Medway: Brilliant or crap?

Freelance journalist, Sam Jordison, has just released details of his latest book, Crap Towns, a tongue in cheek look at Britain’s urban sprawls. I don’t know how you nominated which town should be included but some Medway folk decided that our town* deserved a spot inside the covers.

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Now don’t get me wrong, I know Medway isn’t perfect but find me a town in Britain that is. With the exception of the idyllic one road villages scattered across the country (and look closer, you’re sure to find even they have their less desirable spots) every town will have the same issues as anywhere in Medway – the late night revellers and other social concerns. The difference in Medway is the amount of people doing positive things to give the local community a reason to be proud. And yes, while there’s a nice line in self deprecating humour “If Kent is the garden of England, Medway is its compost heap” and we’re happy to take the piss out of ourselves, we’ll jump to the defence of our patch. There’s a huge number of individuals and groups working to make Medway a better place and it’s frustrating when some residents clearly can’t be bothered to find out about them.

No-one likes councils, it’s just a fact of life – doesn’t matter who’s in charge; But – free festivals abound for Medway’s residents, beginning with the Chinese New Year celebration in February and moving through the summer with the English Festival; Sweeps; Dickens; Fuse; Armed Forces Day; River Festival; Under Siege; Medieval Merriment; Will Adams, and then in December, we have the Dickensian Christmas. And they’re packed, not just with locals enjoying them but also bringing in people from outside the area to spend their cash in our local businesses.

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If live music is what you want, we have Homespun, ME1, TEA Concerts, Medway Eyes, Motherboy Noise, Suburban Kings, Manny’s Music and more, holding festivals and free gigs night after night in local pubs and clubs. Phil Dillon of Medway Eyes is a major fan and supporter – check out his Flickr stream.

We’re rich in art and culture activities, and having a local consortium recently awarded Creative People and Places funding, this is only going to increase, with more people engaging the community in arts activities. Aligned to those already doing  it – Rochester Literature Festival, LV21 and Creatabot to name but three – ongoing exhibits throughout the year at our galleries and other, more unusual spaces, and you’ll be tripping over arts activity from the moment you cross your doorstep. Assuming, of course, that you’re one of those positive residents who can actually be bothered to seek out them out. What’s on guides (both council and privately funded, such as WOW magazine) can be readily picked up or received through your letter box. Search on line for what’s going on in Medway and you’ll be inundated with results.

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Heritage: Absolutely no excuse to not know about our history with the RE Museum; Historic Dockyard, Fort Amherst, Medway Archive Centre, the Guildhall Museum and Medway Libraries activities. Plus, it’s all around you, living history in the walls of the castle, cathedral and other ancient buildings.

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Sport and hobbies: Loads of sports clubs encourage all ages to get involved, from badminton or sailing. Want something less strenuous? How about archaeology or Viking re – enactment?

Residents’ Associations: The community folks who, with or without funding, work tirelessly to make their area better: South Shore RA; Chatham Big Local; All Saints Community; DNA; White Road Group.

Parks and open spaces: Our landscapes are lovely, with Riverside, Ranscombe, The Vines, Victoria Gardens, Broomhill Park and so many more, most with ‘Friends of’ groups looking after them. Initiatives like Full Frontal Gardens have brought colour and nature to brick and concrete streets.

All the above mentioned are a mere snapshot of what can be found happening in Medway. Whatever your hobby, interest or work, you’ll find others like you and the means by which to meet them and share your enthusiasm. Many community activities are free, so why waste time and energy being negative? Embrace what’s on offer to enrich your life.

*Medway isn’t actually a town. It’s a river, upon which sit the five areas that make up the Medway Towns: Rainham, Gillingham, Chatham, Strood and the City of Rochester – we don’t recognize admin errors.

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14 thoughts on “Medway: Brilliant or crap?

  1. katey3 says:

    Well done Jaye, that was a terrific précis of all that Medway is about, and we have SO much around that is positive. There is SO much good in our towns and the good far outweighs the bad, but, unfortunately, some people’s glasses will always be half empty!

  2. Loosecanon says:

    It depends which side of the fence you sit, for many in Medway there areas are not all sweetness and Light. Luton is said to be a no go area for example,,The mainstay of the Gilingham community The Strand is in a poor state and it is very much a Postcode Lottery on what type of service you get.

  3. Rainhamender says:

    Good words but the bad things about the Medway towns are very public though, calling it Medway for starters rather than treating it as 3,4 or 5 different towns has seen the decline of Gillingham as a high street and Chatham as a social hub. Too many white elephants such as the new bus station and failing to recognise that many people on the fringes of Medway which are the more middle class / affluent areas don’t work in Medway but only live here. I think the council need to have a more outwards looking approach, accepting we are still part of Kent rather than their current view that everything should be Kent and Medway, yes they are a unitary authority but that doesn’t mean they have to have this blinkered approach to everything being ‘Medway’. The towns should have become more affluent and gentrified over the last 15 years, but there has no real attempts to make this happen (Rochester riverside still laying empty), sadly perhaps it’s the airport that will finally stop the towns being crap.

  4. Jaye says:

    Thanks for all your comments 🙂 Loosecannon/Rainhamender, no-one disputes that it’s not all sweetness and light, but as stated, ALL towns in the UK have similar problems, so to label some of them ‘crap’ for those reasons is unfair. The difference here is that many individuals and groups are taking it upon themselves to make it better. May I ask what you both do for your local community? And do you attend the festivals and free music gigs or enjoy, if not the Strand, then Riverside or Gillingham Park or Capstone and other spaces? As for the ‘white elephants’, the bus station, however you feel about it, is used and necessary. An estuary airport, on the other hand, would be so much the ultimate white elephant as to be made completely of ivory with snowflakes for ears and wearing white ankle socks! Don’t get me started on that 🙂

    • Rainhamender says:

      You can certainly ask what I do for the local community; I volunteer for one of the uniformed public services alongside my day job. As for the airport I’m not massively in favour of it, however I suspect it will inevitably be built, if not now then at some point in future, and that may bring in the money to lift the Medway towns out of some of its crapness.

  5. mark says:

    Good article. Would have been good to have included the fact that local football team are on the up having been promoted as league two champs.

    Medway is a good place to live.

  6. Jaye says:

    You must see a lot of the towns then, Rainhamender. The general consensus on social media though, is that there’s a lot more beauty than there is crapness.
    Good point Mark, come on the Gills!

  7. James Calthorpe says:

    Medway has wonderful period architecture much of which just needs to be smartened up.

    But it is gentrifying rapidly. I even met a banker from Hong Kong who is snapping up properties in Chatham and Gillingham. Something that would have been unlikely only ten years ago.

    I have recently moved to Medway after having lived in central London for 20 years, and think it is an undiscovered jewel. Tell me anywhere else in England that one can live within 35 minutes from central London in a period property for less than 300k?
    The area by Rochester castle is as nice as any residential area in England, including the very richest parts of London.

    All the architecture from Rochester Riverside up to Chatham station is very attractive. There are beautiful old buildings everywhere (many are Tudor). Sure…. many are run down but as people get priced out of London they will snap up these properties, Medway will gentrify rapidly. You can see it already. Chatham in particular near the station has massively smartened up since High Speed One was introduced a few years ago.

    There are quite a few chavs in Medway around the shopping areas but they are harmless and far better than their London equivalents. There is none of the gang culture that is rife in London.

    There is also plenty of quality green space and the riverside adds a lovely feel to the place.

    Watch this space….. the place is only on the way up.

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