Words Mary Killen Photographs Hugo Burnand and William Ford
As Faversham Life celebrates its fourth anniversary, one of its glorious founders Sarah Langton-Lockton, is stepping aside to apply herself to the task of writing her memoirs. Her elegant, insightful articles will be much missed but Faversham Life is very pleased to welcome new writers Justin Croft and Nell Card. Justin is a renowned international antiquarian bookseller making regular television appearances on The Antiques Roadshow, and Nell, a writer for, amongst others, The Guardian and The Observer.
To celebrate our fourth birthday, we asked Mary Killen to write the outsider’s view of Faversham Life. Mary, who writes ‘Dear Mary’ in The Spectator, has a column in The Lady, and is a regular on Gogglebox on the telly, has been a stalwart fan of Faversham Life since its inception.
I live in Marlborough, Wiltshire but am an avid reader of Faversham Life. It’s not just because I love Faversham but because, for a publication of its size and scope, it is a miracle of relentless excellence. Moreover, as a journalist myself I know how rare it is for a successful publication to offer freedom of expression to a writer.
Faversham Life takes no advertising, charges nothing, and sells nothing on to data-harvesters. It also pays nothing to its contributors, and so, in the words of one of its writers, Sarah Langton-Lockton: ‘It is a uniquely altruistic venture.’
And even if readers do not share the aesthetic sensibilities of the contributors, they will find something of fascination in each new issue to remind them that Faversham is indeed a very special place, unusually well-endowed with writers, artists, musicians and other creative people as well as countless architectural gems. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and the number of subscribers steadily creeps up each month.
I have been coming to Faversham for many years thanks to Amicia de Moubray, one of the driving forces of Faversham Life. ‘Which other English town has a creek running right into the heart of the town and countryside coming into the town on the other?’ she enthuses.
‘And now with a 20 mph speed limit,’ I add. ‘What could be more restful?’
Nell Card, one of Faversham Life’s newest recruits, says that reading Faversham Life infuenced her decision to move from north London to Kent: ‘I followed Faversham Life long before I moved to the area and loved reading about little-known aspects of the town and the people who live here. I remember reading the biographies of the contributors and being really impressed by their years of experience. I knew our interests overlapped and I always intended to get in touch with the team. As it happened, they found me first. I think Faversham Life is a rich resource for the town. It’s a celebration of everything that makes this small town so welcoming and unique.’
Writer Posy Gentles says she has most valued the comment that Faversham Life not only refects the creativity of this town but also helps to nurture it.
The self-confidence of Faversham may have its origins in the 1960s when there was a move to destroy the Tudor buildings of Abbey Street. The Faversham Society was formed then by a group of vigilantes who won against all the odds.
One of the joys of an online paper is the archive. It means that you can keep revisiting the interesting articles at the touch of a button. The curiosities of Faversham which have been discovered over the years are startling. The learned piece by their newest correspondent Justin Croft on Anglo-Saxon treasures is a first-class piece of journalism by any standards.
Justin says: ‘I’m just the new boy, but I like writing for Faversham Life because it’s a refreshing format and reaches our neighbours, as well as readers much further afield, who have an affection for the town. The articles are crisp and well-illustrated, the format elegant. I also love the fact that it is entirely non-commercial and non-partisan and is distributed in a way that is not pushy or demanding. If you want to read the latest article, then great – if not, you can just delete and wait for the next article. I’m sure it’s all good for morale – focusing on the positives and with a mission to share all that is good in our town.’
The house photographer is Lisa Valder. ‘I do the photography and sometimes some picture research. I never would have thought that Faversham had so many interesting people, places and stories. We never seem to run out of new topics.’
Sarah Langton-Lockton says: ‘For me, a newcomer to Faversham (I made my home here at the end of 2013), my involvement with Faversham Life provided an accelerated entrée into the town’s multi-layered, hospitable and creative community. It has brought new friendships and a new sense of home. We receive wonderful feedback from readers. An early email was from a reader who quoted from an interview I wrote about antique dealer Ann Squires. Ann told me that Faversham people like “nice, proper things”. Our reader wrote: “This they certainly get in every piece. But as well as that they get a quirkiness of a very English kind, which is most beguiling. Faversham Life is an original and worthwhile idea, consistently well executed”.’
And I can only concur with this reader when they say: ‘For all these reasons, and despite living nowhere near Faversham, I have never missed a single issue.’
Text: Mary Killen. Photographs: William Ford, Hugo Burnand