Mr Ramsgate – aka Ralph Hoult – has been made an OBE in the New Year Honour List.
The 74-year-old was recognised for his service to the Ramsgate community.
Ralph is well-known in entertainment, setting up Starlite Entertainers almost 40 years ago and, later, the Ramsgate Events Group.
Mr Hoult came to Thanet with his family as a baby. The former Ellington Infants pupil is also an honorary Freeman of Ramsgate.
He was one of the first pupils in the Newington Junior School and the Hereson Secondary Modern School.
He joined the Cubs as an 8 year old in 1951 on the Newington Estate and won the top Scouting Award, the Queen Scout Award.
He worked as an apprentice manager at Mence Smiths, a hardware store, straight from school at the age of 15 years. After 15 months he decided that the RAF was the career that he wanted.
In Spring 1960, Ralph went to RAF Cardington to try and join the RAF, He joined as a Boy Entrant Photographer at RAF Cosford in September 1960, at the age of 16 years old, and went on an 18 month training course, gaining an accelerated promotion, for being second place on the course, to Senior Aircraftsman in 1962.
During his 12 years term of service, he served at RAF Wittering, RAF Bruggen in Germany, RAF Brampton, RAF Episkopi in Cyprus and finally RAF Marham. During this time, he was a volunteer Scoutleader, at his last four RAF Bases. He ran the Station Youth Club at RAF Bruggen and was the district press officer for Cyprus, Brampton & Marham.
During this period, he was promoted to Corporal and as section manager of the RAF Marham photographic section gained an Air Officer in Chief’s Commendation in conjunction with the Queen’s Birthday Awards for the way he managed the Photographic Flight with a staff of 15 Airmen.
He left the RAF in 1973 and then worked at Argos in Canterbury as a ‘Sight and Sound Manager’, at Henry’s photographic and electrical shop as a manager and at Riceman’s of Canterbury as a buyer and department manager for photographic and records. This was followed by setting up his own photographic business, which lasted for 30 years.
He continued running firstly St Laurence Scouts and then the Holy Trinity Scouts, making a total of 22 years service to Scouting as a Youth Leader and press officer. Ralph gained a Long Service Award and the Woodbadge Training Award (an adult training award.)
When he left the Scout Movement, over 35 years ago, he set up Starlite Entertainers Productions to give an opportunity to people of all ages to get into theatre in Thanet, while raising funds for good causes. This raised over £250,000 for local and national charities and good causes, staging over 700 shows and events across Thanet.
He also set up the Ramsgate Events Group (R.E.G). He was founder member of the team that took over the Granville Theatre 12 years ago, raising £135,000 in shareholders to purchase the business for the town.
In June 2009, Ralph joined the new Ramsgate Town Council and was made Deputy Mayor of Ramsgate for two years.
He has served for ten years as Chairman of the Ramsgate & Broadstairs Sea Cadet Corps, over three terms of service to the Corps and has attended a Royal Garden Party with HM The Queen.
Ralph also ran the King’s Community Theatre to raise funds for the venue and stage shows for the town and co-ordinated volunteers at the Ramsgate Visitor Information Centre.
He is married to Jean and they have three sons and two grandchildren.
On receiving the OBE honour, Ralph said: “I was gobsmacked, especially with it being an OBE. But it is not about one person, without all the teams that have helped with events and shows and without, most importantly, the people who turn up to support those events, none of it would be possible.”
The year ahead
Ralph is a trustee of the Thanet Community Development Trust and with them will be running a 13 week history workshop from next month at the HQ in Lillian Road.
From February, again with the Trust, he will head up a seniors’ club meeting at Westwood Tesco in the community room twice a month, on Wednesday mornings.
Ralph said: “After six months we want to set up a Ramsgate branch to replace the Age Concern we lost in Meeting Street. The most important thing is having somewhere to go and meet people and make friends.”
A venue is yet to be arranged.
Alongside the history workshops is a bigger project to create a Ramsgate museum. This may be based at the current Maritime Museum but the aim is to share a wider history of the town. The collection would include the thousands of town photos belonging to Ralph.
He said: “History is such a huge asset and Thanet is so rich in it that we need to share that.”
Ralph is also working on a major event for 2021 which will celebrate 200 years of Ramsgate’s Royal Harbour status. A bust of King George IV, who awarded the honour to the town, is being made by artist Dominic Grant.
Article background with thanks to Dean Williams of Ramsgate Town Council