Talking About Regeneration

We tried. We really tried.

Medway Borough Council (to give it its correct title) is, basically, defecating all over our heritage. We can expect to see our local councillors pissing on the graves of the people who actually built these towns any day now. A lot of people won’t know what is happening, and why on earth should they? After all, barely more than 1% of the populace has ever been actively consulted about the regeneration. There’s an organ called Medway Matters, but it’s being used to tell us what’s already been done to our towns after the fact, rather than enlightening anyone or pointing to any useful information or inviting any democratic input.

Medway Eyes was recently asked to participate in a thing called the Chatham Future Forum by the people at Medway Renaissance. That’s an arm of the council with a fluffy name and no teeth. We sent one of our members in to a couple of meetings at the New Arts Centre to suss things out. The first point of note was that Medway Eyes was the only creative collective in attendance. The NAC was, presumably, happy to take the booking fee but didn’t feel the need to participate in issues that affect Medway directly.

We were patronised to the point of submission. Government is, apparently, big, and far too difficult for the proletariat to understand. The council, NHS and police are our biggest employers, so we should shut the fuck up and question nothing. There may, however, be tiny hand outs that we might eventually tug our forelocks for. Just little things like the council buying up cheap property so it can’t be used for drug dealing and whoring. Oh, hang on, no.

When it was finally suggested that we might be able to pitch our ha’penny worth about the new bus station in Chatham that will a) be crap; b) be pointless because there’s one there already; c) go against all common sense and experience of other towns and cities (e.g. Liverpool) as regards the opening up of waterfronts, we were shot down in flames by Brian Weddell, the head of Medway Renaissance who told us…

“The CFF is not a lobby group or a decision making group. It seeks to set up a flow of information to a wider audience on the regeneration programme and to seek a wide range of opinion from the participants rather than a single view.

The group is still at an embryonic stage and the workshops to date have been to clarify the role of the group and how it can operate. We are not yet at the stage where we have had a full meeting with a chairman and so it is early days for the group to have a valid voice”.

Which is lovely. Thanks for that. We know that the group was set up to enable you to tick a few boxes after the total lack of consultation that we have highlighted. We know you were never going to take us seriously. The thing is, we’ve all seen through the Kafkaesque fog you’ve created for the average citizen, and we don’t like it.

We especially don’t like the complicit process that has deprived our towns of the Theatre Royal, the blatant bullshit surrounding the demolition of Aveling and Porter, and notion that Sun Pier is next.

Medway Eyes has dozens of contributors. Every contributor has hundreds of fans. We will preach from the street and from the grass roots: Do not re-elect these cultural vandals. Do not tolerate their self-interest.

Medway Eyes will no longer attend the Chatham Future Forum. The time for action is now, because our towns are being raped in the name of short term profiteering.

We will be out on the streets soon, recording and protesting. If we can’t save these beautiful buildings and constructs, we can at least capture images of this vanishing beauty in the hope that our children will one day thank us for it and, when it comes their time, be more cognisant of their heritage than the soulless career politicians that blight our lives and heritage today.

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “Talking About Regeneration

  1. Possibly too late for Sun Pier now. The floating pontoon and the damaged walkway were removed in the last few days. When one of the workmen was approached he was unaware of any plans to replace them. So, we’re left with the pier and the few piles that held the pontoon in place but no access to the river.

  2. Reavsey

    Its very sad. They seem intent on erasing all the old gems for whatever regeneration plans they have, ignoring the fact that some of the biggest attractions in Medway are the old preserved areas/buildings, Rochester Castle & Cathedral and surrounding area, Chatham Historic Dockyard, Fort Amehurst etc etc. Once these things have gone there is no second chanceI’m afraid.

  3. Pixelene

    Objections would be more apparent perhaps if all those who feel strongly were to attend these meetings, however worthwhile, as individuals.
    Do the Chatham Future Forum hold open meetings or is it a closed shop?
    It doesn’t have a lot of linkage …

  4. I think the only way to turn things around is to break up the Conservative majority on the council. Majorities of any kind insulate government against challenges to its authority and the people’s voice. I’m not exactly enamoured of Labour, or impressed by what the Lib Dems have to offer at present, but it must be possible to identify the candidates who really care about the people of Medway and it as a place, rather than just their personal ambitions. Get the right candidates elected, according to their principles and regardless of party and we might see a change. By the looks of things enough people are pissed off now to make a difference – if the current council members won’t listen to us, we should make sure that the next bunch will.

