Message from Downs Mail President Dennis Fowle
Thursday 16th June 2022
Closure of Downs Mail newspaper after more than quarter of a century is very sad – a reflection of two very difficult years.
From very small beginnings in April 1997 the Downs Mail enjoyed more than 22 years of rapid growth. At peak its circulation topped more than 80,000 copies with five editions covering all the borough of Maidstone plus Malling area of Tonbridge.
It became popular with readers as a reliable family newspaper and with local businesses for results from their advertising.
The Downs Mail became an influential campaigning newspaper to protect Maidstone. This started at Christmas 2000 after the death of Jade Hobbs (8) and her grandmother as they crossed the A249 to buy sweets. We launched a fund to persuade KCC to build a crossing and it raised well over £100,000. The Downs Mail won the Kent press award for this year-long campaign.
This was followed by other big campaigns - the battle to save key services in Maidstone Hospital; the successful fight against KIG which would have brought a new railway line and warehousing from Hollingbourne to Bearsted; keeping the Hazlitt Theatre open when Maidstone Council wanted closure: urgent restoration of King Street as a main traffic artery and return of its taxi rank…
When my daughter (Claire) and I launched the Downs Mail one aim was to be an effective voice to make Maidstone a better place to live and work.
Readers responded strongly and its demise will now be seen as a worrying loss to local democracy and to many charities we supported.
Covid caused immense damage to Maidstone and therefore to Downs Mail. For months we could not publish at all. Business confidence in Maidstone became very low and our only real source of revenue (advertising) suffered seriously.
Recent major inflation in the publishing industry (paper, production, energy etc) added to the financial problems and meant the Downs Mail publishing company (Mail Publications Ltd) could not continue.
With advertising challenges of the Internet (especially Google and Facebook) times are tough in local newspapers and many have folded. Very sadly for our enthusiastic readers and loyal staff the Downs Mail is now among these victims.
Now there are just many happy memories of the pre-Covid days…
- Message from Downs Mail President Dennis Fowle
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