Sunday, 30 December 2007

Saturday, 29 December 2007

The Shell Lady of Margate!

About six months ago I was pleased to hear there was a £50k competition for an arts project to signpost the Old Town. It sounded like a nice opportunity for a decent art project to encourage people to check out what's on offer in the Old Town Area behind the harbour. Just before Christmas, the Turneround Margate blog announced the winner. To say I was shocked at the result is putting it lightly. The winner is Ann Carrington with a giant shell lady statue that will be erected along with various signs pointing the way to the statue.

Apart from my personal instant dislike for the statue - I think it's simply embarrassingly bad - I don't think the project particularly fits the brief of signposting the old town. It seems to signpost itself. There's a number of comments on the Turneround blog, so I'll leave it there.

Another worrying concern is that this project could also be encouraging people to collect shells off the beaches. I can see the tourist office gift shop filling up now with hideous shell dolls to go along with all the other gifts that don't have relevance to Margate - light house, mermaids and fisherman's cottages anyone? I thought that the collection of shells on the beach was actively discouraged these days.

It was too much to hope that a decent public arts project could be developed that we could all be proud of. Bah humbug etc.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Margate Museum Under Threat of Closure

Astonishingly, those folks at TDC have come up with the idea to close the Margate and Ramsgate museums. On their website they state:

"TSR18 Museums and grant to the East Kent Maritime Trust
(Saving £100,000)

The Council currently grant aids the East Kent Maritime Trust, who provide museum services and supervise collections at Margate and Ramsgate. Sadly the council grant of around £100,000 a year supports services that are used by only around 10,000 visitors each year – equating to a subsidy of around £10 per visitor. This is not sustainable in the current financial climate and the Cabinet believes that this grant must cease in 2008/09. The Council will discuss with the Trust the best way forward to achieving the following objectives:-

  • A thorough review of the current museum exhibits, with the aim of establishing a series of high-quality themed exhibitions which can be displayed at various venues across the district and, possibly, county.
  • The presentation of a core, static museum display on the ground floor of Albion House, Ramsgate – in rooms not required for civic accommodation
  • The release of accommodation currently occupied at both Ramsgate and Margate for potential alternative commercial or community
As part of this change programme, the Council is willing to fund a post for two years to support the reconfiguration of the Museum collections."

It seems there are two key things:

1. They calculate the museums receive 10,000 visitors per year.
I for one, as a newcomer to Margate, and interested in finding out about the history of the town and the house I had bought, I was told over and over again by TDC officials that the Margate museum were the ones to speak to. I doubt my numerous visits counted as official visits to the museum. The maps that were photocopied and excited phone messages from staff as they'd dug up another piece of history for me were above and byond what I expected from a local museum.

2. The release of property for development. Plain and simple.

TDC should be better spending funds in Margate to promote the good of what they have rather than closing more down and handing it over to the developers. The old town and Margate as a whole needs more attractions not less. This doesn't seem to be joined up thinking. I think people need to protest at this latest proposal. I'm sure we can think up of more novel ways to cut expenditure.