Saint Bob's latest rant creates a storm in 'ugly' town of Margate

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The Independent Online

Bob Geldof has vented his anger at politicians and lamented the West's policies towards Africa. But the latest target for the outspoken anti-poverty campaigner is not a national leader or a failed state. It's much closer to home than that. He thinks Margate is ugly.

Councillors and residents in Kent, where Geldof made his home 23 years ago, have issued a sharp response to comments made by the Live Aid founder in a newsletter sent to every resident in the county.

Defending the aesthetic merits of the county, Geldof, 56, contrasts its "sublimely beautiful" spots with the "ugliness" of its most celebrated seaside town. "I know Kent is a bit scruffy and worn at the edges and some of its ugliness is excusable but some of it is cute and some of it is so sublimely beautiful it's ridiculous", Geldof wrote.

"If you drive off-piste for five minutes you can find complete beauty. It's a mad mystery, the battle of the ugliness of Margate against the charm of the beaches."

The leader of Thanet council, Sandy Ezekiel, challenged Geldof to "spend some time in the town to find out about our regeneration programme" and said the former Boomtown Rats singer would be "an ideal figurehead to help support the drive to revive the fortunes of the resort". He said: "I can't believe somebody of Mr Geldof's stature is saying that Margate is ugly. Of course there are deprived or derelict areas, but we have some of the most beautiful beaches in the country too. Once he's seen those, I'm hopeful Mr Geldof will become a champion for our town. Sir Bob has great connections and knows the value of sustained commitment to a cause – that's where we are with Margate.

"Its regeneration is an important ongoing plan and I am sure Sir Bob would appreciate our ambitions. I'd be very happy to show him around and tell him what we are doing."

Other residents in Margate have been less forgiving. "This is just another slap in the face for the kids of Margate, to be told by somebody they respect that their home is ugly", said Andy Somers, principal of Margate's Hartsdown Technology College.

"His statement is a knock to the self-esteem that we work so hard to help them develop as teenagers."

Mr Somers' students are issuing the Irishman with an invitation to visit their school in the next edition of the local newspaper, Isle of Thanet Extra.

Geldof's connections with Kent run deep. Having spent two decades in the county, he now lives with his three daughters in the Davington area of Faversham in the north of the county. But he has courted controversy in the area before. He provoked anger among locals when, on Radio 4's Start the Week last year, he poured scorn on the charity shops in his area. "We saw the ubiquitous charity shops sprouting everywhere, which is the first sign of decline," he said. "If there was zero tolerance in policing then they would immediately raid charity shops and close them down".

Yet he has also contributed much to the community. Last September Geldof's television production company, Ten Alps, launched the UK's first council-funded broadband television channel.

Kent TV, which is available on demand 24 hours a day, provides viewers with local news and information.

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