Melissa vs Matthew: DFLs and DFAs – benefiting Thanet or not?

Matthew and Melissa

Last week Matthew and Melissa debated the merits of the grammar school system. Melissa was firmly against, Matthew in favour.

Our poll shows that just under 52% of you agreed with Melissa, 46% with Matthew and the remainder undecided.

This week’s debate looks at the migration of people to Thanet, from London (DFL – Down from London) and further afield (DFA – Down from Anywhere).

Melissa says:

Recently I met a chap who’d moved from London to Ramsgate a few years back. “Wonderful area, wonderful views”, he said; “but God, the locals would totally spoil it for you if you let them. Inbred half-wits, one and all. I’ve yet to meet one I can talk to, or even tolerate. Such a shame. But luckily more and more interesting people are arriving here all the time.” I excused myself to vomit quietly behind his nutribullet.

I don’t care where you’re from. Wherever you’re from, I’d probably hate you. I’m powerfully anti-social.

I’m from East Herts, for the record; born in a town so far up its own behind it could wear its tonsils for a tiara.

Thanet’s shabby, shambolic seaside sauce suits me. I like pound shops, charity shops, slightly unkempt front gardens, cars that aren’t washed every Sunday: screaming rows in the street, men whose muscles are the result of hard graft, rather than kale smoothies and £80 a month gyms.

But during the decade I’ve lived here, the rot has truly set in. It’s my fault, I realise, or at least the fault of those like me. We saw a working-class wonderland and decided to bend it to our will and desires, as Columbus did the Americas, without thought for the people who’d been living here for generations: their quiet home has now been stolen and colonised.

Where once there was Dreamland – naff rides and a cheap day out – now we have a kitsch monstrosity. The middle classes have taken it over, made it fey, knowing, unprofitable and intolerable. Leave it alone! If its day has passed, let it sink quietly into the mire, sun-faded keeper of a myriad golden memories. Don’t attempt to revive its corpse by pumping it full of ironic twists and genteel, misty-eyed nostalgia. It’s just embarrassing.

And the Turner! Now, I like the Turner. I’ve learnt a lot there and seem some incredible, life-affirming stuff within its walls. But I would, wouldn’t I? I’ve got an arts degree. The Turner came here with the express purpose of educating and civilising the natives, bringing them up to an acceptable level of noncy. They didn’t want it, God knows. They railed and raged against it. The middle-class interlopers did. It made for some plausible explanation as to why they’d plonked themselves down by the sea, other than property prices. Oh, but look, Margate’s up and coming, they’d say, meaning it’s a total hell-hole now, but it’s OK, we’re busy turning it into something we can boast about. A quaint little catch, really not in the least vulgar, and just look how many bedrooms we could afford!

But it was fine before, actually. It was already up, and it’s definitely come. Working class culture is perfectly valid and acceptable, kind, inclusive, and how extraordinary this point has to be made in 2018. An acquaintance of mine just got back from Australia, and told me “Oh, the Aborigines just get drunk all day long! They’ve been given everything, lovely homes and community centres, all free, but they don’t use them. They only want to sleep in the mud. They don’t want to be civilised.” And it reminded me of the tone taken when people discuss why locals do not make more use of the Turner centre. But it’s not their culture. It’s their land and built with their council tax, but it’s nothing to do with them. It’s been erected as a huge monument to all that’s wrong with working class Thanet, and how our new bourgeois overlords will strive to improve it, and them, or else.

After the Turner, a whole host of quirky, hilarious, authentic arty shops and bars opened in its wake, to further establish bourgeois cultural hegemony. Well, who cares, you might ask? The money’s flooding in, the tourists are back, property prices are on the rise. But are they?

For a select few that might be true. Property prices are certainly rising in Thanet, up 3.69% this last year, 6.14% in Ramsgate, compared to 2.7% on the average British home, so that locals are priced out of their own area. Hurrah! But Thanet remains the poorest and most deprived area in Kent, with high rates of unemployment and crime, low rates of health and educational achievement, the 35th most deprived area in the country, with Cliftonville West the fourth most deprived.

All that’s truly happened is that a handful of middle class intruders have given a sparkly, glossy new look to the centre of a working class town, set down a load of restaurants no native could afford to step into, and set up shops which make you feel inadequate, uncouth and out of the loop even as you walk past them. The poor are still as poor as ever; now they are poor and also aware their culture and heritage is something to be crushed and eviscerated, mocked and destroyed, to make way for the new and acceptable. Thanet and its people have become little more than a punchline, as if there were something richly, invariably comic about being from a part of the world that isn’t London.

