UK General Election, May 2015
England is at its eccentric best on May Day, all the quirky ancient traditions such as ‘Pat-a-Lamb’ and the Cuckoo Fairs, Heritage Re-enactments and Morris Dance Parades emerge in colourful, frolicsome joy to prance gleefully about and remind us of our connection to the land, the woods, the trees, the fields. So it was perhaps no surprise that on a fleeting visit to @escapetocreate ‘s pad in Whitstable on May Day this year that we should succumb to her inherent creative promoter’s charm and take a walk along Whitstable Beach to the busy, bustling harbour. There we stumbled upon a procession of Morris Dancers parading along to Dead Mans Corner and delighting young and old with their sunny ‘merry olde England’ goodwill amidst the jingle of bells and the fiddling of fiddles. A large ivy clad tree ambled alongside fair maidens and a big brown bear dispensed hugs and photo opportunities.
Arriving by the decking stage at Dead Mans Corner I examined some of the beautiful clay pebbles made as part of a community project and housed in a barrier of Gabion cages – ‘Here Now’ read one. I certainly am, I thought.
Whitstable retains its old coastal town charm and character, clap-board cottages and the curvy Horsebridge Arts Centre mingle comfortably with Oyster bars, the Sailing Club, Cafe’s and the working fishing fleets to-ing and fro-ing in the Harbour. The Coffee stall exudes a siren song to passers-by, the heady mix of coffee and salty air, exhorting you to stop and buy ‘coffee with your ice-cream Sir? Madam?’. Queues for the Crab and Winkle meandered down the South Quay and the West Whelks Oyster stall was doing a roaring trade by the old smoke huts. Whitstable Harbour, remains relatively unscathed by the surge of concrete monstrosities that sprung up in all the wrong places throughout the sixties and seventies, which is another good reason to go there. We carried on up to the Castle where everyone was in party mode and then back along the beach and through the town, past all those little lanes and nooks and crannys that make the seafront so endearing. It was a wrench to go home!
The Pavillion is closed, which is such a shame because Cardiff needs to retain it’s heritage or it is in danger of becoming a ‘toy town’ where the new builds (kiss me quick developments) which seem modern and shiny now, don’t look like they are built to age gracefully. The good news is a Heritage Lottery Fund award last year means Penarth Pavillion can be saved for prosperity. A Hotel opposite was demolished to make way for a very brown, bland block of flats not at all in keeping with the charm of the Esplanade. A pity we’ve learnt so little from the visionary Victorian builders who knew that building was more than a scale drawing and bricks and mortar.
Penarth Esplanade draws you there, exuding charm enough on rainy days to help you see past all the ‘kiss me quicks’ and make you stop and sit a while, wondering who might have the vision to rescue the Pavillion and what will the flats look like that will be replacing the row of shops that have been demolished and where all that remain are the two twin Victorian towers and the thin façade held up by sturdy steel scaffolding.
From Penarth you look across the Bristol Channel (Severn Estuary) to Weston Super Mare and the north Devon coast. Your eyes might skip over to the giant industrial installations along Cardiff Bay with the iconic Millenium Centre singing out in the sunshine in protest (perhaps) ‘within these stones horizons sing’ further on to the west, Barry Island and the smoking chimney stacks of Port Talbot are hidden from view around the corner. You can also see the two islands of Flat Holme and Steep Holme which are well worth a boat trip, even a stop over maybe?
You can see more photos here: http://issuu.com/artsmonkey/docs/penarth_jlb/1