• Mark Mathews

10 best things about coming from Maidstone

I am a Maidstone boy: a chap that derives from the county town of Kent. I was born in Maidstone hospital, lived just up the road from Maidstone Prison and I was around in the days that The Mall was known as the Stonborough shopping centre and we had a big fucking sheep made from flowers in the centre of town!

I spent a large part of my existence here simply wanting to leave and discover pastures new - That (County) town just wasn't big enough for the both of us. However, since leaving at eighteen years old to discover the world, my affection for Maidstone has grown considerably since. I mean, it was in this town that I bought my first guitar. It was in this town I played my first gig and It was this town that indirectly influenced a mountain of my songs. One therefore cannot be too harsh on it, so although I could never envisage moving back, I salute Kents county town and celebrate the best things about coming from a community set in the Garden of England.

Here are ten of the best things about coming from Maidstone:

People were burned to death in the pubs we now drink in

Maidstone is seeped in history and when that is the case the tendency is that the further you go back the nastier mankind was. Well, Maidstone goes pretty far back and thus there were a lot of public hangings and executions that took place and as well as this we did like to burn a few people to death - Lovely folk along the River Medway see. Drakes is a popular pub where good booze flows, laughter is had and there is a wonderful garden area for the summer time...oh, and to burn alive seven people due to their faith! There is a plaque to remind us everytime we drink there.

If we need to go we go

Us Maidstone-ites deeply understand the sentiment behind the saying 'better out than in'. I mean, if we need to go we need to go and there should be nothing stopping us no matter what. And to prove this point we had one majestic, pioneer of this belief who has since gone down in legend of The Stone for sticking to his guns and basically shitting in a club - And I mean on the dancefloor, not in a club toilets! Yes, one brave/peculiar/depraved man (delete as appropriate) on a night out in Source Bar, downed trousers and curled one out upon the dance floor. Now that takes balls...no hold on, not balls, I mean arse! Give the man a plaque for heavens sake!

Our Chavs have hefty ambitions

Sure, every town in the UK has their fair share of Chav's, that's just the way it is in Broken Britain, right?! But the Maidstone Chav is more possibly unique than most because of their lofty ambitions to become that barometer of the underclass: The Traveller. Maidstone does and has had it's fair share of real travelling families in it's time, but the everyday tracky bottom and reebok classic wearing thug you'll come into contact with on Week Street, are simply your average chav who desperately wants you to believe, (and no doubt themselves also), that they are in some way related to a travelling family. They dream of this reality for not only making them apparently "wel' 'ard" it also makes them look less of a fraud for, 'Choring' (stealing) from you and using sayings like; 'Dick Eye boy' and 'Shore enough, Mush', which are all travellers slang. Gawd Bless 'em!

We don't care about Nuclear Attack

You're going to threaten us with the use of the A-bomb, huh? We laugh in your face! Yes, when there was a freedom of information request from the council it transpired that Maidstone Borough Council had spent the princely sum of £0 on protection against Nuclear War. Shore enough then Mush!

Famous folk? Sure. Barry from Eastenders

We have a wealth of famous figures that sprouted from our neck of the woods - From Ernest Elmore and James Jefferies to Tom Riley and Mackenzie Crook - but us Maidstone folk like to keep it real and not get bogged down in the celebrity world by keeping it simple and mentioned one stalwart of the screen: Shaun Williamson or rather Barry from Eastenders. Yes, every Maidstone-ite worth his salt will regale the story that good old Barry comes from our fair land (And who went to my school incidentally. I know, right?!) This "name drop" is almost always quickly followed with the line, 'Oh and Reggie Kray spent time in Maidstone Prison too'.

We have the best characters

Maidstone over the years has had a wonderful selection of harmless, yet bizarre, characters walking the streets. We had the two elderly identical twins that would dress exactly the same in gregarious tracksuits and walk through the centre of town with a ghetto blaster blaring out pop tunes. We had the shopping trolley collector from Allington who would excitedly exclaim nonsense stories about 'Grandad Trousers' to any or no one that would listen. And more recently we have had the Ferret man - a man who sat on the side of week street with his ferrets, essentially. Occasionally he would be seen walking them on a piece of string. The fact he had a tattoo across his face just added to the legend.

Brenchley Gardens made us wary of parks

From the outside looking in, Brenchley Gardens - a small, pretty park at the top end of the town centre - seems like a lovely place to escape and relax in. However, if you were to think this you'd be WRONG. The amount of scandalous and nasty things that have happened within those shrubbery walls have made it a frightening place to just pass through, let alone bask in the English sun in. There have been horrific beatings that have taken place in there, dodgy rendezvous in the public toilets, fornication on the bandstand and benches and apparently some stabbings in recent years. There is an aura like no other when you walk into that bloody park that has set us Maidstone folk up to sniff out danger wherever we may be, whether that be Syria or Southampton.

The greatest "Super" Club of all time taught us to love our fellow man

Now this one is for those that were around to experience Atomics before it got demolished but this club was fundamental in my musical upbringing. A converted warehouse down by the Lockmeadow complex, (before the Lockmeadow complex was even a glint in it's Daddy's eyes), this club was a bizarre place to even exist in Maidstone: It attracted the biggest superstar DJ's from around the globe and held insanely huge nights that were recognised across the UK and beyond. It even made it onto Radio 1...Yes, this happened in MAIDSTONE! The venue was our very own Hacienda with all manner of recreational behaviour taking place within those walls amongst every one from Chav's and travellers, to school kids and professionals alike. Bridges were built and love was shown to everyone who were there to enjoy hours of Trance and Funky house. Music brought us together as one. Atomics turned me onto the power of dance music and opened up a whole new musical world to a lot of us. Still to this day I have yet to find a club anywhere in the world, that was as good and life affirming as Atomics was.

We had a pretty decent live venue to fuel our musical ambitions

As per above this depends on whether you were around before The Union Bar was turned into a strip club (allegedly owned by some notorious London gangster) and then into a Chinese restaurant, but this was another radically important venue for musical growth. A shitty, dingy place that us kids were able to get into at 13 years old using fake ID taken from Midkent college (upping our age to 20, which seemed ancient). Playing all the latest Indie tunes and having live bands every week, this venue was the place to be to learn all things rock and indie. Ash, Terrorvision and (allegedly) Coldplay played there and fuelled all our musical ambitions. Legendary.

So there you have it, ten things that make me, and made me, a Maidstone boy and I am proud of it...Mush!

Do any of these things remind you of your home town? Let me know in the comments below!

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