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Down from London / The new women of Thanet

Feature 02.07.19

Photography Kat Green Words Jo Reynolds

In a quiet corner in the far south east of Kent sits a small nook that is the ‘Isle of Thanet’.  Made up of three principle towns, Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate its just 90 minutes from London St Pancras on the High-Speed train. Broadstairs with its old worldly Dickensian charm, Ramsgate its Royal connections and Margate gave us Tracey Emin (who is moving back to the town) and JMW Turner who famously quoted “the skies over Thanet are the loveliest in all Europe”.

Over the past 10 years the area has seen an exodus of Londoners who have made the conscious decision to relocate to these towns for a better life / work balance, buy bigger and more affordable properties, raise families and let’s face it, who doesn’t want to live by the seaside!

The Isle of Thanet welcomes a wealth of exceptionally talented and creative women who have settled and established roots, whilst making their distinctive mark in the very beaches of this coastal paradise.  From brewery owners, entrepreneurs, fashion stylists and DJs to jazz singers, life coaches and designers.  What is the big city’s loss is definitely Thanet’s gain.

Here are their stories.

Jessie Cutts is a textile artist who makes quilts and kids toys. She moved from South London to Ramsgate in 2018.

What were your reasons for moving from London to Thanet?

With two very young children and both my partner and I working in crazy high-pressure design jobs with no family nearby, we decided that it seemed insane to keep living life this way. We’d been in Australia visiting my family for two months during my maternity leave and we just thought: “We can’t keep doing this, we want to live by the sea and simplify life a bit”.

Why did you choose Ramsgate?

It was a kind of by accident that we chose Ramsgate. I’d only ever really heard about Margate and Broadstairs. We prototyped living in Deal and stayed at a friend’s place for a few weeks while they were on holiday. We took it in turns to travel up to London, the other looking after the kids. My partner looked on the map for the nearest sandy beach and rang me excitedly saying ‘I think you’ll love this place!’. We came back that evening and just drove around the town, looking on Rightmove. It had everything we were looking for – a relatively easy commute, lovely architecture, a town that felt vibrant and interesting, houses we could afford and sandy beaches.

Regarding work, have you continued to do what you did in London or has the move to Thanet resulted in a career change?

I completely changed my job. I worked for 12 years at a design company called IDEO as a communication designer. I had wanted to start a business making quilts and kids toys, but never seemed the right time. But now I have. The move here has meant I can be around for the kids more while they’re little, and I make my own hours to work around them.

The change of pace is very different to the big city, do you have any regrets on moving to the Kent coast?

It’s so different living here, but I absolutely love it and have no regrets. I pinch myself every day when I wake up and see the sea. It’s actually far better than I thought it would be. The whole family is happier. Plus we’ve met lots of amazing new friends, which has made it feel like home much faster than I expected.

What advice would you give someone who’s thinking of moving here?

Try it out first! It’s easy to book an Airbnb for a few weeks and see if you like it.

 www.cuttsandsons.com

Sabina Desir is a vocalist and vocal coach working in Jazz and as a Jazz promoter. She moved to Ramsgate in 2015.

What were your reasons for moving from London to Thanet?

Space! Both mental and physical. An un-expected pregnancy made me re-evaluate how I wanted to live and where. I was born and raised in Pimlico, and though there are huge benefits of living in a city I feel that when space is limited it forces people to withdraw into themselves as a means of retaining space. Everyday felt like a hustle. I couldn’t walk down the road in a straight line ever, you navigate each step you take around each other. It felt like it was time to make changes, to exhale.

Why did you choose Ramsgate?

I looked at all three towns and felt Ramsgate had a unique personality and was full of juxtapositions..it’s shabby and chic, so many incredible places of interest and is wonderfully creative. It is pure coincidence that the town is home to many musicians both established and thriving. It is a hotbed of talent and all manner of creatives can be found which has been an absolute gift.

Regarding work, have you continued to do what you did in London or has the move to Thanet resulted in a completely new career?

When I moved here I was just coming off maternity leave and really had to go back to basics with work and carve out a living for myself. I founded The Jazz Sessions which promotes artists and organises jazz events. The move has definitely pushed me to create opportunities for myself and others. The Jazz Sessions now works in partnership with Gulbenkian Theatre in Canterbury. I’m not sure I would have made something like that happen before the move.

“Everyday felt like a hustle. I couldn’t walk down the road in a straight line ever, you navigate each step you take around each other. It felt like it was time to make changes, to exhale”

The change of pace is very different to the big city, do you have any regrets on moving to the Kent coast?

