About a month ago in the News Guardian, our elected mayor was waxing lyrical about the artistic prowess of pupils at Marine Park Primary School, then painting her own vision for North Promenade.
Shortly after, I read a feature on the regeneration of Folkestone as a seaside resort, thanks to the involvement of its artistic community.
Having moved to Whitley Bay from the south east, I am familiar with most of the run-down seaside communities in Kent and East Sussex, and note how each is trying to re-imagine itself along artistic lines.
Folkestone has its Triennial Festival, which attracted contributions by Tracey Emin and Spencer Tunick. Margate now has its Turner Contemporary, which has revitalised the old town. Whitstable has its Biennale Festival of Art. Ramsgate has realised its potential, being the resting place of Augustus Welby Pugin, the architect of the Houses of Parliament. Bexhill-on-Sea has its renovated art deco De La Warr Pavilion concert hall and art space, which has had interest thanks to Anthony Gormley. Hastings now has its Jerwood gallery. I could go on.
Some years ago, Segedunum held an exhibition of some of the vaunted 19th century Cullercoats Colony artists, which, I understand, are stewarded by North Tyneside Council. Sadly, these works are not on view at other times. Where are these masterpieces by Winslow Homer, John Falconer Slater, Henry Hetherington Emmerson, John Charlton, and Robert and Elizabeth Jobling?
The thought occurred that perhaps they should be permanently exhibited, and wouldn’t a public building along the coast be just the place for them?
During Heritage Open Days, visitors to Cullercoats were treated to the handmade model display of Cullercoats village by Gloria Robinson and Lisle Brunton. This labour of love itself deserves a permanent home, and will entrance both adult and child visitors.
How about Whitley Bay in which to build up an artistic community? We have the Dome, with its undeclared potential. There are also semi-derelict properties like the Rex Hotel and Presbyterian Church all crying out for some kind of use.
Some kind of biennial festival in promoting the district would not come amiss either. How about it?