SEASIDE FUN THAT HELPS THE INNER-CITY:
Why has this Hackney-based Social Enterprise launched a scheme to take Londoners on mini adventures to the seaside? And how will it subsidise similar trips for inner-city kids?
Taking advantage of quiet off-peak 140mph trains to Margate, #halfdayholidays aim to give Londoners a traditional seaside break with a modern twist. The beach is still key, but the trips feature new elements like the Turner Contemporary art museum, Margate’s growing gallery scene and Old Town vintage quarter.
Specialist tours are also available for private and corporate hire, focusing on art, the craft beer scene, fitness and wellbeing as well as creativity coaching and team-building for business.
“I started coming down to Margate on a Wednesday afternoon,” says founder Simon Cole (also behind east London alternative walks by Hackney Tours) “and loved the mix of contemporary art and traditional seaside. So I said ‘Where is everyone’? 1.5 hours on a quiet train and you’ve got this amazing place to yourself? I would come home feeling refreshed, reinvigorated and inspired every time, even though I’d only been away for an afternoon.
“London is fantastic but it doesn’t have the beach and the romance of the sea. There’s something incredibly good for the soul about seeing the sea: it puts everything into perspective. And people in Margate are incredibly open and welcoming, they’ve time to talk and they’re interested in you.”
A tour guide for 10 years on four continents and regular festival-goer, Cole is on a mission to bring a little bit of holiday into everyone’s lives: “We’ve all gone away, had a brilliant time and then wished we could bring some of that feeling back into our everyday lives. I read a great quote that said ‘Cramped space makes for cramped thoughts’. So why not un-cramp your brain?
“For anyone who’s in business or just in need of some creative thinking in their lives, the wide-open sky is an invitation to have ideas and change things up a bit. You temporarily leave your baggage behind when you change place.”
The tours will also help children in deprived areas of East London as profits will subsidise trips to the seaside for inner-city kids who have never been on a high speed train or visited the Kent coast. “There’s an amazing resource here. For the kids, it’s about seeing opportunities, that there’s this whole world out there that they could have access to and be part of.
“Off-peak trains get filled; Margate gets midweek trade; Londoners get to relax and have fun; disadvantaged inner-city kids get a seaside mini-holiday – there’s a lovely exchange there where everybody wins!
“We take so much for granted – like jumping on space age trains – but many kids never see this side of East London or Margate. They could be entrepreneurs, they could make art, or they could just know they have the option to live other places and other lives. Everything about Half Day Holidays is about opening doors to opportunities: to be a more relaxed you; to be more creative; to have ideas about yourself and the life you’ll lead.
“I think we all need a little more holiday in our lives. Maybe we’ll see a few more Londoners with a little Margate glint in their eye this summer.”