Regrets no but I do miss the diversity of London and seeing other people who look like me and share my heritage on a daily basis. It is impossible to ignore living in Thanet that there is work to be done in terms of equality and cultural awareness. As a first generation black woman of Afro-Caribbean heritage who grew up in London during a time when the struggle for racial equality was at a height, Thanet is about 30 years behind in terms of attitudes to diversity. I find myself having conversations I didn’t expect to have again, having had them 20-30 years ago in this country. I guess a lot of people regardless of colour are having experiences and conversations due to the political climate that has taken the country backwards. However, I must also express that there is a great deal of kindness here. People are friendly and open. It is not unusual to be stopped by a stranger in Waitrose enquiring after my son. There is a strong sense of community. Shopping takes an least an extra 30 mins as you stop to talk in the bakers or butchers, or drop in for a quick tea and chat with whoever is in Eats and Beats. That’s really wonderful. And playing with my son after school on the beach, priceless!

What advice would you give someone who’s thinking of moving here?

The seaside towns are like villages with great community spirit. Be ready in yourself for a real change in pace. I defy anyone not to stand on one of the many beaches or sit atop a cliff looking out to France on a day with glorious blue skies and not say how fortunate they are. I moved here on my own with my then 2 year old son, my 26 year old son stayed in London. This is a place that a person can come to regardless of whether you’re single, a couple or a large family. You can find a place within the community to inhabit.  Whatever the stats say on paper, Thanet is a hidden gem.

www.facebook.com/sabina.desir.9

Katie Barber runs Albion Stores, a boutique in Margate. She moved to Margate in 2017.

 What were your reasons for moving from London to Thanet?

I’d lived in London for almost 20 years, and never thought I’d move out. I knew very little about Thanet before moving here. My boyfriend grew up in Canterbury and he told me stories of holidaying in Margate as a kid and nights out here as a teenager. It was when one of my oldest friends moved to Margate that I started becoming more intrigued. I’ve always wanted to have my own shop. Originally, I thought that the shop would be a record shop come cafe as I’d owned an online record shop before. And this beautiful Georgian building with a shop on the ground floor that my friend shared on Facebook totally hooked me in. We came to view in November 2016, put my flat in Stoke Newington on the market and moved in August 2017.

Why did you choose, Margate?

Margate is the only place we considered because it was home to the house/shop we wanted to live and start a business in, plus some very good friends and family who lived around here made it easier to relocate.

Tell us about your work.

I work in my shop full time. I manage everything that owning a business entails; selling, buying, marketing, accounting, business development, planning, order fulfilment, merchandising, and cleaning! I do have some wonderful part time staff who pick up Sundays and occasional weekdays when I need to head into London for buying trips or meetings.

I also work as a freelance marketing strategy consultant. I had a job as a strategy director in a large London agency up until July last year.

And my other ‘job’ is as a DJ, record label co-owner and party promoter. I’ve been DJ-ing since around 1994, and I’ve been lucky enough to play all over the world at some incredible clubs and festivals, as well as putting on my own parties. I also co-own and manage a record label called Adventures In Paradise, which means I get to promote the music and artists that I love beyond DJ-ing.

So you have had a career change as well as maintaining your previous work?

I’ve continued to keep my hand in the advertising world by going freelance. I still do quite a bit of work for agencies on campaigns for large global clients. But the type of work I do is changing. I’m more involved now with helping companies figure out their marketing proposition, or brand purpose, which really suits my need to work flexibly and remotely. Developing business strategies and brand strategies is something I love doing as my brain likes to be challenged. And it also helps pay the bills.

And I’ve continued to DJ and run the label from here. Margate has an exciting creative scene which has thrown up some really interesting music venues and events. I’m lucky to get to host and play at some great parties here at Margate Arts Club, The Sundeck and Radio Margate.

The change of pace is very different to the big city, do you have any regrets on moving to the Kent coast?

To be honest, I’ve not experienced a change in pace. My time is pretty filled up and I’ve no regrets about moving here.

What advice would you give someone who’s thinking of moving here?

Always have something else up your sleeve! A lot of us have moved here to fulfil that creative project or dream. But the reality is there are always bills to pay so having something that can afford you your dream is highly recommended.

www.albionstores.co.uk

Pandora Symes is an Intuitive Living coach. She moved to Ramsgate in 2017.

What were your reasons for moving from London to Thanet?

