'Folkestone was really innovative in those days': Folkestone Sports Centre in the 1970s.


'Folkestone was really innovative in those days': Folkestone Sports Centre in the 1970s.


Hilary Casey


An excerpt of an oral history interview with Hilary Casey in which she describes the opening of Folkestone Sports Centre in 1972, what this meant for the port town, and how the centre's dry ski slope inspired a generation of new skiers. (Transcript attached.)


Michael Romyn


Hilary Casey Oral History Recording


Kent's Sporting Memories


Interview recorded on 2 May, 2019


Hilary Casey; Michael Romyn


Kent's Sporting Memories


Hilary Casey Oral History Recording ; Hilary Casey Oral History Recording Summary


MP3 file




Sound Recording


Hilary Casey


Kent’s Sporting Memories Oral History Transcript (Excerpt)
Interviewee: Hilary Casey
Interviewer: Michael Romyn
Date: 2 May, 2019
Location: Hythe Lawn Tennis Club in Hythe, Kent.
Recording Time: 06:26 – 13:50

Hilary Casey: The sports centre opened in 1972, yes, Princess Anne opened it in September 1972.
Michael Romyn: What do you remember about that? Do you remember the opening ceremony?
HC: I do, I do. We had a lady, because I was involved in the skiing side of it, we had a lady then who was called Davina Galica, I always remember, she was English, but she was probably Austrian or Swiss or German descent, I think, not quite sure now, and she was an Olympic skier, she won a, I think a silver medal I think in some Olympics in the past and she came along and opened it for us. Subsequently, we had what was called Dendix, which is a brush mat, which is a standard surface for artificial ski slopes. In those days Dendix hadn’t been invented and they had these little tiny, miniscule granules of almost like polystyrene, a little bit, sort of a cross between ceramic and polystyrene, not quite sure what they were made of, and they sprinkled them all over the slope. But of course the few times people came down, everything ended up at the bottom and it all had to be dragged up again. I can always remember Davina saying, ‘Well this is going to be fun, isn’t it?’ You’re going to be constantly developing this, you know, but within no time at all we realised Dendix had come along and got rid of that. But the ski slope at Folkestone was built from the spoil of the swimming pool, which is how a lot of them were built in those days.
MR: They took it out…
HC: They took it out and piled it up, literally, yeah, the ski slope.
MR: And I suppose there was nothing like that in the area before?
HC: No. Ours was the first in those days. Folkestone was really innovative in those days with skiing, with developing skiing, and actually, you know, it’s easy to knock it - it’s a very small slope - but actually it reproduced incredible results. We had British champions, national champions, people who skied abroad, skied in Europa cups, my son who skied and got to the Olympics, he finished eleventh in the Olympics, you know, all this sort of thing, all because they trained on the dry slope. You know, we used to take them abroad two or three times every winter but nonetheless it was pretty good. But then of course the bigger slopes started to come along. I, as I was saying, was part of the team that developed the Alpine ski centre at Chatham, which was financed by two brothers who wanted to ski and didn’t like to ski on the Folkestone slope and wanted something bigger. They were the Dove brothers, they came up from Croydon, they were Jaguar dealers, and they literally just put up the money for it and it was then, it was then the biggest slope in the country. Not for long of course, but now it’s all these snowdomes, they’re all inside now and snowdomes and things and I still take the grandchildren to Hemel Hempstead to the snowdome. It’s good fun, you know, but of course they’re a different ball game, you know.
MR: Very different to Folkestone I imagine?
HC: Oh yes, but as I say I never knock it, it’s a good, you know, it’s a good learning tool.
MR: And your children grew up learning how to ski at Folkestone?
HC: On the Folkestone slope, oh yeah, absolutely, yes.
MR: So they owe a debt to it?
HC: Oh yeah, absolutely. Yes, all their skiing. Well I only took them because I was working there, they had to come with me – they had no where else to go! So all the holidays and that sort of thing. We started off nowadays, Nick our head coach and his team coaches down here they have hundreds of kids down here for their summer holiday courses. Back in those days we started summer holiday courses for kids skiing on the slope and again, that was unheard of then. Mums used to drop them off at nine o’clock and come back for them at twelve o’clock, and we’d teach all these kids to ski, tiny little tots, you know, three, four, five-years-old onwards, you know. Nowadays it’s quite normal, every sports centre, every sporting facility has its children’s holiday courses.
MR: It was pretty innovative…
HC: Yes, we were market leaders in those days. And I think they still run them, Folkestone Sports Centre, they still have children’s courses on the ski slope, and in the sports hall, they do various different sports and things, you know.
MR: What about equipment? I imagine a lot of the people coming to the slope didn’t have ski equipment.
HC: No, it was included. No, no, it was included. I mean when I first started there of course we used to have two metre skis. Nowadays when you think of the length of them that is long now! My own skis now are one twenty but they used to be two meters long in those days, very, very long skis. Great big things, I mean they only used skis that long for downhill racing nowadays. But they’ve still got some on the wall – they’ve got a pair of my old skis in the ski hut in Folkestone now, at the sports centre. When you go to the sports centre have a look, ask to go down there and have a look, a pair of my old skis – well they were – until very recently they were on the wall down there. Great big long things, you know, weigh an absolute tonne, you know.
MR: So it was pretty inclusive then? I suppose skiing has a reputation for being expensive and perhaps hard to access?
HC: Everything was there, the boots, everything was there, yeah.
MR: And the sports centre generally – was that a boon for the town?
HC: Oh it was, yes it was. Without a doubt. It was the – I’m trying to think, Ashford didn’t have a sports centre then, Dover didn’t have a sports centre, I think again in the seventies I think it led the market really, in the development of multi-sports, and it was very popular, and still is. I mean the main badminton clubs in the area still play there, the squash clubs play there still, and it was, in the days I played there a lot when I worked there, when I played badminton there and I was working there as well, you know, the place was absolutely heaving. The bar was always full at night when the sport had finished and that sort of thing. As I said I don’t go there much now but we’re still there for posterity – they have these things, these brick pavers as you go in, and there’s my name right in the middle. Casey family, life members, life members and centre development, yeah, so we’re there for posterity with our name on the brick pavers, yeah.
MR: How old were you when the club opened?
HC: ...twenty-nine.
MR: And were you living in Folkestone at the time?
HC: Yes, I was, yes.
MR: Had you had your children by then?
HC: I had, my last son was born when I was twenty-nine, in seventy-two. He was born in the August and the centre opened in September.
MR: So they all grew up with the centre?
HC: Oh yes. That’s why I say we were life members as well. Because I was on the management committee we were given life membership, which I still hold to this day, on my sports bag I’ve still got my tag on there from the sports centre! And they did everything there. We were there, we lived not very far from there, we lived in Godwyn Road in Folkestone so ten minutes’ walk away and they were there every night after school and that sort of thing, you know, and joined very considerable club going. In those days life membership cost twelve hundred – it was given to us – but in those days life membership cost twelve hundred pounds which you can pay over ten years, yeah, and that seemed like a lot of money in those days. When you think about it now and you think what people pay for golf and that sort of thing now, it’s stupid money isn’t it?
MR: So you paid twelve hundred?
HC: Over ten years, then you don’t pay anything more.