The holiday novel packed for the trip to Kent this year was Kate Atkinson's Life After Life. It's central premise begs the question - what would you do if you had the chance to live your life over and over again? Small decisions, it turns out, not only change the course of individual lives but also history. Visiting the Kent coastal resort of Margate for the day I could see the effects of such small decisions over the decades, with consumer tastes changing from the traditional British coastal holidays to the increasingly affordable allures of the continent and beyond. This was the place of many happy memories for my Grandmother; a sing along with the entertainers, an ice cream on the front , a game of Bingo and drinks with friends. For her, heady times. But as I walked through the now depressed town, I wondered what would a post war Margate do to change its future, if it knew of the changes ahead?
Perhaps one would be to celebrate tradition and to re-imagine the British coastal holiday experience. That takes investment and vision, but it has started to happen with the restoration of the Margate amusement park, Dreamland. Before it's 2 year restoration the park was abandoned, dilapidated; a vision similar to some of the modern ruins of Detroit. There's a tragic aspect to seeing an abandoned amusement park, as it once provided joy to hundreds of thousands of people before falling in to disrepair. Rob Ball's book of the park before restoration wonderfully depicts the extent ( and the beauty) of the decay.
Now, although not fully complete and with just a fraction of its original audience, it still manages to conjure the warmth and convivial atmosphere of yesteryear.
Since downturn in 2008 the number of people taking a 'staycation' has grown each year, with some citing a long lasting revival for the Great British Holiday. This might mean the fortunes of traditional coastal resorts will improve and innovate like Margate has with Dreamland. They may have another life after all.
Till next time,