I had worked my London life into everything I wanted not to be; I worked for myself, had flexible hours and luckily, managed to work from home (one I owned, which felt like a miracle) most of the time. However, I wanted a bigger home and I was being called for more space and silence. In London we could afford a 2 bedroom – some of which were the same size as my one bed – and we just couldn’t find anything we liked. I’m from Kent originally and had some pals moving to Margate so at Christmas we came down and looked at a few houses. Margate wasn’t really our vibe but my mum recommended we take a look at Ramsgate; we pretty much fell in love with the house and the harbour immediately. I quickly realised I was being called for more space physically (we went from a 1 bed flat to a 4 bed house) and silence in being so close to the water. I suppose approaching your mid 30s quality of life becomes more important and I got to a point where I really wanted to create a home.

Why did you choose Ramsgate?

We chose Ramsgate based on the house and that it was a slightly quicker journey to London. My partner was commuting for the first 6 months so it was an important factor for us. Plus Ramsgate is pretty and looked like it had some cool stuff going on.

Tell us about your work.

I’m an Intuitive Living Coach, author and speaker, specialising in Intuitive Eating, Living and Business. Intuitive Living focuses on using our own inner GPS as a guide for health, life and business. I work with women all over the world, empowering and educating them to show up for themselves, manage their toxic self-talk and limiting beliefs. My work is focused on transforming how we are living and build more purpose and power into our lives, using a fine tuned mix of practical, mindset and spiritual tools.

Regarding work, have you continued to do what you did in London or has the move to Thanet resulted in a change?

Within a few months of being here I got pregnant and had a very sickly pregnancy, which meant I actually slowed down how much I was working at all. I took a few months off and used my maternity leave to write my first book and then went back to work fully 6 months after my daughter had been born. Leaving London made me think about how much I was saying yes to and how much more focused I could be with my time. I wanted to honour the clients who wanted face-to-face time but also did some work on shifting a lot of my coaching online, which meant less time in London and more time at home. I have to say my business has thrived since moving to Ramsgate, which I believe is a mixture of sea air, becoming a mum and being incredibly smart with my time, as well as getting a coach myself.

“My business has thrived since moving to Ramsgate, which I believe is a mixture of sea air, becoming a mum and being incredibly smart with my time”

The change of pace is very different to the big city, do you have any regrets on moving to the Kent coast?

I’m not going to sugarcoat it…yes I do miss the city! I miss music shows, good food and a good pub lunch. I feel incredibly grateful that I get to be in London 1-2 days a week and often stay over so I get my fix of my old haunts and people! There are often weeks where London feels too much though and I crave the slower pace, but all in all, I think I’ve found my perfect balance.

What advice would you give someone who’s thinking of moving here?

Weigh it up. I think you have to be aware that it is a much slower pace; there’s no Uber or Deliveroo – things a lot of Londoners rely on! There is enough going on and of course, you can get more bang for your buck on the property ladder but it is a different pace. The commute long term can be exhausting, so do think about how you can make your career work for you. You can create the life you want and make it work for you, you just need hope and some action!

www.rootedliving.co

Camille Roman is an artist. She moved to Margate in 2017.

What were your reasons for moving from London to Thanet?

London can feed a thirst and curiosity for almost anything and I learned to love it for that, but I always felt more at home by the sea. Making the move was a snap decision made before I had spent a single day in Thanet, but I discovered I was going to have baby twins, and well… I knew everything would soon change drastically for us anyway!

Why did you choose, Margate

I heard there was true community in Margate, rallying both to restore its history and to create new things and opportunity. Blue sky thinking is very present here and totally infectious!  You are always likely to bump into someone you know within moments of leaving your doorstep in Margate, that was a surprise… but I totally love that about it.

Tell us about your work.

I create paper flower arrangements and installations where each element is chosen for its historical or cultural symbolism. Posy Patou is a modern take on the Victorian traditions of Floriography; when a selection of meaningful blooms were arranged together to send a distinct yet unspoken message.

Regarding work, have you continued to do what you did in London or has the move to Thanet resulted in a complete career change?

I had been working in the fashion industry for about 13 years, first in design and then in trend forecasting. It was a true rollercoaster of a love affair but I was 100% ready to move on! I wanted to do something new that could combine my love of intricate craft and collaboration, which is how the idea for Posy Patou came about. I did a short workshop and realised that all those years sculpting duchess satin by hand had been good training for flower making!

The change of pace is very different to the big city, do you have any regrets on moving to the Kent coast?

No regrets. I had to tune out a lot when I was commuting to central London everyday, and those filters keep you in your head and out of the moment.  I have to be firmly in the moment whether I like it or not now (twin toddlers), so I am glad that I can enjoy the simple benefits of the seaside whilst the chaos ensues.

What advice would you give someone whos thinking of moving here?

