INTERVIEW: Zombies Invade Seaside Town in Kent

In 2011, Herne Bay in Kent saw an unusual phenomenon. 250 people dressed as zombies crawled their way around town. In 2012, the Herne Bay Zombie Crawl as evolved into something much grander; the Herne Bay ‘Halloweek’. I spoke to the originators and organisers, Scott and Jez about the past, present and future of zombies in Herne Bay. Thanks for chatting with us guys!

Where did the idea of the Zombie Crawl come from? What was your inspiration?

Scott: Last year on a Saturday in early October, Jez and me were having a chat and a drink, who knows at which point later that evening it happened, but Jez mentioned it would be fun to do a Zombie Crawl, I agreed. It was one of those things that wouldn’t it be good if… Sunday came and went, Monday too and then the phone call from Jez informing me of my involvement in an actual Zombie Crawl and then we roped in our mate Dave as well. Three weeks of stupid videos and shouting on Facebook later, 250 odd Zombies shuffled their way around Herne Bay on 31st October 2011.

Had you seen a Crawl before, such as a flash mob on YouTube?

S: Not really. We knew they had happened and I was aware of the Crawl of the dead website.

How did it come about?

Jez: Mostly on Facebook, with a few posters we printed off ourselves in the local supermarket. The word spread very quickly via Facebook. We and found an untapped niche in the town. The town doesn’t have to go to sleep after the summer’s finished and we were determined to raise it from its slumber. The supermarket didn’t know it, but we created six or seven different style Zombie Crawl posters, some looked life craft fair posters, jumble sales, quiz events, etc, but all of them advertised the Crawl, so when they shuffled and tidied the notice board, we stayed.

S: We were thrilled with how many other like-minded people there were in the town, although for the first 10 minutes at the meeting point, it was me, Jez, Dave and our families, thinking “oh dear”.

Did you think many people would turn up?

J: It got scary the time, would people come? Many people didn’t know what it was. Crawl has an association with a pub crawl so we wondered if people would think it was like that. But what we did was have features over several weeks in the local paper explaining what it was.

I guess you’re doing a good thing for the town and people where getting behind it.

S: And we’ve discovered lots of like-minded people.

Are they zombie fans or just community-minded?

J: A mixture of both really.

S: Last year there were a lot of proper sci-fi fans but also some families who didn’t really know anything about zombies.

J: People just want to do something a bit quirky, like this.

S: Early on, we decided whatever form it took, we’d try and raise money for Kent Air Ambulance and as it turned out, we raised nearly £1,000. It’s a different level this year. Last year was done for nothing. This year there’s a budget. Local businesses have sponsored us. They came to us and offered us their help. And the zombie ball selling out this year with more than two weeks to go has just blown us away. Since the Crawl last year, we formed a volunteer group called BayPromoTeam, to promote what goes on in the town and the town itself, we like it here. We had every intention of running a second Crawl and the feedback from last year, was that an after party as essential. Since then, it’s rolled into the whole Herne Bay Halloweek. Kent Air Ambulance is our charity of choice again and we hope to raise even more money for them than last year.

How many tickets have you sold for the Ball?

S: 500. The full amount. People have been trying to get a hold of tickets on auction sites. They’ve become known as zombie wonka tickets. But they were on sale online and in shops around town.

What can attendees expect at the Zombie Ball?

S: A great after party, with a Zombie DJ, a Thriller dance by local dance group Breakawayz and a truckload prizes from 2000AD, original pieces of Zombie art, books, badges and loads of other stuff, as well as awards for the best dressed Zombies. The Ball was really created to give people who support us a good time.

And how many people are you expecting for the Crawl?

S: Well, more than 500. I think most people coming to the ball will come, plus others.

How do you explain the interest?

J: The key now is social media. 10 years ago it would have been posters in the church hall. Now people watch promo videos on their phones.

S: Some of the people coming have already posted videos and pictures of themselves in make-up on the FB page. They’ve been doing it for weeks.

Do you all share the social media duties?

J: Yes, but we’ve been friends since primary school, so we’re on the same wavelength.

S: The team works well because everyone does what they can and plays to their strengths and interests. We also discovered a bit of a ‘dark side’ to the town. Some of the prizes we’ve got for the ball were drawn or sculptured by local artists. There’s a guy who builds science fiction replicas – he’s built a full-sized x-wing from Star Wars in his garden for his kid to play in – who has done a Predator and Alien, so on the evening, there’ll be a zombie v Alien v Predator fight. A local writer called Sean Page has written a zombie book which he’s donated too. Excitement is building around the town, there’s a real buzz going on.

J: Even the greengrocer is talking about it.

S: After last year, we created the Herne Bay Chamber of Zombies because people were so interested. It was a group on Facebook. So we used the group to sound them out about ideas for this year.

So helping the community to help itself.

S: Exactly. And the best thing about this is we keep meeting people in the area with similar tastes.

I guess some people will come in full prosthetics while others might just have a little bit of make-up. It doesn’t matter what level people come as

S: Yes, we had that last year, two guys had pretend goofy teeth and a trickle of blood. It doesn’t matter how little or how much as it’s all just fun.

J: If you’ve just been bitten, you might not have anything to show, you not quite there yet.

As you mentioned there are prizes for dressing up too?

S: Most of the prizes for the ball have been donated for free. There are 600 badges made by a local company, film companies have sent us Blu Rays, DVDs and posters.

J: We even have Frankenweenie goodies from Disney. But we want to nudge it away from any commercial aspects too. We don’t want kids turning up in masks bought from supermarkets. Get some old clothes, rip them up, be creative with some latex and food colouring. You could be a zombie with what you’ve got in your Mum’s draw upstairs.

We’ve just been joined by Dave, so can I ask you all if you have a favourite zombie film?

S: I love the Romero’s, not so much the later ones and being a massive Spaced fan, I found Shaun of the Dead fantastic. Zombieland is right up there. I think I do have a penchant for the zombie/horror comedy, which was kickstarted by Braindead a long time ago. I’m a massive fan of  The Walking Dead comic series and the TV series too. My all time favourites are the Evil Dead Triology and I remember Zombie Flesh Eaters seeming really scary at the time. I’ve not dared watch it again since the 80s, as I don’t want to spoil my memories.

J: I’m not actually as big a fan of zombies as Scott is, but its more people’s reaction to it. However, what freaked me out as a boy was The Exorcist. It completely did me in for three years. However, I quite like Zombieland.

Dave: Shaun of the Dead, the funny one.

So, same again next year?

J: I don’t think we have a choice!

S: We’re also thinking about doing a Science Fiction by the Sea next summer with all the locals who are interested. If we want something to happen, we’ve got to do it ourselves. If we want a science fiction festival next year, we will make it happen. It can be done.

Reporter: Ian J Simpson


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