Monday, 10 October 2011

TIME TO BREAK SILENCE ABOUT THANET'S GANGSTERS,

Gangsters have played a major part in the past of the isle of Thanet– and are continuing to exert a big influence today, according to writer Norman Thomas.
“It’s actually quite horrifying the extent to which people on the isle go in fear of a small number of powerful individuals,” Mr Thomas said. “And it’s not just petty crime and drugs. I believe people with gangster links are involved in major property deals and developments on the island.”
Mr Thomas has come to this conclusion after years of researching the subject. Now he intends to spotlight the topic in a play which premieres in Broadstairs on Wednesday October 19th and a film which will be screened in the new year. His aim, he said, is to “break the silence about Thanet’s gangster past”.
“For far too long people have been scared to talk about Thanet’s gangsters. I once asked a journalist why he hadn’t written about them,” Mr Thomas said. “He said he didn’t want to end up in a concrete overcoat in Margate harbour!”
Mr Thomas traces Thanet’s gangster history back to the smuggling gangs of the eighteenth century.  One of the isle’s beaches, Joss Bay, is believed to have taken its name from Joss Snelling, leader of the Callis Court Gang, and was known as the “Famous Smuggler of Broadstairs”. 
In more recent times, fifty years ago, Mr Thomas said, Thanet had links with some of London’s most notorious gangs including the Kray twins, the Richardsons and “Mad” Frankie Frazer.
And Thanet’s council has had its criminal connections, too, according to Mr Thomas. “The most famous example is Cyril Hoser, a councillor who was convicted for forging money in the 1980s.”
“What’s really disturbing is the respect and honour in which many of the people I spoke to still hold these characters,” Mr Thomas said, “I talked to someone who said they thought the Krays weren’t mad thugs but ‘good people’.”
But despite their vicious image,  Mr Thomas has taken a comic approach to the way he portrays gangsters in his new play.  “Gangsters In Thanet” tells the story of two newcomers to the area who discover a dead body in their home and a gangster coming to dinner.
 “It’s a pretty wild piece,” Mr Thomas “a bit like Arsenic and Old Lace meets Fawlty Towers,” Mr Thomas said, “but amid the laughs, there’s a lot of truth, too.”
Norman Thomas is the author of “Gangsters In Thanet” which runs from Wednesday October 19th to Sunday October 23rd at 7.30pm at the Red Hall, 11 Grosvenor Road Broadstairs CT10 2BT. Booking is advisable – telephone 01843 604253 or email inmeds@yahoo.co.uk.   

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