Margate is so unique but it surprisingly reminds me so much of Gibraltar (where all my family are from). I think it can be somewhere you feel at home right away, or quite vulnerable. Perhaps it’s being so exposed to the elements, so much more aware of the weather and the tides, people are a lot more connected. If you want less anonymity, come and get it…

www.posypatou.com

 

 

 

Katie Spanjar runs Northdown Brewery. She moved to Margate in 2017. 

What were your reasons for moving from London to Thanet?

Predominately for business reasons, we did a thorough recce of the Kent coast & settled on Margate as we spotted a gap in the market. Of course seaside living was a huge draw and it was fairly important that we weren’t too far away from London work & family.

Why did you choose Margate?

We chose Margate as it’s a land of opportunity! It really is a town of creativity & positiveness with affordable rents and great work spaces. On our repeated visits we found everyone to be friendly & welcoming. For such a small place the quality of restaurants & bars is very high and that was a huge draw too.

Tell us about your work. 

My husband & I are Margate’s first working brewery in 50 years.

Regarding work, have you continued to do what you did in London or has the move to Thanet resulted in a complete career change?                                                                                   

In London we built a bar on a former TV shop and ran it for 7 years. We were incredibly proud of our little haven. We began to look at the brewing side when we were trying to source great beers and to possibly to find an alternative career, which didn’t involve late nights! It stands us in good stead being former publicans as we have good relationships with most landlords as they understand the trade.

“There are so many events, showings and activities going on in this town, my social life is far busier than it ever was in London! Plus you can WALK everywhere”

The change of pace is very different to the big city, do you have any regrets on moving to the Kent coast?                               

No regrets, just things I miss. Not enough noodles for my liking! Decent Christmas lights and displays too. Our pace of life is still fairly full-on as we are building a business. However, there is definitely a more relaxed approach to how things are run, timeframes etc which is lovely. There are so many events, showings and activities going on in this town, my social life is far busier than it ever was in London! Plus you can WALK everywhere.

What advice would you give someone who’s thinking of moving here?

Do your homework. It really isn’t for everyone. In winter it can be really hard. It’s not as easy to ignore the deprivation as in London as it’s a smaller town although the size of Margate does allow to get involved easily in the community and “do your bit”. 
With Margate regaining its bustle the town’s coffers should be growing to hopefully make it a happy, clean & safe place for all.

www.northdownbrewery.com

Clarissa and Thea Renee run social enterprise The Hubspot. They moved to Margate in 2015.

What were your reasons for moving from London to Thanet?

I wanted to get out of London and raise my son by the sea. I mix of a slower pace of life, nature, good schools and belonging to a community appealed to me.

Why did you choose, Margate?

I never actually planned to move to Margate. When the opportunity came to move to the Kent coastline, I jumped at the chance, packed up our life and headed here to start a new life away from the stresses I’d been fighting in London.

Tell us about your work.

I am a Life Coach and Wellness Practitioner. My company IDT Reborn, offers coaching as well as products to help live a more mindful and aligned life. I work using the Law of Attraction principal in my 1-1 and coaching, webinars and audio tutorials.

Last year, my sister Thea and I set up a social enterprise; The Hubspot. Now completely online, The Hubspot produces webinars and tutorials aimed at supporting the community; from business and employment skills to mindfulness practices. We also like to use our social media to promote local charities and events as much as possible.

Regarding work, have you continued to do what you did in London or has the move to Thanet resulted in a career change?

I worked in corporate environments for twenty plus years in London, in various roles as Executive Assistant, Office Manager and PA. When I had my son in 2013, I set up my first business, aiming be to at home more for my son, as a single parent. I continued to grow my business and do freelance work as a Virtual PA and Social Media Manager, qualifying as a Life Coach this year. Moving to Thanet in 2015 and the considerably lower cost of living here compared to London, has enabled me to continue to be my own boss, and therefore be there more for my son whose is now 6 years old.

The change of pace is very different to the big city, do you have any regrets on moving to the Kent coast?

Not one regret! I love our seaside home and so much more about Thanet; my son goes to a brilliant school, there’s a thriving community of like-minded, creative people, lots of activities and events most of the year round, great places to eat and drink, cheaper rents, and glorious award winning beaches. What’s to regret?

What advice would you give someone who’s thinking of moving here?

Don’t wait too long! The wave of people moving to Thanet is really growing larger by the month. This, in turn has led to the rise in property rentals and sales, as demand shows no signs of slowing down!

https://www.instagram.com/hubspotcrew/

Email: info@thehubspot.com

 

 

Aldene Johnson is a fashion stylist and creative consultant. She moved to Margate in 2017. 

What were your reasons for moving from London to Thanet?

We decided to move out of London after our second baby was born. I grew up in Durban, South Africa and wanted to get back to coastal living.

