Friday, December 14, 2012

East Germany with Windmills

Fresh on the heels of Lisa Richards' acerbic' Great British 'Pizza Expose' of Margate and the town's success in being voted as one of the 2013's top tourist destinations, the Daily Mail, has promptly shot the Rough Guide review and the town squarely between the eyes, with Leo McKinstry's latest story.

"Trust me," writes the distinguished local journalist, who lives in Westgate, "it's East Germany with wind farms."

McKinstry quotes the poet, TS Elliot On Margate sands, I can connect nothing with nothing, ’from the poem, ‘The Waste Land’ and adds: "Anyone inspired by the Rough Guide to visit Margate may be in for disappointment. I should know because for the past six years my wife and I have lived on the outskirts of the resort. In a fit of inexplicable folly, for which I must entirely carry the blame, we decided to buy a house there in late 2006."

Like the review of the town from Lisa Richards, which provoked an outraged protest from Ramsgate councillor, Ian Driver, McKinstry's account in the Daily Mail is in dark contrast to the Rough Guide review,  and bound to ruffle more than a few local feathers. I tried to illustrate Margate's charm in some photographs on a fabulous Saturday afternoon walk to the Turner Contemporary, a week ago. If I had tried to do the same today, the results might have been very different, given the awful weather.

This morning I was in the Old Town and heard that footfall is down; dragged along to Westwood Cross as the days count-down towards Christmas. I also listened to what I thought was an excellent suggestion, which was that the Council should act proactively to encourage and attract small businesses to develop the High Street as offices, alongside boutique-style shops, as regeneration in the conventional sense, is seen by many as a pipe dream in the present economic crisis.

Havana View
I wonder what readers think but there's no doubt that Margate and its future still stimulates strong opinions, which are frequently contradictory. Sometimes the harsher truths on uncontrolled inward migration and as a place of exile for prisoners on probation, have to be seen alongside the wonderful Turner sunsets. It's certainly not Havana but there is something of Havana in Margate; the buildings perhaps and sometimes the light and colour which makes its scenery outstanding and inspires a special loyalty among those residents who are fighting to restore it to former and hopefully future glories.

McKinstry describes the Turner Contemporary Gallery: "The building itself looks like a warehouse on an East Midlands industrial estate, while its exhibits are mostly the worst kind of pretentious that that today passes for modern art."

While this may sound like a  jaundiced quote from the art critic, Brian Sewell, we need to recognise that regardless of architecture or artistic taste, the Turner has been a great success and a catalyst in moving the struggling seaside town forward and while I respect my constituent's cynicism and his opinions, I don't necessarily have to agree with his pessimism.

Turner Contemporary Opening
Perhaps it's best that readers consider the criticisms expressed in Leo McKinstry's lively and colourful account of the town and decide, like Lisa Richard's story before it, whether the rather opaque glass which is Margate's future, is half empty or half full?

PS.. Westgate residents, just to remind you of the micro-pub Bake &  Ale House 'Christmas lights extravaganza' which will take place at approx 7.00pm, tomorrow,Saturday 15th Dec behind the Carlton Cinema. As I'm walking home this time, I may try a little 'Ravening Wolf' and a bag of Quex crisps.


1 o'clock Rob said...

Glad to see you haven't called for a boycott of Leo's work Simon ;)

*Still waiting to see if anything happens to Cllr Driver*

Anonymous said...

"while its exhibits are mostly the worst kind of pretentious tat that today passes for modern art."... He didn't enjoy Turner and the Elements then, that drew in over two hundred thousand visitors, and was free, in Europe that show was at least £15 to see, or the current wonderful Stubbs paintings, or the new seascapes downstairs? Utterly lazy journalism, just like the woeful recent BBC news report, a cut and paste job from lots of old irrelevant video footage with a asinine voiceover. Ye we all know Margate and Thanet has real problems but I know loads of people who are making a real go of Margate and doing wonderful things, but you wont hear about their efforts as the media doesn't do good news.

Tony2 said...

Shame the Gazette covered this wonderful news with a small piece hidden in its inner pages.
OK Margate may be a bit rough round the edges but it has a lot going for it. Wonderful sandy beaches and coast, wildlife and architecture. Unfortunately most developers have not served it well.
If the council were able to engage with local people in a Project "Go Margate" or similar we could make it something really special.

Anonymous said...

No10.07, not lazy journalism, but a perceptive summary of a widely-held view. Who, outside the heavily grant-aided little acre around the Turner Centre/ Old Town, are doing wonderful things? And please may we have fewer of these 200,000, 500,000, 700,000 visitor claims, which seem as variable as the winter weather.

Anonymous said...

I was there for Turner and the Elements, it was packed day in day out, I spoke to the managers, those are accurate figures, there were coach parties from all over the south of England, visitors form Japan etc all spending lots of money in Thanet, I and my business associates think thats brilliant! As you say "A widely held view" but by you and your circle of fiends? not mine, so not really a widely held view? A more balanced view is what my main point was. True its subsided by the Arts Council which as a tax payer I'm fine with, as if we were to see a breakdown of where our tax goes on a pie chart our contribution to the arts council wouldn't even register. The BBC news item was very lazy, anyone familiar with TV and how it works could see that. I could give you a list of amazing projects (not in least bit grant aided and nothing to do with TC) and great people but if you don't know them (or referring my wider point - that theses things are not reported) or see what's happening then thats a shame.