Published: Friday, 20th October 2017

The Strand Leisure Park in Gillingham will soon be at the centre of a community heritage project thanks to a £49,500 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

There is much more to The Strand than meets the eye and now with funding secured the council, together with MidKent College and a new Friends of The Strand group, will uncover the interesting past of the much-loved outdoor activity venue, thanks to money raised by National Lottery players. 

The Strand is steeped in history going back almost 100 years and was originally developed as a riverside pleasure ground between 1921 and 1926, with additional facilities for ‘holidays at home' during World War 2.

The work is part of an 18 month project called Talking Telescopes and is due to run until July 2019. The funding will be used to launch the project, which is part of a Young Roots project, in partnership with MidKent College students and the aim is to preserve, interpret and enhance the heritage and look of The Strand. This will be done through interpretation boards and three talking telescopes, which will illustrate the historical significance of the area. 

Talking telescopes

The telescopes will ‘talk’ to visitors as they look through the lens, playing pre-recorded soundbites from those who experienced The Strand as children in its heyday, during the 50s and 60s. MidKent College students will lead on the creative side of the project, allowing them to gain valuable experience in the tourism or the creative sector.

To launch the scheme a special themed event will be held which will reflect on how The Strand would have been in that era, and allow people to learn more about the heritage of the site and the history on their doorstep. 

Another aim of the initiative is to increase community pride and active engagement at The Strand through the introduction of a Friends of The Strand group. The group will help lead various volunteer projects, such as the refreshing of the murals on the site. 

Experiencing The Strand in the 50s and 60s

Medway Council’s Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Community Services, overseeing heritage, Cllr Howard Doe said: “I am really pleased that the National Lottery has recognised the significance of this project at The Strand. Lots of people enjoy going to The Strand to use the pool and other facilities, but the history of the site isn’t widely known.

“As part of this project I look forward to hearing the experiences of local people who enjoyed visiting The Strand in the 50s and 60s when they were youngsters – it’s an important part of Medway’s history to capture and treasure. 

“The creation of a volunteer friends group as part of the programme is going to play a valuable role in helping to improve the look of the leisure park, and it’s also a great way to get local people together, making friends and working towards a joint goal.” 

MidKent College students supporting the heritage project

Steve Hyland, Director of Communications at MidKent College, said: “We’re incredibly proud of Medway’s rich heritage, and delighted that our Media and Music students can support this project to shine a light on The Strand’s importance as a community facility through the ages. It’s a wonderful opportunity to connect people to Medway’s history.”

News archive