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downsmail.co.uk


Vaccines a light at the end of tunnel


THE best way to beat this virus, once and for all, is through the widespread vaccination of our population.


I am hugely encouraged by the speed at which the vaccine is being rolled out across Maidstone and The Weald; providing hope to our community after such a difficult year. I pay tribute to the fantastic GPs who are leading these efforts at vaccination sites across our patch. Many are working every hour of the day and it is thanks to their dedication that the vast majority of my constituents aged over 80, and many over 75s, have already received their rst dose of the vaccine.


Indeed, the Primary Care Networks (PCNs) in our area are on target to ensure everyone over 70, or who is extremely clinically vulnerable, will be offered a vaccine by the middle of February.


As with any programme of this size, there


have been some teething problems. There was, for example, something of a slow start to vaccinations in The Weald, a serious challenge on which I have worked closely with my colleague Greg Clark MP to correct. To that end, Dr Faye Hinsley and her team from the Ridge PCN have stepped up to the plate brilliantly, and vaccinations are now being delivered with real pace at Headcorn Aerodrome – so much so, that numbers in The Weald have now moved ahead of some other parts of Kent.


By Helen Grant MP for


Maidstone & the Weald


I am delighted to hear that Dr Hinsley is


condent they will reach all of those in the highest priority groups within the next couple of weeks.


Maidstone Hospital has also made extraordinary progress with its vaccination programme. Efforts have been focused mostly on frontline NHS and social care professionals, and in mid-January they delivered their 10,000th jab; a remarkable achievement. This week, a pharmacy vaccination site will open in central Maidstone and, from next week, a mass vaccination centre will go live at The Angel Centre in Tonbridge.


Appointments can be made via the national


vaccine booking service by people who have received a letter inviting them to do so. Doubtless there are difficult weeks ahead but, thanks to the efficiency of the vaccine’s deployment, there is now a brightening light at the end of the tunnel.


A victory for common sense


PARKWOOD Theatres were delighted when Maidstone Borough Council's (MBC) Economic, Regeneration and Leisure Committee, chaired by Cllr Paul Harper, endorsed the continuation of the successful partnership at The Hazlitt Arts Centre between Parkwood and MBC. Parkwood, our Hazlitt staff, and a large num-


ber of Maidstone citizens were dismayed at the end of 2020 when the committee settled on an alternative course. However, it is to the credit of councillors that


they listened to the public, re-evaluated Park- wood's stewardship of the Hazlitt and realised that the economic and social benefits of a thriv- ing theatre post COVID-19, outweighed any short-term savings. We’re going to need a heavy dose of creative


and mental stimulation, fun and social interac- tion once the pandemic starts to ease off. The Hazlitt offers that in abundance – it is a


true community arts centre. It was notable as the council committees discussed the Hazlitt how many members shared fond tales of their own family involvement over the years. As soon as we are allowed, we will open the Hazlitt doors and welcome back, not only Hazlitt


By Tony Doherty Managing Director, Parkwood Theatres


regulars, but hopefully an even wider base of Maidstone's community. The Hazlitt is for all. There’s nothing like a live show, a shared ex- perience, where you can leave the sofa and square boxes and screens at home. Why not unleash that inner creativity and give


one of our regular workshops a go? The Hazlitt already does loads for kids, but adults need an outlet too, and The Hazlitt can provide it. Hazlitt staff are looking forward to getting


back to reboot the shows, and to run our classes that have grown since Parkwood came on board. We are grateful to all supporters of The Hazlitt


who stood up and made their voices heard, in- cluding the Downs Mail, and MP Helen Grant. In his time, William Hazlitt, after whom the


theatre is named, had quite a bit to say about the virtues of common sense. It appears his spirit lives on in Maidstone folk.


Opinion


I


T IS with not inconsiderable sadness I learn the romance is over between Maidstone’s Jo Marney (28) and the former Ukip leader Henry Bolton (57). Love blossomed over turkey and stuffing at a 2017 Ukip Christmas bash, two months after he was appointed. But after a slew of difficult headlines, former soldier Mr Bolton was dumped by the party. These days, Mr Bolton consoles himself with a role with the seedling Great Britain TV station which airs “comment on topics given insufficient attention by the mainstream media”. A recent piece to camera attracted 93 viewers.


A


S Philip Larkin had many ways of referring to death without using the word, Maidstone Borough Council's official papers offer a cheerless euphemistic menu for job cuts. These pearls include “taking advantage of synergies”; “a rationalisation of management roles”; “identifying efficiencies”; “rationalisation of staffing arrangements” and, best of all, “regular service design reviews “.


I


AM always keen to tap into the political leaders’ cultural predilections. Facebook gives some clues. Labour’s Malcolm McKay favours Al Green and David Bowie, while right- winger Eddie Powell nods to Queen and Ben E King. Liberal Democrat council leader Martin Cox swings his pants to Neil Diamond and Bruce Springsteen. What of opposition Tory leader, John Perry? He appears to prefer ne English wine and poetry, of course.


I


HEAR my old chum, the top barrister Oliver Kirk, is moving to Yalding. He tells me: “I am assured it’s in an elevated position and not prone to ooding.” That’ll be an ark, then.


AIDSTONE’S distinguished barrister Keith Yardy lists his memberships as The South Eastern Circuit, Kent Bar Mess, Kent Wildlife Trust, the Wild Trout Trust, Kent Reptile and Amphibian Group and, intriguingly, the Pagan Federation. The latter, I learn, seeks to “support all Pagans to ensure they have the same rights as the followers of other beliefs and religions”.


M


POTTED: Tory MP Tom Tugendhat slurping tea on TV from a mug bearing an image of the lefties’ leftie, Che Guevara.


M S


Chin chin! 47


IXED metaphor time. Kent’s public health director, Andrew Scott-Clark, said of COVID-19 the other day: “We are not out of the woods by any means, but it does feel like the green shoots are there.”


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