Somewhere to meet friends, socialise, shop and be entertained….perhaps

I was at the last night of Mecca Bingo in Ashford. The place was packed to the rafters, well when I say rafters, it was the first time id seen the upstairs area ever used for bingo as well.
I don’t mind admitting Mrs T and I were semi regular attendees, we knew a lot of regular faces and we knew, by the end, a lot of the staff too.
But once Mecca had made the decision to close the club, peoples enthusiasm waned and it was only that last night, with the offer of a free buffet as well, that packed the place. Reason for the closure was pretty obvious, not enough footfall to keep it open financially…. Which says a lot about how much it did cost, bearing in mind the huge numbers of elderly people who used the place as their place to socialise….since the demise of the Joe Fagg Centre, there’s literally been nowhere centrally for Ashfords’ older people to focus on as a meeting place, yes you see them dotted about in cafes, but this was their congregating point. Obviously there’s no sentiment in business benefit  hence why Mecca made the call to close but it got me thinking, what could the former building be used for.
On Facebook I’ve been relatively vocal about the fact I’m not in favour of the theatre…it would be a white elephant and would need millions from private investor to turn it into that venue everyone seems to want to compete with the Marlowe in Canterbury.
A gig venue, well folks,  currently you don’t go to whats out there now so why should it become a gig venue,
Accommodation, that seems the most likely option following the path ABC seem to take,… Knock the building down and build more homes…No more please ABC.
So here’s my suggestion, slightly amended from my recent FB post, open it out, have it as an indoor market area, replacing the Farmers market which is poorly attended and with little variety to say the least, have a small performance area where the stage used to be, and (this is the added bit) give part of it to the local senior day care charities, let them run it as a cafe/meeting place, not only will they have somewhere to go, but also they can use the site as a place to reminisce over past glories of the building, reminiscing is something everyone knows is very comforting to those of senior years.
Alas, I feel the the afore-mentioned homes would be the decided direction for the site to become. If thats decided, all that needs to be said otherwise is ABC, find a central location for people to meet, to talk, to be a community. Stop driving community to the suburbs, use the public transport network into the town to bring people into the town to be that community, to be that network, that support network for people. Ashford has become a place for modernisation, there’s no doubt, but there is still a population here, and a growing one, that still like to get together over a cup of tea and a chat.   Look after all of us ABC, all our families, all our neighbours.


Images in this post are of the Montreux market hall in Switzerland. It holds a weekly general market, Christmas market and is used for a variety of music and theatrical performances. The sides can be open or curtain sided for an all weather multipurpose facility. – Admin

Phill Thorne

I present Weekend Breakfast most Saturdays on Radio Ashford 107.1FM. You’ll probably have seen me at festivals and gigs over the last few years and if you’ve been to Create, I'm the one who turns up on stage between the acts wearing loud shirts !

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