Sunday, 25 August 2013

Dreamland welcomes you

Update: I'm way ahead of the Guardian, me. 

I went to check out Margate, the up & coming artist quarter of the UK. This is where people are moving out to, now Hoxton and Shoreditch and Hackney Wick have been oversaturated and property developers have cottoned on, and now Whitstable is too expensive if you're looking to move out of the city for some bracing sea air. Give it a few more years and it will be Whitstable, all chichi and gentrified.

Maybe not for a while though. There are pretty vintage shops and the flash newTurner Contemporary on the seafront, but it is derelict and undeniably poor - between the shops and the new little galleries are buildings just rotting where they stand. (There's also an interesting undercurrent of violence and what can only be described as nutterdom, a kind of seedy Brighton Rock ambience exemplified by the old amusement arcades, that no amount of new cafes serving flat whites and polenta cake can disguise.)   There are 2 bed flats available for £210,000 - I'm a bit obsessed with flat prices at the moment - which wouldn't buy you a shed in most of London - but what would you do for work?

It makes you realise that no matter how run down areas of London get, being in the capital insulates us from this kind of dereliction. You always know there's money sloshing around the city, even if it doesn't slosh around you and your area.

Anyway,all this was highlighted for me the moment I stepped out the station, and saw the Ugliest Building Ever Built. I can't believe that human beings would ever be expected to live in this. It doesn't look so bad in the photo as the sun was out, but can you imagine in the winter with that English grey lead sky and sea mists and wind and cold? Suicide towers. Here you can see Dreamland peeping out behind, like it's posing for a Martin Parr photo.

Suicide Towers

Sunbathing seagulls



  1. While on holiday (in Somerset) I spent some time doing a jigsaw of Margate seafront (500 pieces, one missing). I'm determined to visit and see how the view's held up (I'd guess the jigsaw photo was taken in the early sixties). Arlington House, the tower block, was one of my favourite bits of the puzzle.

  2. I bet that was a bugger, all the bits looking the same.

    I realised this is a very London-centric post, apologies. Like the rest of the country only exists in relation to London. But then, being a Londoner, that's not far off how we see things.

  3. Although a bit ghastly there is something about urban decay that I love. That building is fascinating in a horrible, yucky way.

  4. Hi M! It is fascinating, I guess that's why those brutalist architects got commissioned in the first place. It doesn't look so bad in the photo but it looks like something out of Mordor when you first step out the station and look up.

  5. Tower blocks get gentrified - Trellick Tower, the Barbican and not just London, Park Hill up in Sheffield. I'm sure, in a hundred years or so, people will look back and wonder why we demolished so many of them.

  6. It's horrible from the outside but at least if you live inside you don't have to look at it. (I think it was Flaubert - or Balzac or Zola or Proust or one of the blokes out of Daft Punk - who always had dinner at the Eiffel Tower because it was the only place in Paris where he could be sure not to see the Eiffel Tower.)

    And Margate did make this possible.

  7. The Balfour tower still isn't gentrified Artog, maybe because it's in the East and not the posh West. I've been in Goldfinger's own house, it was concrete but only two storeys and bang in the middle of Hampstead. Hmmm...

    I must have missed that one in the eighties, Tim. They don't make 'em like that anymore. Thank god.

  8. I can see the attraction of Margate. Like Hastings, there are hundreds of beautiful Victorian buildings at affordable prices. I could swap my broom cupboard in Lewes for a five-bedroom detached home in St Leonards. But as you say, there's an undercurrent of violence, poverty and decay that's rather offputting.

    If enough Dalstonians migrate to Margate, there may be safety in numbers, but I'd rather let someone else go first. I've seen several towns that were supposed to be 'up and coming' get stuck in a rut.

    Re: the Turner Contemporary - it's nothing to look at and there aren't many exhibits, but the 'space' inside is impressive. I understand that they had to work within a shrinking budget and that the original exterior would have been more striking,

  9. Hi, Steerforth. You mean you still dream of swapping once you move out of London too? I like Kent (though it's odd it's become fashionable, I remember going to Whitstable as a kid on holidays and nearly dying of boredom.) I know artist types who have moved to Margate but they're braver than me.

    The Curiosity show on at the Turner Contemporary was pretty good when I visited (especially the Dürer Rhinoceros) but the best bit was definitely the window framing the sea view.

  10. Margate always reminds me of this great 70s children's book (and series)