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Most read stories on KentOnline in 2020 from Kent's first coronavirus case to Storm Ciara, big cat sightings and ghost ships

In 2020 more of you than ever before came to KentOnline to get your news.

In total our articles were read 282,593,351 times by 30,831,992 people and unsurprisingly one topic dominated more than any other.

It's been quite a year...
It's been quite a year...

Rewind 12 months and while Brexit was still an exceptionally divisive issue the news landscape was very different - with stories about a Tesco topless ban, a mum sitting in class with her son and... err... dogging topping the tree.

The latter of those continued to prove popular throughout 2020 and with the helping hand of LBC talk show host James O'Brien was read an additional 100,000 times since January.

That period seems like a lifetime ago and this year none of those topics appear on the list - even Brexit has taken a back seat despite September's news of an internal border in Kent and 7,000-lorry queues.

The gunman's imitation weapons
The gunman's imitation weapons

11. Shots fired from penthouse balcony (144,000 views)

The breaking news that a man was firing multiple rounds into the sky from the balcony of his penthouse in St Mary's Island while blasting out gangster rapper Tupac Shakur topped off what had already been a very odd couple of months.

By the end of the April incident hundreds of thousands of you had read our coverage, spanning multiple stories.

  • Record label boss Michael Alunomoh, 33, was arrested in connection with the incident and awaits trial on three gun charges.
A car belonging to a former Gurkha soldier was destroyed in an arson attack in Maidstone
A car belonging to a former Gurkha soldier was destroyed in an arson attack in Maidstone

10. Gurkha veterans car torched in hate attack (149k)

This shocking story came at a time where ignorance relating to Covid-19 was rife.

Maidstone's Nepalese community is hugely respected and have made the town home due to its barracks and the Gurkhas based there.

Somehow that made the story in April of two cars belonging to veteran Ram Kumar Limbu's family being targeted by arsonists even more heartbreaking.

The family reported a rising animosity directed at the town's Nepalese community since coronavirus was first recorded in Wuhan, China.

Whitstable Harbour Picture: CBCK-Christine
Whitstable Harbour Picture: CBCK-Christine

9. A desirable destination (151k)

Kent in general performed well on a list of 150 UK seaside towns to relocate to.

But Whitstable came top of the league table which compared things such as average house prices, beach ratings, the weather and quality of beach water.

Nearby Herne Bay clinched fourth place in the study, while Hythe (14), Sandgate (17), and Folkestone (20) all made the top 20.

Margate (89) and Ramsgate (92) found themselves well down the rankings, while other Kent locations such as Dover and Deal are not among the 150.

Sculptor Juliet Simpson next to her model of a tiger Picture: Juliet Simpson
Sculptor Juliet Simpson next to her model of a tiger Picture: Juliet Simpson

8. A big cat sighting with a difference (169k)

Panic broke out in tiny Ightham Mote in May and even tinier Underriver after a big cat was spotted.

A 10-strong armed unit with air support was called in and a bewildered cyclist was told to get out of the area as quickly as possible.

Ramblers had reported a tiger lurking in the woods just 30 metres from a footpath - but all was not as it seemed.

It transpired said tiger was actually a life-size resin and chicken wire model which had become something of a local landmark since being placed there 20 years previously by 85-year-old sculptor Juliet Simpson.

A lorry caught up in Storm Ciara. Picture: Highways England
A lorry caught up in Storm Ciara. Picture: Highways England

7. Wild weather (181k)

In recent times Kent being lashed by storms has become an almost annual event.

But in February we were first clobbered by Ciara before Dennis brought further destruction.

In total our coverage attracted hundreds of thousands of views but Ciara was queen, receiving 181,000 of those.

The Queen Victoria. Picture: @jason_photos
The Queen Victoria. Picture: @jason_photos

6. A ghost ship (202k)

You certainly love ships.

The appearance of The Queen Victoria, a Cunard Line cruise ship, off the coast of Botany Bay in Broadstairs in August proved so popular we wondered whether it was indeed crewed by ghosts.