Erasing local culture and tradition is nothing less than cultural imperialism.

Matthew says:

Being outside the area you were born in often excites a lot of comments; “Where are you from? What was it like? Did you like it there? Why on earth did you move here?”

I find myself asking those questions of people, because I’m fascinated why people migrate – is it for love, for work, for curiosity? So many potential reasons, and there are as many stories as there are people who migrate.

We do like an acronym, and so these internal movements around the country have received just that; you movers are called DFLs (if you come from anywhere even vaguely associated with London) or DFA (Down From Anywhere) – I only learnt that second acronym the other day, and it feels good to share.

But being a DFL excites attention; they come down here, taking our jobs, taking our potential partners, clogging up our beaches and parks … and so on and so on. But still people move; some people (whisper it) even leave Thanet from time to time to live somewhere else; why would you ever want to do that?

But the prospect of DFAs moving to the coast does excite commentary and it really intrigues me. I didn’t realise that it caused such passion (particularly anti), but it does; this pattern of movement pushes up house prices, reduces the number of jobs for locals, and artificially raises prices – so let’s ban the DFLs and see everything return to a natural equilibrium. Right?

Well, it’s not that simple, of course, and I suspect – I hope – that even the most ardent anti-DFL resident would agree with that. Banning freedom of movement across the country is practically impossible, and does anyone really want us to remain within the confines of our ceremonial boundaries for our entire lives? No, that would be entirely nonsensical, and no-one would argue for that – well, I can’t imagine it, anyway.

So, what’s the answer to DFAs helping house prices to rise? First, it’s about recognising that it’s only contributing to a rise in prices; newcomers can’t do it alone and supply and demand is contributed to by local need and wants as well. The housing market is a complex beast, far more difficult to understand than I could ever hope, but it’s something to be conscious of; it is complex, so let’s not reduce its fluctuations to one issue without understanding everything first.

Part of the solution is to stop price gouging; prevent house prices from being artificially increased far beyond what’s reasonable and build more affordable homes for people to get onto the ladder. Notice in those two points the thing I didn’t mention; DFAs. The problem isn’t DFAs; the problem is the market sensing an opportunity and hoovering up the profit margins. That’s what we should be getting annoyed at and be dealing with, not the people wanting to settle in the area and call this place home.

Movement also changes the demographic of an area; yes, that’s absolutely true. It often decreases the average age of people in the area and it means that there’s sometimes more competition for jobs. Undeniable – I’ve seen it happen. But again, let’s not play a blame game; let’s question why there isn’t the investment into the area that will allow more jobs to be created? Isn’t that what we want from a free and fair jobs market? If we’re going to get annoyed at something, let’s get annoyed at the right thing.

Having people move into the area is a good thing; it’s lovely to have infusions of new ideas and fresh pairs of eyes. Yes, it means that the area might change, but change happens anyway,

So, do we grasp it with both hands and greet it head on, to take some measure of ownership, or do we shy away? I welcome the DFAs, and always enjoy seeing where new ideas will take us.


  1. Mathew says ‘ let’s question why there isn’t the investment into the area that will allow more jobs to be created? ‘ its precisely because DFA’s object to any form of development that might just possibly create jobs that is why many locals are reluctant to welcome incomers.

    • Mike Harrison makes a generalization which is not true. He also over-simplifies the current economic situation. For instance, a good deal of the resistance to Stone Hill Park’s mixed-use plans for the former Manston airport comes from people who assert that they are Thanet-born and -bred.

  2. Can anyone lay claim to a place? I don’t know what it’s like to have lived anywhere for a lifetime , let alone for generations. I havn’t lived where I was born since I was six. Most of our ancestors moved to the big cities from the countryside and lots of their descendants are moving back out again. Lots of DFLs have been forced out of London because they can’t afford to buy a room let alone a home, but they also choose Margate because it’s the seaside; we are an island race who love the sea and the sea belongs to everyone. Our family live all over the place, but we can now lay claim to two home grown Thanetians. To agree with Mathew, I’m sure incomers from anywhere bring new jobs and spend money – they also invite their friends and relatives to visit and they spend their money; hopefully everyone will benefit.

  3. There is another issue here that hasn’t been mentioned. I know of atleast 2 community projects that receive funding to target local disadvantaged families e.g those living in poverty, isolated, with mental health issues etc. Because these projects are open, free, and outdoors (for example community allotments ) DFL’S make a beeline for them and take up spaces. The postcodes are right so they can’t be turned away. But what happens then is the disadvantaged families are put off going. They feel intimidated, and are excluded from friendship groups forming among the DFL cliques.

