Margate, European City of Culture 2004

£20 million that is apparently the predicted total cost of opening a Turner Centre ( £7 million for the building) with no Turner paintings in the seaside town of Margate, better known for its amusement arcades, Dreamland amusement park (now closed) and celebration of ‘Chav’ culture than for any notable appreciation of art.

Ironically, Turner painted many of his most famous sunset scenes on this stretch of the Kent coastline and on many evening during the year, one can understand why as they can be breathtaking as the sun descends into the sea in the West.

A Cunning Plan?

Why the fiscally challenged planners at Kent County Council in conjunction with Thanet Council, believe that opening a gallery in a famous artist’s name, with none of his paintings on display, will suddenly transform Margate into a cultural Mecca and attract hordes of cultural day-trippers is anyone’s guess. It’s all rather like the fiasco of positioning the Royal Armouries in Leeds and not London with the net result that it’s losing money hand over fist because nobody wishes to visit Leeds when it’s cheaper and easier to visit sites such as the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao.

On the opposite side of the bay to the new Turner centre is the once and still famous Nayland Rock Hotel. In another century it was an exclusive home for the privileged tourist visiting the popular seaside Margate resort. Today, it’s a processing centre for refugees, mostly dispossesed Africans and Iraqis, who have injected an unwanted multicultural theme on an already disadvantaged area of the country, which goes a long way to explain the activities of the British National Party in Margate.

£20 million pounds for the Turner Centre means higher poll tax bills for the local population, already double that I paid in London last year and £20 million wasted, when it could have been put to much better use on other schemes, such as revitalising the crumbling façade of Margate seafront or knocking down the clock tower traffic lights; another on of the council's universally despised "bright ideas".

What comes next I wonder, the "Hanging Gardens of Cliftonville"?

If I want culture, then I’ll visit the Turner exhibition at the Tate Gallery and if I want noise, lager and fish and chips then I’ll visit Margate. Anyway and if I’m right, Turner painted many of his scenes further West in the village of Birchington, a home to many well-know artists of the 19th century, so perhaps the council should start building there instead!


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