Instead it was one of many deserted vessels left destination-less by the pandemic.

Dubbed 'ghost ships' by spotters other similar stories proved almost equally popular - lest we forget the creation of an unlikely tourist attraction in the shape of Disney Magic at Dover.

The moment workers were told their jobs were in danger at Antolin Interiors, Hartlip
The moment workers were told their jobs were in danger at Antolin Interiors, Hartlip

5. Job losses pre-lockdown (209k)

It's worth remembering that even before lockdown businesses were struggling.

In January came the sad announcement of 300 jobs being put at risk at Hartlip car parts factory Antolin Interiors.

In the same month came the announcement of closing dates for four Debenhams in Kent.

The department store had been teetering on the edge for some time.

Once a high street supremo, it had fallen out of favour with modern consumers and its demise was well documented.

Still, it retained a strong presence in Kent towns like Folkestone and Ashford so when the closing dates were revealed our story was read 103,000 times.

Now, 11 months on, the company has entered administration and Sports Direct's Mike Ashley appears to be its best hope.

Seevaratnam Thamilchelvan, owner of Dominion Stores
Seevaratnam Thamilchelvan, owner of Dominion Stores

4. A seething shopkeeper (245k)

Social distancing resulted in some seemingly strange decisions but for Seevaratnam Thamilchelvan, Greenacre Academy's ban on children using his shop was too much to swallow.

He phoned the police in November after reportedly missing out on £200 to £300 a day due to the policy, which was later relaxed to allow a maximum of two pupils to enter at any one time.

Kent's director of public health Andrew Scott-Clark undergoes a Covid test. Picture: John Nurden
Kent's director of public health Andrew Scott-Clark undergoes a Covid test. Picture: John Nurden

3. Kent's first coronavirus case (308k)

It's desirable but near impossible to compile a list like this without at least some mentions of the c word.

This story was not only the most read Covid-specific article of 2020 but also serves to show just how quickly our lives have changed.

Back at the start of March the first reported infection in such a large county was big news, nine months and 56,000 cases later and we're now the virus hotspot of England.

2. Mindless vandalism (336k)

As March progressed the fight against coronavirus stepped up a gear. The county had recorded its first death and cases were soaring.

Paramedics were on the front line so it's little wonder the news six ambulances had been targeted in an overnight vandalism attack, with holes drilled in their tyres, outraged so many of you.

1. And by far the most read story of the year... The Les Mis lockdown sensations (776k)

Just when we needed cheering up most the Marsh family, from Faversham, came through with the goods.

It was a bumper March for all the wrong reasons but their version of Les Misérables classic One Day More went viral in a different way to what we'd learned to expect.

The Marsh family's Les Mis rendition

Dad Dr Ben Marsh, a history lecturer at the University of Kent in Canterbury, told KentOnline his family have been overwhelmed with the more than 400,000 views it has already received on Facebook.

"It has been a bit of a strange day," the 43-year-old said. "We obviously hit a nerve.

"We always get together and do singalongs anyway and the kids play instruments.

"We have never been able to do a song from Les Mis as the boys don't want to sing romantic parts.

"It pulled on all the experiences people had been complaining about - like not being able to work or play football - and it just seemed to fit really well with the song."

Dr Marsh said his children - Alfie, 13; Thomas, 12; Ella, 10; and Tess, eight - have been in a few school productions but have otherwise had no musical theatre training.

He and wife Danielle Marsh, 42, also have no background in music.

"We have received some really lovely comments and we have been working to respond to the comments because we think it is really important - but it may get impossible," he added.

"There have been messages from people who are self-isolating, or even people with cancer on hospital wards, saying it has made them smile or cry.

"We really weren't expecting it and we are really touched by the way it has resonated with people.

"Hopefully it will give parents an idea of how to keep the kids occupied - besides from doing Joe Wicks or watching Netflix."

After featuring on KentOnline the family appeared on ITV's This Morning and brought Holly Willoughby to tears.

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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