Why did you choose Margate?

We moved to Margate as we liked the creative energy as soon as we visited here. We decided Margate was the perfect fit for us.

Regarding work, have you continued to do what you did in London or has the move to Thanet resulted in a career change?

Yes I’ve continued my career as a stylist and still maintain my studio in London. I go to London regularly but also get to work from home. I travel a lot for work anyway so the distance doesn’t bother me. I’m also working on an exciting project that is Margate based.

The change of pace is very different to the big city, do you have any regrets on moving to the Kent coast?

I couldn’t be happier. We love living in Margate

What advice would you give someone who’s thinking of moving here?

I would advise that if you can make it work – do it!

www.aldenejohnson.com

Cynthia Lawrence-John and Rae Sims run WerkHaus, a women’s clothing store in Margate. They moved to Margate in 2016. 

What were your reasons for moving from London to Thanet?

Rae – Myself and my husband were looking for a new adventure. We are both self employed and realised that we were paying the ‘London Tax’ on everything we did and we didn’t need to be. So we started looking for somewhere to move to and Margate came up having stayed here on holiday a few years before. The sense of space you get here is incomparable.

Cynthia – Around 5 years ago a good friend of mine moved to the area. I came to visit and just loved how I felt here…free! I felt that I could actually think!

Why did you choose, Margate?

Rae- We chose Margate because it had the best mix of traditional British seaside town, somewhere that has been neglected but in which roots of exciting projects and activity were starting and a town which has a great history and of course the sandy beaches and brilliant sea to swim in and enjoy. Plus it really felt like there was a vibrancy in Margate that we hadn’t felt anywhere else, the rumblings of community wide projects and exciting things happening.

Cynthia – I chose Margate as there is just something so magical and calming about the sandy beach. I love the beach whatever the weather, even when the winds are savage. On moving here, I also discovered that many old friends had relocated or were in the process of relocating. London is a bubble, particularly when one works in certain industries… I feel it’s important to experience life outside of that bubble! Margate is great in that you can be super social or completely anti-social depending on your mood…there’s always something strange and wonderful going on. I love that you need to hunt for interesting activities, shops etc. It’s not laid out on a platter.

“It really felt like there was a vibrancy in Margate that we hadn’t felt anywhere else, the rumblings of community wide projects and exciting things happening”

Tell us about your work. 

Rae- I am a footwear and accessories designer and a fashion trend forecaster. I have a bag brand; Buckitt, and I also lecture in Fashion Entrepreneurship and Forecasting at a university. Since moving to Margate I set up WerkHaus Margate with Cynthia (who I actually met here!).

Cynthia– I’m a Stylist/Creative Consultant. I also work as a mentor to young women looking to find a career path in the media and fashion industries. I set up Werkhaus with Rae after we met in a yoga class in Margate!

Regarding work, have you continued to do what you did in London or has the move to Thanet resulted in a career change?

Rae – I do much less freelance work now and focus on the shop, the bags and teaching. Oh and swimming in the sea as often as possible.

Cynthia – I still need to travel to ‘Babylon’, aka London on a regular basis for work. I do still dip in and out of London life, but I wouldn’t say I miss it when I’m not there, yes there is a lot going on culturally which is great! But sometimes so much activity can be overwhelming and a ‘brain drain’.

Living outside of London enables me to actually properly switch off from work projects. There is nothing like sitting on that high-speed Margate bound train after a days work.

The change of pace is very different to the big city, do you have any regrets on moving to the Kent coast?

Rae – None. Just wish we’d done it sooner.

Cynthia – Absolutely give me the Margate beach over the Overground or Central line during rush hour, when it’s each man for himself! The one thing I do miss about London is that it is so multi-cultural.

What advice would you give someone who’s thinking of moving here?

Rae – Don’t come with any preconceptions about what it’s like to live outside of London. I think if you’ve lived there a while there’s a sense that people are somehow lesser for living elsewhere and that’s not the case. Plus just remember it’s only 1.5hrs away and you’d think nothing of sitting on a bus for that long in London!

Cynthia – People often say when I tell them I live in Margate “oh it’s really cool there…that’s where all the hipsters have moved to” which kinda leaves me open mouthed.

Some people arrive here and they expect to be ‘entertained’ which leaves me speechless. Some people instantly just see it as a run-down British seaside town.

I see Margate as a place I can think, breathe and feel! London and city life in general is a vortex which DRAINS you physically and spiritually. Margate does the exact opposite! If that is what you want in life. HAPPY DAYS! Peace!

www.werkhausmargate.com

Photography Kat Green Words Jo Reynolds
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