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News Boat owners’

get-together Continued from page one

eating out over the weekend and frequenting the local pubs. One owner rigged his entire

vessel with fairy lights and bunting and sailed up and down the river each evening, towing a 15-ft reindeer. As boats sailed in from Yald- ing, Hempstead Marina and from as far afield as Essex, Mark texted DJ Chris Evans, who used to live in Nettlestead. “I knew Chris had a boat so I sent him a message to say ‘I’m on my boat in the Med – the Medway, that is’ – and he wished us all the best for a great event.”

Cllr Martin Cox, who had or- ganised the River Festival in the past, pulled the plug after re- peatedly failing to get any for- mal interest or offers of sponsorship.

He and other members of Maidstone Council would like to see a revival of the old Maid- stone Carnival, with a parade from Mote Park weaving its way through the town. However, the council is ac-

tively looking at ways of pro- moting events in the town centre – and making greater use of the river as an amenity and attraction.

At its peak, the River Festival pulled in up to 10,000 visitors but the economic climate, to- gether with health and safety is- sues, mean costs have been rising and administration has become more complex. Mark said: “The River Festival

was never publicised properly; it’s as though the council didn’t really want it. Yet it brought a lot of people into the town who spent a lot of money. “Without our, and fellow boaters input, there would never have been any river festi- vals. We have drawn tens of thousands of people to Maid- stone for 35 years and we don’t intend to stop now.”

Trading improving in town, figures reveal

MAIDSTONE is continuing to attract businesses to the borough – a sign the county town is clawing its way out of the recession, say analysts.

Almost 300 new companies were registered in Maidstone in the first quarter of 2014 (January to March) – an increase of 4.2% versus the same period last year.

While the figure compares badly to the UK as a whole, the town is doing well when it comes to the number of companies closing – 146 in the same quarterly period, which is a decrease of 34.5% on the same quarter last year. Peter Valaitis, managing director of, which produced the report, said: “The falling num- ber of closures in Maidstone sug- gests that trading conditions are improving, which is an excellent sign for businesses.”

In the UK as a whole, new busi- ness registration was up by 11.8% – although the number of closures saw an increase of 5.7%, an indica- tion that businesses in Maidstone

Economy based on leisure and retail

MAIDSTONE's economy is largely based on leisure and retail and the town is ranked as having one of the top five shopping centres in the South East. Restaurants and bars are key to the area's success, with the night-time economy being worth more than £75m annually.

have greater staying power than in- most parts of Britain. Cllr Malcolm Greer, cabinet member for economic and com- mercial development, said: “All of our hard work, since 2008, is now showing rewards. The drive to in- crease the status of our public realm, with the completion of both stages of the High Street regenera- tion and other ongoing improve- ments to other areas in the town has made Maidstone attractive for business opportunities. “The jewel in our crown is the new KIMS hospital that recently opened; this being an investment of

£80m, generating 800 jobs when fully commissioned. “Future works which have plan- ning permission include the Maid- stone Medical Campus [near M20 J7], an investment of over £200m and the creation of 3,700 jobs. “The completion of the new East

Wing of the Museum and the re- furbishment of the Hazlitt Theatre have all sent out the right message, that we are open for business and the opening of the new Next Home flagship store [near M20 J7] in Oc- tober shows that Maidstone is the place where business wants to be.”

Students celebrate success of fayre

PUPILS are celebrating their success after organising Cornwallis Acad- emy’s summer fayre, at the school grounds in Linton. It was the first year that the stu- dent commission had taken on the event, which raised money for the school’s charity of the year, Cross- roads Young Carers. There was a range of stalls selling sweets, cakes, jewellery and toys, as well as games including hook the duck, hoopla, apple-bobbing and welly wanging. Dancers from Cornwallis and the

Reel Eire School of Irish Dance en- tertained the crowds. More than 450 people attended

the event and the proceeds will be split between Crossroads Young Car- ers and the student commission,

Year 9 students Alistair and Mason with the deputy mayor Daniel Moriarty, the deputy mayoress and Mr Simons. Below, the Reel Eire School of Irish Dance

which will put it towards future school and community projects. Associate assistant principal Dean

Fox said: “They began planning it in September and have worked hard over the winter and spring, as well as on the day, to ensure it was a great success.”

Tragic love story excellently portrayed JOHN

ROMEO and JULIET – Changeling Theatre Changeling Theatre’s choice of actors for the lead roles in this story about young people was expertly made.

Ben Wiggins as Romeo was just the sort of handsome young man who can't help annoying an old codger like me, and a petite but ac- tive and lovely Jessica Boyd, who really looked 14, beautifully com- pleted the tragic recipe as Juliet. Katherine Heath was a manic,



man-eating Nurse and Bryan Tor- feh brought a wonderfully played gravitas to Capulet. Boris Mitkov doubled as Mercutio and Lady Ca- pulet – Juliet certainly didn't take after her mother. There was plenty of violent sword fighting on offer – I think

Maidstone South August 2014

Mercutio and Tybalt deserved to die. A first-night audience member called the first half “pantomimic”. There were lots of laughs, but di- rector Rob Forknall knows the sub- tlety of contrast. We certainly got the awful tragedy in the second half. Everything back stage went smoothly. I loved the god-like Duke's voice from on high. The show toured all over Kent until August 3.

Thief jailed SAULIUS Staponekevicius (47), of

Lenham Road, Headcorn, was jailed for 14 days at Maidstone Magistrates Court after he admit- ted shoplifting.

He stole food and drink worth £21.73 from a supermarket in Rom- ney Place, Maidstone, and because the offence happened when a sus- pended sentence was operational, the total was increased to 134 days in prison.

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