurposing, revitalising and rejuvenating” property, but also in the pressing concern of coastal regeneration. Though they live in London, they have strong family ties to Kent, and are keen on exploring the manner in which “breathing new life into buildings” can also mean breathing new life into, well life, that of a town and its people.

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Amazing Space. Amazing Possibilities.

An expansive 7,500 sq ft period commercial property, located by The Royal Harbour – Ramsgate Available to rent




Celadine Hall, 29-31 Harbour Street, Ramsgate Celandine Hall, 29-31 Harbour Street, Ramsgate CT11 8HA 8000 Sq ft of floor space available to rent

This well-known local property has a history spanning from the 1800’s and was best known as part of the Lewis & &Hyland Refurbishment Conversion ofdrapers and fashion store, 29-31 Harbour Street before becoming Celandine Hall - an indoor market. Ramsgate, Kent PROJECT:


Ground Floor Plan At the Royal Harbour end of the High Street Shopping area, it boasts tourist and local footfall, asExisitng well as good transport links. SCALE:

@ A1 It is currently enjoying extensive external refurbishment as well as internal1:100works.







Subject to planning, the space and layout of the site would suit a range of commercial enterprises. SKETCH STATUS:




Call Bella now on 07739 827396, or email her at, for more details and arrange a visit.

These days we are more accustomed to seeing boarded-up shop fronts than exemplars of Victorian architectural grandeur, but the sisters hope that the revamped Celandine will prove to be “a trailblazer”. As such, they are firm about the fact that they are seeking a tenant whose presence will enhance the high street “for everyone”. It is not only about attracting more visitors, but also more businesses whose presence will buoy up the local community as a whole. “If you build it, they will come,” Sophie says. “We want Celandine Hall to be a big sign to others that yes, there are investment opportunities here.” During a period of extreme flux, with shops closing and commercial premises standing empty, many towns are wondering about the future. Likewise, Ramsgate stands at a crossroads: does it need more retailers, or places in which we can gather, get out of the house, engage in leisure activities, and learn new skills? The sisters believe the latter is the way to go, and Ian agrees. In fact, he says, high street strategies across the country are consciously reducing their focus on retail. “Shops follow other successful ventures,” he stresses. So what exactly might we expect to see once Celandine opens its doors to the public? There is no reason it should have a single tenant. Having no definite “end user” in mind was one of the challenges Ian faced in the original brief, and he has therefore created what he refers to

as a “shell” - a high-quality space into which the greatest number of potential businesses can fit. Sophie and Bella have a few ideas: it could accommodate a gym, they say, a gallery and café, an educational institute, a theatre or music venue, or even a microbrewery. There is no doubt that the location is prime, the light wonderful, and the future bright. “Buildings,” says Bella, “are living things, and we can and should nurture them back to health.” It is notable that we use many of the same words for our buildings as we do for our bodies - restore, repair, renew, update, fix, makeover, even give a facelift - for there is something about the restoration of Celandine Hall which goes beyond the mere transformation of bricks and mortar. The project feels hopeful and forwardlooking, emblematic of the energy each one of us is hoping will carry us through 2021.

Follow DesignIT Architecture on Instagram or visit the website diarchitecture. for updates on progress at Celandine Hall Morgan and Smith Construction are on Instagram @morganandsmith_ construction For general and leasing enquiries regarding Celandine Hall contact Bella Landen at bellalanden1967@

Unsung heroes: Heidi Moran

Nominated by Millie Kelly, aged 11

Before the pandemic, two hours of street dance classes were the highlight of my week. I was a part of the street dance competition team and before lockdown we would compete with solos, duos, teams and more. I enjoyed travelling around competing with all sorts of contestants, and dancing at Stage Door Arts Academy for three years. When everything had to be closed due to Covid-19, of course my dance studio was closed. However Miss Heidi didn’t close the doors completely. She quickly introduced us to the new way of learning and growing which is Zoom online lessons. I really enjoyed the Zoom lessons with other dancers during lockdown as I was bored from not seeing my friends at school. Also Miss Heidi gave me a lot of information about other available online dance lessons and online dance competitions. I was encouraged to keep dancing and it was much appreciated. Many other dancers started to give free live online lessons and workshops which I liked to participate in. Also there were many online competitions for me to compete in, due to the normal ones being cancelled. I won lots of medals and certificates. Miss Heidi and my other teachers supported me and informed me all through these troubling times. It’s so much fun dancing on Zoom and is much better than dancing alone. I feel confident and have no worries about my mental health thanks to Miss Heidi. I cannot imagine how bored and unhappy I would be if I didn’t have dance during lockdown. I cannot wait to be back in the studio to see everyone again and to finally dance again properly, and to be able to compete in competitions properly.”

Millie Kelly

This feature has been given over to our young readers, who have been through a particularly turbulent time. We ran a competition, through social media and our networks, asking young people to nominate their Unsung Hero: the person who has helped them through multiple school closures and lockdown life. We were delighted by the entries, all heart-warming and proving just how much everyone is doing to help each other through these times. Millie’s passion and enthusiasm for all that Miss Heidi and dance has done for her shone through. Congratulations Millie, and over to you!

