As a child I used to visit Basildon for shopping once a week... I remember vivdly when the fantastic Toyrus opened up and the excitement that created... there was a fantastic sainsburys surrounded by a lovely indoor shopping centre with gallery shops to visit and buy the most amazing gifts and crafting items.
It was, ttherefore, with real sadness then when i visited recently to find such a change... perhaps it is me, i know everything has to change and maybe I had an idealistic memory of Basildon, but the main town centre wh all of its shops seemed to have deteriorated significantly.
The town centre of still has a lot of the usual well known store and the Eastgate Shopping Centre still exists, but it all seemed run down to me and in need of a little tlc!
On the plus side Basildon does some good. cheap cafes to grab a coffee and a bite to eat! Just that I am afraid I would no longer want to!
“Essex, Essex, Essex is crap, It’s an absolute abomination. Essex, may it fall off the map, It’s a boil on the bum of the nation…” -Spitting Image Essex. Butt of a thousand jokes. The ‘capital’ if you will of all derogatory British humour. Home of the Ford Escort, the satellite dish and stone cladding. Girls with short skirts and high heels, Men with enough labels to open a small department store. Yes indeed, the county which Eastern Saxons once called home has become a Mecca for derisory humour and finger pointing by those who consider it all to be..well, just a bit too tacky. Basildon, a new town lying between London and Southend on Sea has risen in previous years to be the main focus for any humour targeted at Essex and has gained a certain cult notoriety for being ‘the epitomy of crap’. As a former Basildonian from the years 1978-1996, I feel I am in a position to comment now upon the town that launched a thousand punchlines and perhaps give you a little insight into the place we love to mock so much. BRIEF HISTORY After the second world war, many London families decided to move out of the nations capital due to the extent of the damage on the East End during the blitz. ‘New Towns’ were set up to cater for these families, with the town of Basildon officially setting up shop in 1948-49. The name for the town came from the Roman word for hill (don) with the ‘Basil’ coming from a shortened version of Beorthel, who was a high standing local resident. (Gosh that was informative! Although a little boring….) INDUSTRY As the town was entirely new, many workers became commuters to London, or to the nearby seaside town of Southend. Over the years, the town has grown it’s own industry, but Basildon is still regarded as being on the ‘commuter belt’. Larger firms in the town include Ford, who have a tractor plant a
t Basildon, First Data Resources, a company which deals with credit card administration and Gordon's Gin, who make lots of lovely booze for drunkards across the country. SHOPPING When Basildon managed to wangle a royal visit (I think it may have been Prince Andrew)to open it in 1986, the ‘Eastgate centre’ was seen by all in the town as a blinding light, a shimmering star, a golden egg which the town planners had actually produced on their own. The cash came rolling in as Basildon had one of the first American-style shopping malls in the area. The Eighties boomed, the people of Basildon cheered. Then some bright spark built Lakeside ten miles down the road. Basildonia’s Town centre went into a sharp decline quicker than you could say ‘You lookin’ at my bird!’ in the Double Six (I’ll come back to that later…) In recent years, the town centre has fought something of a comeback, with an exciting redevelopment of the pedestrianised centre and a general cleaning up of the now ageing Eastgate. (Amazing how something which was so exciting can look so dated after just sixteen years). The centre is now semi vibrant again, although it does have a higher than average weighting of pound shops and only one in a hundred outlets belongs to an independent retailer. Big name highlights of the town are a Virgin Megastore, the department store Allders, a Marks & Spencer and a huge Toys ‘R’ Us (Damn can’t do that backwards R thingy…). Smaller traders are to be found in ‘The Galleries’ (No, it’s nothing to do with Tony Hart)in the Eastgate centre, or of course in Basildon Market, selling cheap tat. (and at half the price too!) FOOD McDonalds. Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken. Pizza Hut. A few travel inn’s run by Beefeater. I believe I saw a curry house in the Church Road area once, but I don’t think anyone has ever been in the
