Monday, March 16, 2009

The Lost Promenade

Humble People Who Expect Nothing (Margate)

There are some things that just don’t go together, though God knows I’ve tried. Custard and horseradish. Eczema and satin. Margate and December…

Nhung Dang and Tamsin Chapman met some years ago, late one night during a pub lock-in. Tamsin admired Nhung’s shiny black umbrella. She keeps meaning to ask Nhung what happened to it. Nhung takes photographs, makes films, writes and sings. Tamsin also writes and sings, but not the other things. They both live in Brighton. When Tamsin was young and on holiday by the sea, she once took off her jelly sandals and flung them into the ocean. She watched them float away and still can’t tell you why. She was very fond of them, but just had an urge. When Nhung was even younger, she went on a Sunday school trip to the seaside and wandered away from the rest of the group. Although she was lost and alone, she didn’t want to be found. She can’t tell you why either. She just had an urge Nhung and Tamsin have come up with a new wheeze to travel around the coast and make some new seaside memories. Nhung will be photographing and Tamsin will be writing. They don’t really know why. They just had an urge

Let’s face it, fascinating as the town’s crumbling edifices are to trippers like us, outside summer time, when the beach’s glorious orange sands come into their own, this town must be a fucking grim place to grow up in. And if the only alternative teenagers are offered, is art built on sneers not passion, then who can blame them if they turn to bird rustling and hawking blow-up sex dolls.

If Tamsin ruled the world, and Margate Council, she’d use the money and site planned for the gallery, to build a gleaming new community centre/venue offering all kinds of subsidised classes and training to everyone. And she’d re-open Margate’s extinct theme park Dreamland, where one of the only two of the UK’s remaining early wooden rollercoasters once lived. And that’s where the Art would be. All the rides would be designed by the world’s most imaginative architects alongside top fairground engineers. Tatlin’s Tower would come to life. Artists would be invited to design regularly changing installations to feature throughout the park –Wisconsin Death Trip ghost trains and waltzers that make you feel like you’re taking acid in Midnight Cowboy. Hell, you could even have Hook-a-Duck stalls that said something vague about consumerism! The food stalls would sell stuff posh people like, like wheatgrass smoothies and exotically garnished offal, as well as the usual theme park fare. Thousands of jobs would be created and Margate would own something unique that reflected all facets of its history, and best of all, would have a place where both the arty and everybody else could enjoy themselves.

Ye Gods, the rain was still pelting down and we were half frozen. We had a look in a fancy dress shop (“take off your gloves if you touch the clothes” barked the proprietor). We hunted for the Shell Grotto, a mysterious cave system tiled in shells, but like most of the renowned tourist attractions we search for in the Lost Promenade, didn’t find it, though we did come across a nice gasometer instead. We checked out a sex shop called Pillow Talk that is said to be haunted. We saw no spooks but we did overhear the following conversation:
Female assistant: “Does she have, like, breasts?”
Male punter, in definite tones: “Oh no”

T.S. Eliot’s words from The Wasteland, ‘On Margate Sands./I can connect/Nothing with nothing./The broken fingernails of dirty hands./My people humble people who expect/Nothing’, seem more apposite, as you look at the defeated-looking faces of the few Saturday shoppers, skirting the boarded-up windows. But maybe we visited on a bad day. Maybe, despite our cynicism, the investment in art will lead to a boom in the town’s fortunes. Maybe the local teenagers will wake up and be hopeful for the future. And maybe the fairy lights will shine again in Margate. Just maybe.

The Lost Promenade digged via Pinhole Photography by Nhung Dang

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...