So boring, they named it once

A spin doctor is aiming to change the image of the `most boring place on earth'.
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The Independent Culture
AND SO to Fakenham in Norfolk (3km by 1.5km, pop 7,000, main industry agriculture) to discover for myself whether it really is "one of the most boring places on earth". It's been a hot issue since this sleepy town's amour propre was dreadfully ruffled a week ago. The drama broke when the council's computer expert went online to update Fakenham's official entry with such attractions as the Gas Works and the Glandford Shell Factory. He stumbled across an entry for Fakenham on the Guide to Knowhere website, which accused the place of terminal tedium.

Since news of this damning indictment got out, this tiny market town has become the Althorpe Park of Fenland, with press, television and tourists descending, eager to taste the nature of ultimate boredom.

It's not easy. Getting to Fakenham requires a pilgrim's dedication. Trains halt at the comparative metropolis of Norwich or the bustling historic town of King's Lynn, each some 20 miles away, after which you rely on a bus that may or may not come, and, if it does, meanders through the hedgerows and lanes, stopping to pick up anyone to be found in the tiny villages, as deserted as a Western saloon after a shoot-out.

I arrived in Fakenham the day the sleek, chic and urbane young spin doctor Kizzi Nkwocha was hitting town. Brandishing his popular soubriquet "the black Max Clifford", this erstwhile News of the World drugs and showbiz reporter, who counts Mandy Allwood among his clients, was here to take on the challenge of reversing Fakenham's tarnished image.

Improbable it may be, but when Kizzi heard of Fakenham's fate he telephoned the town council and offered his help. He flung in the names of a handful of stars - Stephen Fry, actress Liza Goddard, Ross Kemp of EastEnders and Lionel Blair, who all know and love the area. He assured them he could convince the nation that the things Fakenham boasts - the driest place in England with a rainfall comparable to Jerusalem, a bowling alley, a racecourse backing on to a caravan park, a weekly market offering anything from clothes to "brass lumpy things", and the nearby Muckleborough Military Collection - are worth knowing about. His expression is a study in earnestness: "My purpose is to make Fakenham the most talked-about town in the country. It's not what I hope to do. It's what I will do. I'm going to bring Fakenham to the media and the media to Fakenham."

"He offered his services and we said `why not?'," explains the deputy mayor, Keith Barrow, lyrical on the subject of his own 32 years living in Fakenham. "Particularly when he told us he wouldn't charge."

Whatever his agenda in taking on the task, in Fakenham Kizzi is a local hero. On his Tuesday walkabout he was greeted with high-pitched delight by local kids who seemed to think Stan Collymore had arrived. Then came the butcher, the fish and chip shop man, the chap who runs the racecourse that has outnumbered Kempton Park at one of its race meetings, all effusive in their gratitude. Liza Goddard, who models advertisements for the local Aldiss store, added as much glamour as was possible on a day when a sky like a dirty dishcloth engulfed the flatlands of the East Anglian landscape.

"It's a matter of civic pride, setting the record straight," Keith Barrow explained as he led Kizzi through the shopping streets, into the council chamber and into the Crown Hotel bar, where he recalled that at some time a young woman had been murdered.

He listed a "fabulous 15" things the town has going for it which include the local waterfowl park, the Fakenham choral society, an archery club, the re-vamped library and the McVitie's food factory where Linda McCartney's meals are made.

Kizzi's smile was indefatigable. "The town isn't about great architecture, wonderful shops or fantastic discos. It's the people. They've got spirit, they're open to change and certainly far from boring." Grand claims for a visit that lasted just four hours, but Kizzi is confident: "I don't have to stick my head up a cow's arse to know a good steak."

Meanwhile, in the face of local opprobrium, the man responsible for the fateful Internet listing has sold his computer and promised he will not go online again, even though he is unrepentant.

Kizzi is planning further visits: "Taking me on was a brave decision for these people who live so far from the world of publicists, but we've put Fakenham on the national agenda. From now on anything that happens in this town is news."

Watch this space.