    The other issue is that not all locals are disadvantaged natives who want to sleep in the mud. Some of us have tried to enjoy the new cafes, shops and galleries the DFL’S bring and have been snubbed. We could actually transform our town ourselves given the right opportunities, and it was already starting to happen. The death of our high streets following the Westwood cross opening was starting to right itself, starting to attract local independent stores. I guess that’s what made it attractive to DFL’S in the first place.

    I detest the tacky kitsch and retro vintage nonsense in town. I am disgusted by the snobbery towards us locals. And I am appalled at the exclusion of local disadvantaged families at projects that could change their lives.

    • I would be intrigued to know how you have been ‘snubbed’ when trying to use a café. I’d be even more intrigued to know how you have been snubbed when trying to use an art gallery.

      • It’s not that difficult to understand, is it? Girl walks into cafe/gallery, girl attempts to make conversation with staff, girl is snubbed. Staff happy to make conversation with those who fit in with their idealistic vision of who their customers are (DFL’s, in case you are wondering) but not the working class girl from Margate. Happened too many times and too obviously.

        *I* would be intrigued to know why that is the only part of my reply you feel the need to respond to?

        • I responded to that part of your reply because it was the only part I didn’t understand. I understand and sympathise with the first part.

          I’m still at a bit of a loss understanding how these café workers are selecting people to snub. Since they cannot know people’s residence history there must be some other criterion.If this has happened multiple times in multiple locations, there must be something about you that is rankling these people.

          On the other hand, if it’s just happened once or twice, are you sure that it is not that the people they are talking to are regulars, and the staff concerned are just not that forthcoming until they get to know you?

          I really can’t believe that they are carefully checking your accent and then refusing to talk to you just because you sound ‘local’.

          • I’m sharing my experiences, and others have noticed the same. It is easy to tell the difference between DFL’s and locals not just in the accent but in the style of clothing, attitude and topics of conversation. Us locals are just not welcomed, and it may be a subtle difference in attitude towards us but it is most certainly there. DFL’s love to share their stories of why they moved to Margate and how they are ‘saving’ this town, they love to form their little cliques and can spot eachother a mile off. I guarantee, if I went into one of these places and loudly announced ‘I just moved here from London’ I would be swamped with conversation, telephone numbers and invites to network meetings.

  4. I’ve never known a piece to be so full of sweeping (and patronising) generalisations as Melissa’s. Does she have the facts that bear out her assertion that the ‘natives’ never visit the Turner or Margate’s restaurants? Does she really enjoy ‘screaming rows’ in the street – could she not perhaps think a bit more closely about what it might be like to grow up with those screaming rows, to be related to or involved in them? Does she think those people enjoy them? She seems to profess to be on the side of the Thanetian (but only working class, she doesn’t appear to accept that…. whisper it…. there might be middle class Thanetians who were born and raised here) but actually she is patronising those very people she thinks she’s defending, suggesting only those with an ‘arts degree’ could get something from the Turner. I’d also love to know what local traditions and customs have been eroded? Broadstairs Folk Week, for example, is over 50 years old…. no sign of DFL/DFA based erosion yet. People moving into areas (particularly coastal ones) is a complex issue and has been done a disservice by her point-scoring, illogical piece. Matthew, yours is perfect!

  5. Leaving aside the fact that there are pihotographs of me at age 0 on Ramsgate beach and that happy holidays may have been the reason I eventually retired here, leaving a property in London for others who work there to live in, both “camps” seem to have forgotten the bigger picture. Very many of us DFLs moved here when we retired. We aren’t taking others’ jobs. We had jobs, we paid into our pension pots, and now we are spending our pensions… in Thanet! We, having more leisure time than those still working, visit cafes and restaurants , even out of season. We bring our visitors to the seaside, take them out, they spend money. As we get older we need more assistance, whereas I used to do all my own decorating, I now prefer to pay someone to hang wallpaper and paint the outside. I paid someone to clean my oven for the first time in seventy years. I volunteered at a school, helping struggling readers, for an academic year – and I’m not the only one by far who did/still do that. Most importantly, and not mentioned at all by Matthew or Melissa, is that we pay our council tax! Without us, Thanet would be in a far more parlous state than it is… Please remember that next time you hear someone complain about DFLs.

  6. Congratulations to the Isle of Thanet News for including a debate about DFA’s and DFL’s without once mentioning what these abbreviations stand for.

    A little digging makes it seem likely that DFL stands for ‘Down From London’, but I’m none the wiser as to what DFA means. ‘Down From Accrington’? ‘Down For Anything’?

