A town guide to Whitstable
PUBLISHED: 15:48 23 June 2016 | UPDATED: 15:48 23 June 2016
With a sunset to die for and a great community spirit, chill out this summer in this increasingly trendy part of our east Kent coast
At this time of year many of us start to yearn for the seaside and where better to indulge our love of the salty sea air than in beautiful Whitstable.
It’s been a Kentish favourite for hundreds of years and has cast its spell over countless people. And this month see its busiest time of year, when the whole town is buzzing in celebration of the summer with the traditional Whitstable Oyster Festival (21 to 31 of July).
Other reasons to visit this month include a food festival on 17 July at newly restored Whitstable Castle (formerly Tankerton Towers, the stunning Georgian manor house has now become a wedding venue), and the return of the vibrant market on the harbour’s renovated south quay.
Last year the future of the popular market, a group of stalls and huts selling local arts, crafts, food and drink, became unclear when it closed for urgent work to stabilise the quay wall.
During the same period the market’s operator announced he was permanently closing the site and selling off the huts, but a new operator has been found and the market reopened at the end of May.
During the £500,000 project to rebuild a section of the quay wall, other improvement works were also completed. The quayside surface has been repaired and tarmac laid, replacing the old gravel surface that made access for wheelchair users difficult. A new entrance to the market site and the quayside from Harbour Street has also been completed.
Meanwhile, a public consultation has taken place recently to help decide the future of the rest of the harbour. The council is reviewing the harbour’s strategic plan, which was put in place in 2010, and is also considering the area’s long-term future.
Ideas being discussed include whether it should focus on maritime activities or more leisure activities, and whether any new housing or new facilities should be built there.
Eating and shopping
Eating out here is always a delight. With seafood understandably a popular choice, there are some great places to try some of the local produce – including Pearson’s Arms (01227 773133), The Whitstable Oyster Company (01227 276856) and of course ever-popular Wheeler’s Oyster Bar (01227 273311).
Other great places to eat include Samphire (01227 770075), Birdies (01227 265337) and The Oxford (01227 265717).
Not only is the centre of town packed with great eateries, but also close by are two of Kent’s most impressive gastro pubs. Seasalter boasts both Michelin-starred The Sportsman (01227 273370 and The Oyster Pearl (01227 272705), which was highly commended pub of the year in Kent Life’s Food and Drink Awards 2015.
Although great shops are dotted all over the town, some of the best shopping is found along Harbour Street, with the likes of The Cheese Box, Flory & Black and The Clothes Horse.
And don’t forget to pop into the Whitstable Shop, run by Whitstable Improvement Trust and housed, along with the local information centre, in a pretty cottage.
Whitstable Oyster Festival: 22-31 July
It’s been running since 1985 but last year’s Whitstable Oyster Festival saw the new addition of a venue called The Shuck to the popular event. With two weekends of live music performances and stand-up comedy evenings, the family friendly venue will be headlined this year by acts including The Cuban Brothers and DJ (and former EastEnder) Goldie. Comedian Milton Jones is also set to star alongside his Comedy Improv All-Stars colleagues.
The festival has grown from a small community celebration to a large-scale event, which sees around 80,000 people from all across the UK descend upon the seaside town for 10 days of fun. With events ranging from a street parade and a very muddy tug of war to popular outdoor cinema screenings and a firework finale, there is truly something for everyone.
This year’s event will also include a second food festival and visitors will be able to sample food from around the world. Live music on the beach and a busking area at Deadman’s Corner will take place over both weekends, accompanying the food and adding to the cosmopolitan feel.
Visit www.whitstableoysterfestival.com for tickets for The Shuck and further festival information.
Lou Fowkes and Alison Mead
Kent Coast Theatre
Tell us a bit about Kent Coast Theatre
KCT is a new community theatre company, based at The Horsebridge arts and community centre in Whitstable. Formed last year by Alison Mead and I, KCT aims to champion new writing, challenge and re-work traditional plays, perform in both theatre spaces and out in the community and run regular theatre workshops.
Above all, we aim to give local actors the chance to work in a professional environment, to a high level of expertise, with advice, support and guidance.
Tell us about your background
Alison (our artistic director) is a professional actress, writer and director and has worked extensively in theatre, film and television. Having written and produced three of her own plays (and currently developing the fourth) she was the acting tutor at Arts Ed London and has run workshops for both the Ambassadors Theatre Group and The Churchill Theatre in Bromley.
