‘It May Be Margate, But It’s Home’
Margate was the first seaside town, a once successful ‘kiss-me-quick’ “seaside town” that epitomised the summer months of British holidaying. Sticks of rock, deck chairs and parasols, pubs and fun fairs, donkey rides and playgrounds on the beach.
Now it is merely a town for those who can’t get out. A bleak statement of regret brandishing what once was. They say once you go back to Thanet, you get stuck. For so many reasons; lack of motivation, money, family, a need to be grounded to a place that could be great again. But mostly because you find yourself secretly attached to the way of life, the culture and hidden optimism, that if you wait around long enough, you can relive the past, get back what you cherished most.
When you tell people where you come from, be it when you are at University and your peers are trying to decipher your accent, you tell them, and they just nod like they completely know where you live. Then you tell them. Margate. And the look of disdain just falls across their faces, no possible interest and sometimes just pure disgust.
“I am from Thanet.” (With every attempt to be able to lie and pretend that I live in the nicer area of Broadstairs, knowing that the person I am conversing with would have no clue either way).
*Gives a look of ‘I’ll nod and look interested* “Oh Right and where about is that?”
“In the south.”
Then, somehow, in some roundabout way it comes out, like word vomit, like a need to explain your lie, that it is nowhere near Dover, that you are not lucky enough to live in the quaint yet blooming seaside town of Broadstairs with the elderly, but you do, in fact live in the run down, ‘artistically thriving,’ job seekers land of Margate. It hits you like a shame, like an itch you can’t scratch, a burning desire to run to the land of Dinosaurs and Elves because anywhere is better than the surrounding burning scent of the Scenic Railway in the ‘Great Dreamland’ or the whiff of a toilet block that cost the town £17m, only to evoke the sense that Margate is an artistic town, full of talent, rather than five year old’s finger paintings plastering the fronts of empty shop windows. Don’t get me wrong, the picture of 2D sweets on shelves covering the empty shop window reminds me of the days when the actual shop was full of sweets on the shelves, but it would be nice to have the real thing rather than a taunt of what was. And for me, that’s what my hometown seems to have become. A taunt of a forgotten and lost past, being rebuilt into something not quite as good as it was. Maybe I am being harsh, but then, this is my home.
I’ve seen the changes from seaside town, thriving on tourism, to its main attraction of Dreamland shut down, burnt to a crisp and left to no more than an idea of reinvention that doesn’t seem to be jumping off the front porch and the upheaval of a high street to fund and ignite a shopping centre slapped upon the fields to encourage more commercialism into our society.
Margate, of course still has a lot to offer, air shows, bike shows, steam and fun fairs, an award-winning beach, pigeons and a gracious, pleasant civilisation of the unemployed and those of the teenage pregnancy variety, but it wouldn’t be the stable ground of home without all these things. Without the memories of the thrilling night adventures to Dreamland Fun Park when you are 6 or 7, before it became so run down, it closed and became nothing more than a plot of land for houses and occasional fairs that roll into town.
Dreamland used to be a place of ‘dreams’ of fun and family entertainment. Animals, roller coasters, miniature steam engine rides. If you got a wrist band, it meant a whole days and nights fun complete, if you had a wristband… you were a lucky kid. The bad days came when all you could purchase were discs in exchange for £2 for a single ride on the dodgems, or whatever had been left in the aftermath of the move out of the fun fair. Get the discs… you were an unlucky kid.
It seems that Margate is just being burnt bit by bit and every time I come home part of the scenery has changed. A shop has shut and in its place a boarded up window or a shop that won’t last longer than a month before it is turned into a carpet shop or a woman’s gym.
But there is one spot that rain or shine, never changes, my secret place.
Granted, everyone knows of this place, dog walkers and families in the summer, the guys on jet skis, the runners and the lone wanderers clearing their heads.
This is one part of the town, Palm Bay and Botany Bay that for me, never changes. It’s my safe place. Whether the tide is in or out you can guarantee a ship on the horizon, the green glaze of seaweed upon the rocks and the sweet scent of salt water and the ebb of waves crashing amongst the rocks.
It doesn’t matter what is going on in the world of Margate, the burning of arcades and Grade II listed wooden roller coasters and the construction of the Turner Contemporary, that is to ‘boost Margate’s tourism and artistic flow,’ you can always count on the calm and peace of the sand between your toes to take it all away, to stop it mattering, for everything to vanish around you and for your only focus to be the soft sensual sounds of the sea. The sentimental nature of home, I guess, is different for everyone. But, I wouldn’t change Margate for the world. Although, less one legged freakish looking pigeons would be nice.
On reflection of writing such an essay, I am saddened to say that one fateful trip to the local fish and chip shop, my view of the youths of Margate were proved correct when an outburst from one foul-mouthed young lady “He called me fat, the f***king p***k” came in response to a group of young boys called such a, well let’s say not skinny, girl..fat.
However, with all its downers and some negative perspectives, the Water Council for the UK named Margate Sands one of the best beaches in the country, alongside some of the other beaches in the area; Joss Bay and Botany Bay. So, can’t be all that bad eh?
Below is a video I designed specifically to accompany my project.