The most exciting news (allegedly) in Thanet, since the opening of Dreamland in the 1950’s, is the opening of Turner Contemporary in Margate. I was lucky enough to go the press opening on Wednesday 13th April ahead of the official opening.
Whilst what is on exhibited is quite beautiful, although sparse, the most dramatic scene is the view of the sea from the various galleries which is rather special especially when the sun sets.
I cannot but feel that this is the wrong location for the right project. This should have been in Whitstable, where it would have been more at home with the population, rather than the still down-at-heel Margate.
Building Turner Contemporary in Margate, is akin to deciding to re-build the iconic Indian Taj Mahal mausoleum in Leytonstone, East London.
I do love Thanet, and in particular Margate, as I have fond childhood memories from the 1970s. But the memories of what Margate was then and is now and what it could be is so contrasting that it could be fiction.
I make an exception though for the following: the outstanding boutique B&B The Reading Rooms, (www.thereadingroomsmargate.co.uk) the Harbour Café Bar, restaurant, The Ambrette (www.theambrette.co.uk), The Lifeboat Ale & Cider House (www.thelifeboat-margate.com), the boutiques and galleries in the Old Town and of course the mildly eccentric Walpole Bay Hotel, (www.walpolebayhotel.co.uk). I worry that apart from these places, Margate has little to offer the 400 people a day expected to visit Turner Contemporary.
If the not-great attitude I encountered on the telephone with the receptionist, at Turner, is mixed with the ineptitude of the Visit Kent staff (who I feel have ignored Thanet for years) then Margate’s school report should be downgraded from ‘could do better’ to ‘there is little or no improvement here, just yet’.
Margate needs as huge facelift: for starters why not knock that hideous high rise on the seafront down or at least paint it. In fact, why not give grants to paint the entire seafront. Remove the tacky arcades, and replace them with Victorian-style shopping fronts and make Margate, Margate again.
Then inform certain London local authorities that Thanet will no longer tolerate housing their addicts or delinquents and push hard for a high-speed link to Canterbury - and only then might Margate rise from the ashes and I hope it does, as I love the place.
But as I write this blog, it appears that the Margate’s Big Event, the one with the Red Arrows, might not happen as the money has gone on the Turner, but then again it might have gone on a dozen street football coordinators…