“What I detest is that kind of bickering that goes on between the two parties”
What Steven asked George Crozer, Leader of Medway Council's Independent Group.
For today’s Sunday interview, Steven continues his series of interviews with Medway Council Councillors. Cllr Crozer has been an active campaigner on the peninsula for 20 years and was first elected in the Peninsula by-election in 2022. They met at RSPB Northwood Hill in High Halstow to discuss ‘Fairy George’, why he wasn’t elected before 2022, and what he thinks of infrastructure funding for the peninsula.
Why did you arrange to meet at RSPB Northwood Hill?
I wanted you to see what is here, plain and simple. It's a wonderful place and it's kind of at the heart of where I come from in terms of where I want Medway to go in the future because I see this as an area of outstanding natural beauty. It’s raw when you look out through the window here, but it's a precious place. It's been recognised for its value internationally and it needs to be preserved for future generations. I don't just mean the next five years. I think if we get massive development on the Hoo Peninsula, that's the thin edge of the wedge. I think in 100 years time, this won’t exist.
Where were you born?
I was born in Gillingham, right outside the dockyard gates, in a place called Duke Street.
What jobs did your parents do growing up?
I lost my father when I was 21. He was at sea. He was a Merchant Navy bosun and then latterly in his life, he worked as an operator for BP and hence the reason we moved from Gillingham to Hoo, for him to work closer. In fact, he sold his house in Gillingham, and we moved into a rented house in Hoo. Mum drove around for Meals on Wheels, and she eventually became canteen manager at Kingsnorth Power Station.
How did you find school?
I loved school. I went to the Hundred of Hoo. Typical sort of not academic, very practical. I got into acting, amateur dramatics when I was at school. Loved that. When it came time to leave school, we were doing a production for the school, and I got asked to play the same part at the Medway Little Theatre. It was clear they'd lost their lead, so I went, I guest-starred. Then I got spotted at the Medway Little Theatre, and I got offered a place in drama college, but my dad was adamant that I needed to go into an apprenticeship, which I did. I served time on the river. I was a boiler maker, and then I met my to be wife, who was quite intelligent and her brother went university, and I thought well perhaps I better do something academic. I did a series of HNCs, things like that, and then I eventually tried to get a degree. I took time off work to do like a degree in engineering, but I just didn’t take enough time. I got so far, it was really hard and then I got a job, and you know that the rest is history.
Do you still do any amateur dramatics?
We do, yeah. Since covid, it's fell apart, but we've got an amateur dramatics society, if you like, called the Dramarama, in the village. I normally play the Dame at Christmas, and then we do sketches and that. I still get called in the village ‘Fairy George’, people still recognise me. At Christmas time we do a float for the kids, so on Christmas Eve, we deliver 300-400 presents, to all of the kids around the village, and I dress as a fairy and I help Father Christmas. I’ve sort of now finished doing that. We're trying to give it over to another group of people that are doing it. So, I'll get recognised. We've been doing that for 10-15 years, so all those youngsters now that have grown up. It gets quite embarrassing. You go to Bluewater and you are sitting in a restaurant, and it’s ‘Oh, Fairy George’. But now we are trying to get the group back together and I've been directing in the last year.
What musical instruments do you play?
Not anymore, but I used to play bass guitar. My son took up guitar when he was 12, put it down at the end of 12 for a year, and then at 14 he picked it up again and he hasn’t put it down since. He went on to go to university and do a degree in rock music. This is when the American rock school came over. He went to that and then when he finished his degree, he got to the stage where they wanted him to do a Master’s, but it was in Jazz, which wasn’t his thing, and I said you are not leaving until you get a job. So, he went for a load of interviews, going to auditions with bands. That were around London he got this audition for a band in Manchester. So, I said ‘Come on then, we will go up to Manchester’ and we're driving up to Manchester, and I said, ‘You know if you get the job, you can't come up and rehearse.’ Anyway, we arrive in Manchester, in this kind of tenement place, where all the windows were boarded up. No glass anywhere, all steel. He came out and said ‘I got it Dad, you’ll never guess who it is’ and ‘It’s Steve Coogan’s brother.’ So Steve Coogan’s brother had a band called The Mock Turtles, and he was in The Mock Turtles for a while. They had a little bit of success. Anyway, he got seen and signed with another band with Universal Records. They did a couple of North American tours with ‘The Who’, and now he employs me and runs a wedding band.
What is your official occupation?
I am self-employed and I have a small business that's now only got one customer. (laughs) I was in recruitment, so when I finished my time, I went to the dockyard, because they wouldn’t let me keep going to college. When I left the dockyard, I took a sabbatical for two years, and I vowed I would never go back to the dockyard. I was a design draughtsman at the time. I got a job as a contracts engineer with a local company, and then that finished, and we just started a recruitment company, hiring fitters and labourers. When the airport started, that took a back seat and petered away so, now I manage the band.
Do you think you ever will fully retire?
No, I'll try not to. I really enjoy what I am doing now. I wouldn’t say it’s a vocation, but I think my mum was a bit like that. We do struggle with money. Fortunately, I'm pretty good with my hands and we managed to build our house. We looked for a long time for a long time for a piece of land to build on and couldn't find anywhere. We realised that we could buy my neighbour’s garden and build there. I was fortunate in that respect, but it wasn't by design. I did that twice in fact. I've lived in High Halstow for 40-something years. I've got the same postcode now as I had when I got here, and I've moved four times. I built the first house, I built another house, and then I sold the house to my son, and we built an annexe in the garden. We live in the annexe. So I don't own any property.
What does your average day entail?
Up at 8.30am. Normally check the emails. At the moment it’s pretty much council work, people want to get the footpath cleared or they've got somebody being kicked out of the house. You’d be surprised what people ask you to do, just helping people. Then try and organise what we are trying to achieve here, and then three days a week I am out with the band. We were only playing for three lots of 45 minutes, but if we are in Canterbury, sometimes we will go down in the morning and set up, and then come back and it’s half past two in the morning. Then council meetings. That doesn’t take up a great deal of time. I am probably in at Gun Wharf 3-5 times a week. Strangely enough, my wife comes with me. She gets a visitor pass, and I go and do my business. I don’t see any other councillor’s partners, I find that really strange.