Turner Contemporary will not alone wave a magic economic wand over Margate and East Kent. But hopefully it will not be the “white elephant” grumpily predicted by one arts pundit. In combination with other projects, Turner will play a key role in reviving their fortunes.
The resurrection of Dreamland as a vintage fun fair and the proposed Tesco development by the unsightly Arlington flats will help. Renovation of rundown once elegant housing will also change perceptions. Faster rail services via a proposed Manston Parkway station will cut journey times to an hour - another incentive for people to visit, and perhaps stay and commute.
And if Kent’s finest but under-rated indoor entertainment space - The Winter Gardens - can be given a makeover, then Margate will have an abundance of regenerational riches. The other part of the jigsaw is a new hi-tech job-filled role for the Pfizer site.
Time is short and the Government needs to put ome money and action where its words are. Tomorrow’s (16) opening of Turner by Tracey Emin and Jools Holland is real cause for excitement. Of course, there are cynics. They were cynical in Bilbao before Guggenheim.
But look at what has happened to that Spanish industrial city since then. Business has flocked in. Real estate has soared. The river front is beautiful. And it will be challenge for TC to keep the money coming in once the Arts Council subsidies thin out. TC is not everyone’s cup of tea.
The art on display in the inaugural exhibition may not appeal to all tastes. But Turner’s volcanic eruption - painting on loan from Liverpool - is a highlight, Ellen Harvey’s etchings of Margate in the Arcadia exhibit are stunning, the mobile by Conrad Shawcross fascinating in its geometic patterns, and James Webb’s View of Margate from the Pier gives everyone what they probably came for.
And for those expecting wall-to-wall Turners, several will be on display early next year. Many locals have yet to be convinced that art will do much for the town, but once people and businesses come, they will change their tune. Some eighty national journalists are visiting Turner today.
I hope they don’t all convey the jaundiced view of Brian Sewell who wrote in yesterday’s Evening Standard that it would be a white elephant, that David Chipperfield’s creation was a “alien, brutal and bleak,” as “aggressive and threatening as a hyena in a sheepfold.”
Great lines but not helpful to TC’s sales pitch. Grumpy old Brian does not dwell much on regeneration and the Turner’s role in a jigsaw puzzle of projects that contribute to the whole package. Okay, the building may look a bit grey from afar, but it it blend into the maritime setting, offering those fantastic views so beloved of the painter.
It perhaps needs some artistic embellishments to the public-facing wall but to appreciate the building, you need to go inside to experience the light and airy rooms.
For all the carping, let’s celebrate a great addition to Kent’s cultural scene, the vision of John Croft who conceived it in the mid-90s, Lord Sandy Bruce-Lockhart and KCC for pushing it through despite setbacks and criticism, Westerham’s long-established builder Durtnell, and the trustees chaired by John Kampfner.
And for Victoria Pomery, the boss, her moment has come. She will never please all the people all the time. Like any managing director or CEO, it will seem lonely at the top. But it’s easy to knock the person who has to make the decisions.
You can be sure she will always do her best - and if she’s lucky, will satisfy most of the people most of the time – and make TC the catalyst for regeneration that we all want.