re. Eating out isn’t big in Basildon, as you can tell. If people do need to lavish some romance on their other half they tend to make the drive down to the Westcliff, where there are some very nice local establishments. (Spaghetti Junction is a notable one – but I’m not writing an op on Westcliff, so that’ll just have to do you for now). NIGHTLIFE So you want to groove? Okay, then, in reverse order. 4) Time Discotheque, found in the main town centre is your first port of call. It’s a bit old and shabby but has a very cosy atmosphere (ie, it’s tiny). Yes, it’s a meat market, but hey, what’s wrong with the odd bit bit off bump n grind? (Oo-er missus!) 3) Jumpin Jacks, The first of the three ‘chain’ nightclubs. This is one for a midweek night out with your workmates and features a host of theme nights, including Karaoke, tribute bands (check this out beforehand, I ended up at a Bon Jovi tribute once) and the ‘blazing pianos’ two Americanised guys who tinkling oin the ivories in true fifties fashion. The décor of the place is definitely mid-west hodown and it stinks of Butlins, but hey, it’s worth a giggle. 2) Diva & 1)Ikon. The other two in the Rank Group chain. I’ll talk about these two together as they are basically your standard club fare. Ikon slightly shades it in the chart as it’s considered less of a teeny bopper joint by the locals. Not my kind of thing, but in terms of quality they stand head and shoulders above the rest. PUBS There are few of noteworthiness, although I must warn you at all costs. DO NOT GO IN THE DOUBLE SIX PUB IN CHURCH ROAD! It's like hell, but with warm lager. The only time I have ever been in there was on a pub crawl in the middle of winter. On venturing to the dark, smelly toilet, I was greeted by an old gentleman (age approx sixty five, no teeth), who watched me while I 'did the business', poi
nted out that the lights 'aren't very good in here and then proceeded to chuckle. I exited, scared and traumatised. I then went to other, nicer pubs and got so drunk that I fell asleep at the table and was only awoken by the prodding of my friends. The Double Six. It's not big, it's not clever, and the carpet probably hasn't been cleaned since 1974. (Many apologies if it's under new management of course) Other drinking 'holes' of note are the Honey Pot on the Festival leisure park and the Moon on the Square, the obligatory Wetherspoons 'family/zero atmosphere' pub. CULTURE & ENTERTAINMENT Thanks to the Tory council which reigned through the early nineties in Basildon, there is actually very little in the way of local culture. For example, there is a very nice and very modern 500 seat theatre in Basildon called the Towngate, opened in 1991. It’s closed however, as the council withdrew their cash and now no bugger wants to invest in it as the re-start costs would be horrendous. All the local art centres have also been bulldozed to make way for residential accomodation for the elderly. Therefore any theatre you want to see in Basildon will be in a church hall or will be elsewhere. There is also very little in the way of live music. The new ‘Festival Leisure Park’ (Where you will find all the nightclubs) has brought a lot of life to the town since its opening in 1999 and has brought with it a huge, multi-screen UCI Cinema and a new Bowling Alley. There is a second bowling alley (which also includes a lasar quest area), and a snooker club to be found in the town centre. As you can see, Basildon isn’t overflowing with entertainment, but there is still plenty to do. Oh, and there is the world's teeniest, tiniest zoo, which I think is about to be closed as the animal rights people managed to finally find it. Good eh? PEOPLE Hone
st as the day is long. Yeah right, I’d like to see any part of the country where this is the case. The people of Basildon have the psyche of the East End still embroiled in their blood and this is kind of nice, giving the town a little sense of tradition. (Even though it’s only sixty years old). There is an opinion which says that the average Basildonian is less intelligent than the rest of the country. Twaddle. Most of the comprehensive schools in the area are at national average at least, and there are also a large number of students who travel the short journey to Southend to attend the high performance Grammar schools. The rumour that the town is in some way 'backward' is simply a unsubstantiated rumour. Basildon has a generally young population, so there is inevitably a small dose of ‘lad culture’ floating about, accompanied as always by ladies who can laugh louder than any BBC effects tape. And yes, people do wear shorter skirts there. And yes, there are lots of men in YSL shirts floating about. Does anyone have a problem with that? No? Good, as quite frankly it’s a pleasure for me to go home to visit my parents and escape the ‘conservative’ dress sense of Canterbury. Yeah, cardigans and cords are practical, but they’re hardly exciting are they! There we go , chips off of shoulders. LITTLE KNOWN FACTS ABOUT BASILDON Depeche Mode are from the town, as is Vince Clark from Erasure and Alison Moyet, who went to School with my Mum. It has Europe’s first glass bell tower at St Martins church. It was built to celebrate the millenium, but they can’t ring the bells as they think they might break the glass!! Doh! Denise Van Outen was a dental assistant in a Basildon surgery. Basildon is looked upon as a general election barometer by forecasters. It is said that ‘which ever way Basildon swings, the government wins’,
