Jeremy Kite, Leader of Dartford Borough Council
Interview by Gordon Parker
Production by Mike Johnston
Transcript by Jane Ford
Run time: 3:23
Hi, I am Jeremy Kite and I am leader of the historic, wonderful, slightly blustery and certainly artistic town of Dartford.
I love this town of Dartford and I love the way it is growing, developing and changing. It has been one of those towns that, over the years, has changed the world really. We have had some amazing inventions here and even today our population are making big strides – we’ve got industrial firms here and big technological firms here that are changing the way that this country and the world does business.
Foolscap paper was invented here. We were a major supplier of gunpowder – we have Powdermill Lane to this day. Moving through, we were the centre of the pharmaceutical industry. Sir Henry Wellcome set up his pharmaceutical plant literally 10 yards from the Civic Centre here.
Then, of course, we had this big hit in the 20th Century with culture and music – particularly with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and their contribution to The Rolling Stones and we have Oscar winning filmmakers here. We have all sorts of great Art going on.
Sir Peter Blake who designed the Sergeant Pepper album cover – celebrating the 50th anniversary of that this year – and he too was a Dartford lad.
So there is something in the water. That’s where the water comes in I guess. There is something in our river that makes people just want to contribute to society more generally.
We are a small town. We don’t have these big landmarks like cathedrals or castles and big coastal defences or anything but we have this modesty as a town. We sit a mile, 2 miles away from the river. The river runs through us and it provides that beating heart of activity that reminds us always why we are here.
Dartford is Darent Ford. We are the ford at the River Darent. So the river is a key driver for us. It drove the paper industry, it drove the gunpowder industry. I am not sure the water necessarily drove The Rolling Stones but even so we are a great little town and we are very very proud.
Big capital cities don’t get built just on a promise and money. They need bricks and they need all that dull stuff, that cement, and the aggregate, the foundations. And for generations Dartford was the place that supplied that. We supplied it all over the world and having the river with us and all those amazing connections we were able to take the building materials a few miles up river to London and then around the globe. Yeh I suspect there is an awful lot of Dartford aggregate buried under a lot of those important London buildings and when you are sitting on top of those great iconic buildings in London I am sure the foundations are pure Dartford.
Silk River was one of those projects that just came to us by great surprise and the minute we saw it we thought, well yeah, this is something which really does speak to us. It has been a really uplifting experience and we have tried to involve as many people as possible. I think we have asked people to present an authentic vision of Dartford and its history. I have seen a sneak preview of some of the scrolls that have been done and the batik work that has been done and I have to say it has just knocked me out. Encapsulating 500 years of a town’s history on something that can be rolled up and put in your pocket – just wonderful – there is something very attractive about the project for us.
Thank you to Jeremy Kite for taking the time to speak to us.
Special thanks go to Dartford Borough Council, their staff and partners for the planning and facilitation of the Dartford walk.
Dartford Borough Council have been planning some real treats for Silk River with the following organisations:
- Dartford Town Centre Partnership
- The What if Gallery
- Cohesion Plus
- Same Sky
- The Dartford Arts Network
As the birthplace of The Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, it’s not surprising that Dartford’s Silk River journey starts with a walk from the foreshore of the Thames, along the long path used by river-borne patients, arriving at the old Isolation Hospital into a thriving new community, featuring street names such as ‘Ruby Tuesday Drive’ and ‘Satisfaction Street’, in honour of our famous rock royalty.
From the shadow of the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge, the walk celebrates Dartford’s rich industrial and manufacturing history including Sir Henry Wellcome’s former pharmaceutical works where the modern ‘Tablet’ form of medication was introduced to the world. Onward via marsh paths and the River Darent, walkers arrive at the splendour of Central Park – recently restored in grand Edwardian style. We gather at the Outdoor Theatre, fresh from hosting amazing performances of Hamlet and The Mikado for the people of Dartford.
On the way, we’ve celebrated a great riverside town’s extraordinary history with more than a nod to the modern NHS, the greatest rock band in the world and an unrivalled contribution to global industry and manufacturing. This is Dartford.