Margate: Kentish town named one of UK’s ‘toughest seaside resorts’

Some might say it was classic British trash TV at its best. This slightly bizarre Sky One documentary, Toughest Seaside Resorts in Britain, spotlighted a few select seaside resorts across the country across five episodes.

Anyone who remembers watching this series might remember that one of Kent’s seaside resorts was given the spotlight. Placed under the microscope for the first half of episode two was Margate.

The producers may have been swayed to choose this particular resort after it was made infamous by an iconic episode of Only Fools and Horses. The program started by placing Margate on the map and zooming in on that particular part of the county.

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Simultaneously, the narrator, Ralf Little, introduced the town as “Margate, one of Britain’s oldest seaside resorts and the first to introduce donkey rides in 1790”. This was all happening while Chas and Dave’s song “Down To Margate” was playing in the background.

It was then explained how thousands of Cockneys make the 84-mile journey from London to enjoy “fresh air, fine food and a good time with the locals”. It was obvious that a tongue-in-cheek approach was taken with a great deal of humor present throughout; that previous sentence read over a man stuffing his face with ice cream and two guys enjoying a friendly fight on the sand.

It is at this point that we are introduced to an eccentric bearded guy named Ray. He was a veteran of many ongoing battles with tourists, and was said to “have a brilliant fighting record”.

One campaign stood out more than others for Ray: “The Mods and Rockers in 1964 and I was a Rocker and there were about 50 of us, maybe 100 and we got chased along the seafront and we ended up here where the Sun Bridge was.

“Some of the mods had hammers and wrenches and some of the guys I was with had bats. If it’s hard and heavy, pick it up and hit them with it.

Even the man in the ice cream van admitted to keeping a baseball bat in his van to protect any mischievous potential day trippers who often saw Margate as “an easy target”.

It proved incredibly difficult for the police to calm down the troublemakers during the Mods vs Rockers battles of 1964.

Deputy Mayor Michael Tomlinson was also interviewed about his role in the iconic battles: “For my sins, if you will, I was a Mod, although I was never involved in the weekend skirmishes. holidays that happened here. It was quite sad to see some young people throwing deckchairs at families on the beach.

Somewhat oddly, given that the documentary is supposed to persuade us of just how rough Margate is, we are then introduced to former heavyweight boxer, Andy ‘Clubber’ Gerrard who has been welcomed to the town with open arms. Clubber had a distinguished fight record (27 wins and 32 losses) and could have been a contender until he came up against then-unknown Lennox Lewis who “went to town” on Clubber, ending to his fighting career.

After giving up his fight dream, Clubber moved to Margate and opened his own bar, but he actually goes against the “tough” etiquette that was placed there: “People come one night, they have maybe a little too drunk, arguing with a friend but that’s it, it’s just you can go to these people here, talk to them and that’s it, they can see they’re wrong.

Whitsun weekend in 1964 is remembered for the Mods vs Rockers clash on the banks of Margate
Whitsun weekend in 1964 is remembered for the Mods vs Rockers clash on the banks of Margate

As if the show couldn’t get any weirder, we next caught up with Bob the Singing Garbageman, who begins by giving a (thankfully brief) rendition of an original song about Margate. After learning how Bob entertains tourists, we then get a shot of outside some restrooms with Bob talking while relieving himself audible to all.

Bob then tosses a dubious version of Oh I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside to some of the guests while the narrator comments “the entertainment is sure to leave you speechless”. Although these guests clearly appreciated this, they then gave him a hearty applause.

The second half of the program details another of the toughest resorts in the country just along the coast at Hastings. Although this series has been largely lost to history, this particular program visible on Youtube.

Do you think Margate deserved that reputation? And if so, does that still ring true today? Let us know in the comments!

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