and it’s true! Eamon Martin, who once won the London Marathon is from Basildon. (To be more precise, he’s Scott Sterlings uncle, who I went to school with!) There are no other interesting facts about Basildon. SUMMATION My town, where I grewed up. It’s not paradise, it’s not even that exciting as a Tourist destination as there’s bugger all there. (Ooh I tell a lie, there’s Wat Tyler Country Park. You know, that famous patch of marshland with a few cottages. Never heard of it? Oh, well…..) Oh look, the point of this op was as an information piece, not as a tourist advert. Basildon IS NOT CRAP. It’s a run of the mill place where people are generally quite happy. I liked growing up there, and I enjoy going home to see my friends in a place where the people are ...unique. **Today’s gold star by the way goes to whoever comes up with the best Essex joke……………
Basildon, a new town in the heart of Essex. Famous on election night as Basildon votes count, whichever way Basildon votes you find the country follows and that party wins the election. In the run-up to every general election you find the town busy with camera crews and opinion pollsters trying to gauge the Basildon vote. Oh and we always get visited by top politicians from each party. Generally though an ordinary town with a few misconceptions which I hope to lay to rest here. ~~~~ Image ~~~~ Here Basildon has to do some making up. The statue in the town centre is of a mother and child, thought by many to symbolise the amount of teenage pregnancies the town has. This has changed a lot in recent years and a new statue is being erected which will give a more traditional family image. Also many people remember Basildon as having a high number of council estates which were used to house the East End overflow. Well that was 30 years ago and since then most of the houses have been sold and you will find many young professional people living here. The estate where I live is an ex-council estate but is now 90% privately owned, there are facilities for the children, schools close by and as many new cars as you are likely to see parked outside the houses. ~~~~ Town Centre ~~~~ The town centre holds a shopping centre of great renown. As a child growing up in Romford I was often taken on a trip to Basildon's Eastgate centre to shop. Although not as extensive as the new "malls" like Lakeside and Bluewater, the Eastgate boasts a wealth of shops with Allders at one end and Sava Centre at the other. The food court in the Eastgate is also excellent and cheaper than those found in the bigger shopping centres. Outside the Eastgate centre Basildon hosts a good selection of all the major shops including a Toys R Us (very popular store!). There is also a market which opens four days a week and a variety of pubs to choose from should your shopping
make you thirsty. Newly opened is the Westgate Park retail park which is near the market again boasting top name shops including HobbyCraft, a craft superstore which is a must to visit if you have craft-y inclinations. ~~~~ Attractions ~~~~ The Towngate theatre is unfortunately closed for financial reasons but don't let this stop you visiting Basildon. The shopping in the Town Centre is excellent. Basildon also boasts a Zoo, which although not large has a good selection of animals and is loved by kids. If you aren't all shopped out after visiting the town centre, drive down the road to Pitsea where you will find the biggest Tesco in the country, an interesting first visit is guaranteed, just be careful of the staff on roller skates! ~~~~ Evenings Out ~~~~ For an evening out in Basildon, visit the Festival Leisure park. Located on the outskirts of town and well signposted this boasts a variety of pubs, clubs, restaurants, hotels, a bowling alley and a large UCI cinema. People travel from all over Essex to visit the park which also has ample parking and good security. I can thoroughly recommend a meal here and I have given my opinion of all the restaurants separately. Don't be fooled into thinking Basildon is the low-income high trouble town that you heard of thirty years ago. Visit now and see what the town has to offer. The town is easy to get to, just a 15 minute drive from the M25 and also serviced by British Rail. You won't be disappointed.