DJ waxes lyrical about Frinton gates

A DJ and poetry fan has celebrated the centenary of John Betjeman's birth with an impassioned ode about Frinton on Sea's famous gates.Former BBC Radio 1 broadcaster Mike Read, who also presented children's programme Saturday Superstore, parodied the style of one of Betjeman's best-loved poems to highlight the threat to the railway crossing.

A DJ and poetry fan has celebrated the centenary of John Betjeman's birth with an impassioned ode about Frinton on Sea's famous gates.

Former BBC Radio 1 broadcaster Mike Read, who also presented children's programme Saturday Superstore, parodied the style of one of Betjeman's best-loved poems to highlight the threat to the railway crossing.

The gates have come to symbolise the entrance to old Frinton, which prides itself on its genteel character and non-garish encapsulation of a traditional, middle-class seaside resort.

Legend has it that in days gone by the manual level-crossing gates were shut not only to allow the passage of trains but also keep out undesirable coach parties, encouraging them to seek amusement at the nearby towns of Walton and Clacton.


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But recently the owners of the gates, Network Rail, announced they were to be replaced by automatic electric barriers, complete with signage, flashing lights and alarms.

The plan to update the crossing - and also negate the need for a manual operator - has caused a storm among local people, who regard the gates with such affection they even appear on the town's crest.

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And now Mr Read - who broadcasts from the Frinton Studios of Big L, an Internet, satellite and medium wave radio station - has penned his poem in the style of A Subaltern's Love Song, also known as Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.

In the poem, he likens the gates to the Statue of Liberty and the Colossus of Rhodes in the way they mark great entrances to grand destinations, and describes the Network Rail decision to remove the gates as another example of “Blair's Nanny State”.

Yesterday he said he questioned claims that the automatic barriers would be safer than the existing manual gates.

“We all know the accidents that have happened with electric gates, and people trying to whip through them.

“With these gates there has never been an accident because there is somebody there to open and shift them. It's much safer.”

Mr Read, who stays in Frinton for around half the week, said: “Frinton always gets the national headlines because people think of it like Walmington-on-Sea, from Dad's Army.

“The gates are a part of Frinton.”

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