How long have you lived in Ramsgate?
Twenty eight years: I came down in 1986 when I returned from working in the Middle East.
Why did you start helping the local community?
When I moved into Vale Square the gardens in the middle were in a pretty bad state. Because I had a background in horticultural landscape I was asked to become a member of the Vale Square Residents' Association.
We reclaimed the square and raised money to put railings around it. Now it is a beautiful space that the residents can use, and is also used for community events.
When the library burnt down in 2004 it was an absolute tragedy for the town. Kent County Council didn't want to rebuild - they wanted to move it to the Marlowe Academy. We could not let that happen so a group of us formed the Friends of Ramsgate Library with me as Chairman. After a long fight the library was rebuilt: the 'Friends' raised £15,000 and we commissioned the beautiful stained glass memorial window.
I joined The Ramsgate Society in 1995 and became Chairman in 2005. One of the Society's biggest projects so far has been the restoration of the 14 seafront shelters. The project cost over £500,000; 90% was raised from a Lottery bid and 10% from other sources. There were hiccups along the way but eventually the work was completed in 2013.
There are six buildings in Ramsgate that we wanted to help restore. The Society realised that we needed a different sort of organisation to take them on, so a group of us got together and The Ramsgate (Heritage Regeneration) Trust (RHRT) was formed with 28 trustees. The Ramsgate tunnels was the RHRT's first project. We acquired Lottery funding, got a lease from Thanet District Council and in June this year the tunnels opened to the public. The RHRT is working on plans for the future of the tunnels.
What are your earliest memories of Ramsgate?
I vividly remember coming down in 1982 to visit friends who had a property overlooking the harbour. I thought it was absolutely magnificent - it reminded me of the south of France.
What are your ambitions?
I'd like to see the town centre (High Street, King Street, Harbour Street and Queen Street) become a lively and busy shopping centre. We've got lots of restaurants and cafes but we need more quirky and interesting shops to attract residents and visitors to the area.
What are you currently working on or towards in Ramsgate?
The Ramsgate Society is working on ‘The Ramsgate Heritage Promenade’, which includes the seafront from King George VI Park one the Eastcliff to the Chine on the West Cliff. It includes several listed buildings including the Bandstand, the Westcliff Lift and the Monkey House (Boating Pool).
We'd love to revive the old Winterstoke Fountain which has been covered over, also the Winterstoke Gardens Pavilion which would be a brilliant venue for summer events. In July 2014 we opened a shop in Harbour Street where we sell books, cards and Ramsgate Society products, and provide information to Society members, residents and visitors. We are also working on a book called ‘Ramsgate Today’ which will be published later this year.
Why did you start this current project?
‘The Ramsgate Heritage Promenade’ was an initiative by Thanet District Council who asked The Ramsgate Society to produce a consultation document. We got involved because it will improve Ramsgate and make things better for the residents.
Where did you get the idea from to start this?
This idea developed from the Society's work on the waterfall. We contacted Thanet District Council who agreed to clear some of the overgrown shrubbery. A generous resident gave us £150 for plants, and this was matched by The Ramsgate Society. Waitrose donated £650. A group of Ramsgate Society members then replanted the area around the waterfall. The Ramsgate Heritage Promenade project developed from this collaboration with Thanet District Council.
What can Ramsgate look forward to from you in the future?
The Ramsgate Society has several projects in the pipeline: there is The Ramsgate Heritage Promenade project; we also want to do some work on the harbour area and will be working in partnership with The Maritime Museum. I'd also like to see hanging baskets throughout the town, like we used to have back in the 1980s.
How do you feel your contribution has helped or made a difference to Ramsgate?
I get a lot of positive feedback about the achievements of The Ramsgate Society, especially now we have the shop and people can drop in and tell us what they think. That is very rewarding. The shelters, the planting around the waterfall have been the recent highlights. And the opening of the tunnels is another project I am proud to have been associated with.
Where do you see yourself helping the community in a year’s time?
In a year’s time I will be 81! I'd like to see Ramsgate bloom, I'd love to see Ramsgate enter the Britain in Bloom Competition. I hope The Ramsgate Society shop will continue to prosper and act as a centre where people can find out about the work of the Society.
Ramsgate is a beautiful place to live. I cannot think of another town I would want to live in and I will do whatever it takes to improve it and put it on the map. Fortunately there are lots of other people who feel the same and contribute their time and effort, often working quietly in the background. There are too many to list here...but they know who they are. Improving our wonderful town is a team effort.