As executive producer of KCT, I have worked on stage as an actress and off stage in theatre management. Currently, however, my time is spent as trust manager at The Whitstable Improvement Trust, based in Harbour Street.
Any major challenges?
Both Alison and I moved to Whitstable quite recently and we both recognised that Whitstable is hugely cultural, with a vibrant music scene, active artistic community and popular annual events.
However, live community theatre, engaging with all the local events and activities, was somewhat thin on the ground. With this in mind, we got together and ran our first acting course in the autumn, to test the water. We launched KCT in January and announced that acclaimed actor and Whitstable resident Raymond Coulthard was to be our patron and that The Horsebridge was to be our home.
Businesses such as local printers New Perspective have kindly lent their support to KCT at this early stage - all crucial and welcome elements to launching a new theatre company!
What are your aims?
KCT will commission and produce a variety of plays that will engage and involve the local communities of East Kent. With high production values, we aim to give our audiences diverse community led pieces involving ensemble work.
It is also very important to us to develop theatre that encourages interaction and pride within the community, ensuring that productions are fully accessible to all. We will provide acting workshops on a regular basis, covering all the theatre disciplines, ensuring we develop new and existing talent and skills in our company members.
Your first production?
KCT will stage Sir Peter Halls’ adaptation of Animal Farm, written by George Orwell, at The Horsebridge in July. The story tells of the downtrodden animals of Manor Farm who overthrow their master Mr Jones, and take over the farm themselves. They imagine it’s the beginning of a life of freedom and equality, but gradually a cunning, ruthless elite among them, masterminded by the pigs Napoleon and Snowball, start to take control. It’s a thought-provoking, challenging and sometimes humorous piece of theatre that appeals to both the young and the not so young.
What do you love about Whitstable?
When I was first looking to move to the coast, I wanted to find a seaside town that hadn’t gone to sleep. Whitstable is anything but! It’s like going back to the 1950s in terms of community spirit. The pace of life is slower and yet the people of Whitstable don’t stand still, they are passionate about this town - and now so am I.
It’s quirky and relevant but still steeped in traditional values and heritage. From the sunsets to The Street, the independent shops to the annual events, the oysters to the diving, it all creates an atmosphere of creativity and vibrancy that is so unique to Whitstable. And I love it.
● Animal Farm takes place at The Horsebridge on 2, 8 and 9 July. Tickets from The Horsebridge Box Office on 01227 281174 or www.horsebridge-centre.org.uk.
Visit www.kentcoasttheatre.co.uk for more information on KCT.
Harriet Peachey: coastline artist
“I am an artist currently documenting the coastline of Great Britain. I have been fascinated by remote coastlines and wintry seas since studying fine art in Kent. On a field trip to Dungeness I became aware of the desolate landscapes and vast seas, and it was at this point I realised that I wanted to follow the coastline of Great Britain.
I started in Whitstable just over a year ago and travelled west towards Rye, at this point I had a solo show at the Horsebridge Art Centre in Whitstable featuring the original studies of Phase 1 (Whitstable - Rye.) Phase 2 has now started, it began in Hastings and will continue onto Selsey.
When I am on location I take photographs and make drawings on site and incorporate the material within my paintings as well as maps and tide timetables. The horizon line on each image is set at the same height, so that when the images are placed together there is a panoramic link which then becomes one horizon.
All prints and a selection of originals are currently being exhibited at Keam’s Yard, on Horsebridge Road in Whitstable.”
●More information at: www.harrietpeachey.co.uk and on Instagram harriet_peachey.
Property prices in Whitstable continue to soar, having risen by around 10 per cent on last year’s sold prices and now reaching 24 per cent higher than they were in 2010. At the moment you can buy a two-bed terraced house for between £260,000 and £380,000, with three-bed semis on the market for between £250,000 and £450,000. Four-bedroom detached houses are currently on the market for between £420,000 and £870,000. A one-bed flat can start at £115,000.
Whitstable is close to Canterbury, set on the coast between Seasalter and Tankerton. It’s accessible from the A2/M2, off the M20. There’s a station in the centre of town, with trains to London taking around an hour and 20 minutes. Sat nav postcode: CT5 1DB