The South East is so much more than just London

A view of the White Cliffs of Dover in Kent. Picture date: Thursday February 25, 2021.
A view of the White Cliffs of Dover in Kent. Picture date: Thursday February 25, 2021.

Meet Ellie Costello, our South East reporter

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The South-East is a patch I know and love. I’ve lived in Essex my whole 27 years, apart from 4 years living away at the University of Southampton. I lived in student areas in Southampton, waitressing at a café to make ends meet, and I spent my weekends at Uni exploring beautiful parts of Hampshire and the South Coast.

From frequenting the Sugar Hut in Brentwood High Street, to walks in The New Forest and enjoying fish and chips in Margate, I have spent my whole life enjoying the beauty and the breadth of our patch.

But all too often the South East is swallowed by London news. Knife crime and congestion charge doesn’t affect us so much, but they’re the issues that dominate our 6:30pm headlines. Our regional news, if we get it, lacks the flair and the funding displayed by London news services, and the hard-working regional journalists are often spread too thin to adequately capture all the issues affecting us in our area.

The sun sets behind Brighton Pier.
The sun sets behind Brighton Pier.

In this part of the country, there are so many commuters facing increasing train fares every single year. In the South East, it can cost £4-5000 to get to work in central London every year, and this huge expense doesn’t guarantee a reliable or even regular train service. From the age of 11 I have sat on delayed and cancelled trains on the Greater Abellio train services of Essex and have always paid a premium for it. Southern Rail also seems to have fallen off the news agenda but those timetabling issues haven’t gone away. The coronavirus pandemic means our work/life balance has changed, and I wonder how many long-suffering commuters have opted for a more at home-working arrangement.

The Emirates Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth is illuminated by Tourism Ireland to mark St Patrick's Day.
The Emirates Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth is illuminated by Tourism Ireland to mark St Patrick's Day.

How are the A-level and university students of the South East community coping as we ease out of this pandemic? A Level and BTEC students are getting their qualifications in the midst of home-exams, social distancing and mask-wearing. Some students have gone to university but found themselves being taught virtually whilst being confined to their dorms, others have postponed further education until the world resembles some form of normal. Young people are rarely included in our national conservation. We have a tendency to talk ‘about’ young people rather then ‘to’ them, and I want to change that.

The farmers of rural Essex, Kent, Surrey and Hampshire have had to diversify to make ends meet. So many of our farms have become vineyards, restaurants, farm shops and even green funeral burial grounds. I want to hear from those farming families we rarely hear from.

General view of a harvest picker hand cutting the first harvest of lavender at Castle Farm near Sevenoaks in Kent.
General view of a harvest picker hand cutting the first harvest of lavender at Castle Farm near Sevenoaks in Kent.

How has Brexit affected the price they get for their produce? So many of them rely on Eastern European labour during harvest time. Will that still be possible post-Brexit? I want to know how farming families and communities feel amongst all the changes affecting their livelihoods.

Similarly, the coastal communities of Essex and Kent have been ignored by the media for far too long. Towns such as Jaywick, Clacton and South Thanet feel long forgotten about. When my hiring was announced on Twitter, so many people replied asking for me to cover the coastal towns and the issues that affect their lives daily. It’s something I am really passionate about doing in my role at GB News.

All too often the news is dark and dreary. My friends tell they can’t watch the news because it’s too depressing. I don’t want that. I want people to switch on GB News in the morning because we’re fun and energising and we get them thinking. We represent them. We send them off in the morning with thoughts and questions ready to chat with their colleagues, their partners, or their mates in the pub.

I want to follow the stories of people who inspire us and change us and are doing amazing things in the South East. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you know someone with an amazing story that you think others should know about. What matters to you matters to me. I live here too and I care about the things that you care about. Help me to tell the country our story.