Before Christmas in 1993 I was chewing the fat with the nice lady who then ran the marketing department of the Historic Dockyard Chatham over a cup of coffee in her office. We were tossing over marketing ideas and trying to find hooks on which to hang interesting stories to try to get some free copy in the press. Her view was that there was a slot immediately after Christmas and in the run up to the New Year when the national press is always struggling to find stories to fill its pages. So maybe we should try to get something in then.
The Maastricht Treaty had been signed in February 1993 and came into effect on 1st November bringing the countries in Europe into an ever closer union. “How about” she said “us putting out a joint press release saying that you are planning on starting the New Year by taking down Kingswear Castle’s red ensign and replacing it with the new EU flag to show solidarity with the new union. UK’s last coal-fired fired paddle steamer joins the EU. That sort of thing. It would be a bit controversial so that might make it work even better. And it might boost KC’s profile amongst market segments hitherto oblivious to her existence.”
We chuckled over this. KC was in any case due to be in steam for a Bird Watching Cruise on New Year’s Day so why not try it. We could invite the press to come down to take pictures a couple of days before that. Nothing to lose as we could, and did, take the EU flag down afterwards anyway.
We drafted a Press Release. Off it went. And on the day a whole raft of photographers turned up from both the local and national press to take pictures. The Independent even put KC flying the EU flag on their front page. Result.
So that is what Kingswear Castle was doing during the afternoon of Wednesday 29th December 1993.
This article was first published on 29th December 2020.