    • Contained in the article “We do like an acronym, and so these internal movements around the country have received just that; you movers are called DFLs (if you come from anywhere even vaguely associated with London) or DFA (Down From Anywhere) – I only learnt that second acronym the other day, and it feels good to share.”

  7. Of course had the conversation been about black people muslins and Jews there would be screaming shouts of racism and racist. However as they have not been mentioned it seems fair game for generalisation and pick on the DFLs and the DFA. Whatever their DNA.
    Don’t lets kid ourselves that those who move here are drawn by the “lovely views and beaches” The DFLs are more likely to have sold up in London for a good price and got out of London for the hell it has become with the crime rate.
    Talking to one person who told me he had bought his London two bed flat from the council for £48,000 and sold it for £450,000
    He and his wife now own two houses in Ramsgate one they live in and one they rent out. Thanking Maggie as they nod off to sleep at night no doubt.

  8. Having read through both arguments, it is not clear to me who is mooting for “immigration” and who is against (or perhaps I have lived in Thanet too long and I have “gone native” !).

    I am sure that Thanet is not really any different from anywhere else in the country – and certainly no different from many other seaside towns being a popular destination for those that either live in the country or in the city.

    “Back in the day” Thanet was the the popular destination for one week or two week holidays from other parts of the country. That bubble has long since burst but we remain a popular destination for people to retire – except that many people are now able to retire at 50 or 55 rather than 65.

    Thanet has always had pockets of poverty where people on low wages lived in substandard property. The people on low wages have now been replaced by people on benefits. The post-war prefabs have been replaced by former hotels and guesthouses.

    However, at the same time, Thanet still boasts affluent areas of substantial, detached properties.

    So Thanet remains an attractive proposition to somebody who wants to live cheaply by the sea (yes I am still talking about “Dole-on-Sea”) or somebody who wants to retire here with a good value retirement home having off-loaded a more substantial family home elsewhere.

    I think the “born-and-bred” Thanet people are probably a dying race – but a surprising number who have moved away often come back so it can’t be as bad as it is often painted.

    All in all, we are a funny lot down here in Thanet – and our reputation continues to precede us . . .

  9. Oh Melissa, you sum up the situation so well!
    Why do people move to areas they consider cool, trendy, edgy (insert own euphemism) and then try to turn it into the very image of the place they’ve just left?
    Giving Margate the Turner gallery was like giving a desperately sick woman a ballgown. And then asking her to pay for it.
    I’ve been trying to think of a word for Dreamland, ever since that design bloke was paid goodness knows what to create a playground fit for hipsters (and who cares if a few creditors lost their dosh along the way?).
    You’ve found it. Fey.

  10. Want to read something to make your toes cringe and envelope you in a cloud of cloying DFL smugness? If yes, then I suggest picking up a copy of the Margate Mercury..

  11. The DFL’s who have brought their “new age” socialism is alien the local traditional Labour supporters.

  12. What about those who were born/lived in Margate, moved to London/anywhere, then moved back? Or is this a separate topic to debate?

  13. There are valid concerns about the DFL phenomenon, and here they are:
    London gangs using the under-policed and understaffed Southwestern line to Thanet, recruiting your kids as drug runners.
    London councils using the area to move vulnerable and deprived people out of their jurisdictions.
    There’s your scandal – two for the price of one.
    Melissa, you don’t have a leg to stand on. You’re a vegan DFA soygirl who has taken a job from whatever local could be working at IoTN.
    What Melissa is describing is poverty, not working class tradition. That’s not something DFLs have brought about, and it’s not something they can resolve. Nobody should be told their poverty is a birth right which needs to be preserved.
    Melissa doesn’t engage with the fact that DFLs are economic migrants, often priced out of London.
    RE: the housing market, plenty of people who moved here don’t own their houses. Melissa, you’ve written your piece for and about yourself.
    Dreamland is owned by Thanet Council. How exactly are DFLs responsible for making it ‘fey’?
    Migration from London to Thanet is not a new phenomenon. I’ve met people who moved DFL/A in the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s. I’ve heard them talk about the ‘scummy locals’. These people have been living here for decades. This isn’t a hipster problem.
    There are people screwing you over and taking advantage of the people of Thanet, and it’s not the people asking your shops to stock quinoa (one of whom is Melissa).
    You’re welcome to your poverty if you value it. But guaranteed, outside of popping into the odd charity shop, Melissa won’t go anywhere near it.
    I’m not trying to change Melissa’s opinion as I think her opinion depends on who’s paying her, but if any commenter sees this, I hope you take this into account.

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