It was such a wonderful surprise to hear Millie had nominated me. I want to thank her for taking the time. I cannot begin to describe how proud it makes me to know that the voluntary work I do is recognised and makes a difference to the children. I started Stage Door Arts in 2007, to give as many local children affordable access to the arts. We started with a class of just five, and now have grown to having our own studio space in the centre of Ramsgate. Stage Door Arts is mostly run by volunteers and offers workshops and classes with qualified, experienced teachers and industry professionals. Past students have gone on to work in the West End, film and television, and many are professional dancers, actors and teachers. Covid has had a huge impact on the performing arts industry and our academy. Our face-to-face classes had to stop and we were unable to stage our annual theatre production. The mental health of our students was at the forefront of us trying to keep some normality and regularity for them when adapting to these new and strange times. We have switched our classes to online sessions so our students can keep up with their training and technique, see friends and enjoy a hobby.

For those without online access, we have offered home learning packs with videos and fun tasks. We have held family quizzes, competitions, scavenger hunts and made music videos. We have kept online learning fun with guest teachers from West End stars to world champion dancers, and offered our drama and film production students Zoom workshops with make-up artists to learn skills for stage and screen. For our younger students we created online adventures combining all of our dance styles, fancy dress, puppets, stories and games in a weekly session. We are so proud of how resilient the students are and how well they have all adapted. We are lucky to be gaining students as parents search for a fun release from the stresses young people are currently facing, however we cannot wait for some normality to return and to get back to classes in our fabulous new studios.”

Heidi Moran, Principal, Stage Door Arts Stage Door Arts is the winner of the national What’s On 4 Kids award Best Activity for Children in the UK.


del Renzio & del Renzio Architects | RIBA Chartered Practice

Domestic • Event • Bespoke

07772 520 036

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12-14 Cliff Street, Ramsgate, Kent, CT11 9HS | | 01843 446 210


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Bird Watch RAVENS Writer

Keith Ross

Calling all Thanetians Ramsgate resident and Level Eleven Studio owner Russ Pullen is photographing characters from across the Isle. Here he introduces his latest Ramsgate subject: Lance Oram


hen I set out to shoot my Thanetians project, I quickly realised that quite a few of my friends met the criteria of “interesting”. (Some exceeded it by quite a margin.) Step forward Ramsgate-born “salty sea-dog” Lance Oram. Lance has one of those jobs that requires a huge knowledge and skill, but is largely invisible to most of us. As one of the most experienced Channelswimming pilots operating in the country. From May to October, aboard


Molly Pickle

his 10-metre Dutch steel cruiser Sea Satin, he guides Channel swimmers across the world’s busiest shipping lane. Very slowly. It is absolutely specialist work, requiring a deep understanding of the sea, her moods, tides, weather and, of course, vessel collision regulations. His skill dictates whether a swim is successful or not and his encyclopaedic knowledge of the Channel is of equal value to the Ramsgate Lifeboat, where he’s served as a skipper for 20 years with the same commitment. In his leisure time? Buy him a vodka and coke in the Churchill Tavern (when regulations allow) and you’ll find he has many a heroic story to tell. I grabbed this shot when he stepped into the studio last year, just back from another successful crossing, and knew I’d absolutely caught the photo I was after the moment I clicked the shutter.

The Thanetians charity exhibition will be held in September 2021 as part of the 200th anniversary celebrations for Ramsgate Royal Harbour. If you know any interesting characters - or are one - from Thanet who would like to be involved, get in touch by email


n Ramsgate tourist advertising from the 1950s until now, the town’s logo is often depicted as a ram jumping over a gate. But this is not how Ramsgate got its name. The earliest reference is in the Kent Hundred Rolls of 1274-5 as “Ramisgate” or “Remmesgate” from the Anglo-Saxon “Hræfn’s geat”, or “Raven’s cliff gap”, later, from 1357, to be rendered as “Ramesgate”. We certainly have lots of carrion crows along the coast. So why was the town, as well as Ravenscliff Gardens at Pegwell village, named after them? Two centuries ago ravens would have been common in the area, but sadly their range has been reduced to mainly the west and north of the UK. However over the years they have slowly been making a comeback, and for the past few years they can be seen and heard flying along our coast, passing over Ramsgate Harbour. They are distinct from the common carrion crow by being larger (about the size of a buzzard) and having a bigger, chunkier beak. Another feature is the shape of their tail. The crow has a wedged-shaped tail whereas the raven’s tail is almost diamond-shaped. They also have a very distinctive ‘gronking’ call. Ravens pair for life so you often see

them flying in pairs. They are very acrobatic flyers and can sometimes be seen briefly tumbling and flying upside down to evade being mobbed by crows and gulls. One of my bird-watching highlights from a few years ago was seeing a raven perched on the old wooden remains of the Coast Guard tower in Ravenscliff Gardens in front of the Pegwell Hotel. The ravens had returned! Then while out on a walk I spotted a pair flying along the cliff top. One of them was carrying a twig in its beak. Could they be breeding in the area? By chance I spotted them setting up their nest in a newly installed peregrine box, and I began watching and filming them. They had four large hungry chicks to feed, so it came as a bit of a shock to bump into one of the newly fledged birds sitting on a branch close to the ground. I had to squeeze past it as it loudly gronked to the nearby parents. You really appreciate their size and large beak when you are just a few feet from them.

If you’d like the chance to see the ravens and other wildlife, I do guided nature walks from Ramsgate to Pegwell Bay. Contact for details.

ramsgate recorder



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Help is here

Find local mental health support at

Your mental health matters To discover simple steps to look after your mental health you can also search Every Mind Matters. This free NHS-approved online tool is full of expert advice and practical tips.

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