  5. On a different note, are there any plans to protest at A&P afoot?

  6. Karl Faux

    “The CFF is not a lobby group or a decision making group.”

    It seems that the time has come to set up exactly this type of group?

    A fully independent group that can challenge some of the shocking decisions made by the people that are paid to represent us but have no interest in listening to us because they know better.

    A place to meet, a name and a willingness to protest is all we need to start being heard.

  7. Andrew: We’re keeping an eye on photographer Chris Tong’s group on Facebook:

    (http://bit.ly/4qaJ1n)

    Chris looks to be aiming to do something next week. We intend to see what form that is planned to take.

  8. Pixelene: It’s a closed shop. They don’t publish the minutes (we were sent them, but they’re not publically available). It’s not even clear when the next meeting is planned to take place.

  9. Roger Fahy

    Chatham Dynamic Bus Station

    The ultra-violet lights in the rattling plastic bus shelter of Chatham’s new Dynamic Bus Station flickered fitfully through the rain and wind and darkness. Passengers huddled in the partial shelter of the doorway to the concrete hulk of The Pentagon Shopping Centre. They peered wistfully towards the deserted wind-swept bus shelters for the longed-for illuminated sign of a bus.

    A cry went up from the look-out through the mournful howl of the wind “it’s a bus! It’s a 155” he yelled and started running towards lumbering vehicle through the storm. Those passengers bound for Borstal, and the outlying villages of Wouldham and Burham and eventually the thriving county town of Maidstone ran, trotted, walked, limped and hobbled into the lashing gale desperate to reach the bus stop. They negotiated the once-landscaped mud and once-decorative concrete slabs through the remaining newly-planted, fatally damaged young trees to reach their goal and get away.

    Regeneration had taken its toll on the poor, once-proud town and now even resuscitation was pointless. The plastic bags, food containers and empty beer cans swooped, tumbled and clattered down Waterfront Way like the tumbleweed on Desolation Row. The old lady knew that this time she couldn’t run the gauntlet across the once proud Paddock, this time was just one time too many. She pleaded with her friend to save herself and watched as her stooped body frantically shuffled through the debris to catch the last bus out of town.

  10. Swordstone

    The big councillor said to the little councillor “How can we keep our council tax low so that voters are so grateful that they keep voting us into power?” The little councillor said “That’s easy we just increase our parking charges and the periods for which people must pay”. The big councillor replied “But to really make money we need more car parks”. The little councillor’s eyes lit up “Let’s knock down the old Aveling and Porter building and turn it into a car park like we did with the 800 year old Rochester Market – people have forgotten that already!”

    “Great idea” enthused the big councillor “And there must be so many other old buildings around that we can turn into car parks – what about THE CASTLE?” They refilled their glasses, toasted the idea, signed off their expenses claims and relaxed on the plush council sofa. “And now that we have managed to get rid of our City Status through our incometance we don’t need THE CATHEDRAL either!” Their faces beamed as their creative juices flowed. “And if we provide a really inadequate bus service people will HAVE to use their cars!” This was too easy, it was obvious to the two dignitaries that special skills, vision, respect for community and heritage were no longer required in modern local government. As if with one voice they said “We could call it REGENERATION nobody can argue with that! They shook hands, drank another toast and agreed that the votes were in the bag.

  11. An imaginary response from HRH Queen Elizabeth II to Councillor Chambers’ letter requesting City Status for Medway:

    Dear Councillor Chambers,

    Thank you for your letter. Unfortunately we do not confer City Status on rivers – only on towns. May I enquire what happened to the last City Status you had (since 1211), I have been told by my Lord Chancellor that you have “lost” it – the only case I can recall of someone losing a city in the whole of British history!

    I gather that you have also turned our ancient Rochester Market into a car park, in addition you have destroyed all those lovely historic wharves and piers along the river to build flats and are now in the process of demolishing an icon of our industrial heritage – the Aveling and Porter building to use as a car park.

    In view of all this I must reject your application for your river to be given City Status, it would be a bit like letting Top Gear’s Richard Hammond drive my Bentley.

    Yours in disbelief,

    Elizabeth R

    PS. I do hope the Castle and Cathedral are still in one piece!

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