Tuesday, 21 September 2010


This afternoon I went to see my picture framer.  I've been asked to  provide a frame for one of my upcoming portrait commissions and needed to photograph/price a few so my client can decide which style he likes.  His framing shop is not a million miles from the seaside resort of Margate and the sun was shining so David and I decided to 'play truant' and have a wander round the resort.    I must confess most of my trips to Margate beach were as a result of playing truant in my mis-spent youth when I could skip school and take a train to the seaside for the day!!

Margate was one of the favourite seaside resorts for Londoners in the early 20th century - it was a bustling resort famous for being the first to introduce donkey rides, and deckchairs on its sandy beach - it also had huge funfair (Dreamland) which was one of the most popular attractions in England  .  In recent years tourism collapsed and the town got a dreadful reputation - its been a bit of a No-Go area for ages.   Dreamland closed, too many itinerants moved there, there was no work and the 'seafront' was full of seedy sex shops and tacky bingo/gambling amusement arcades.     I haven't been there for years.

I was pleasantly surprised to see how much work has been/is being done to rejuvenate the place.  It helps that  a £17.5 million Art Gallery/centre is being erected and will open next Spring - it will be one of the biggest galleries in South East England outside London.  The Turner Gallery is being built to showcase the work of  artist JMW Turner (who was educated in Margate and lived there with his mistress for 20 years) and his contemporaries.  Tracey Emin the controversial artist also has strong links with Margate and is supporting the cause.  

Whilst there are still a lot of 'tacky areas' in the new town/seafront the old town is looking really good.  Millions of pounds is being spent on attracting new businesses and to create a 'cafe culture'.  There are some fabulous houses and commercial buildings in the area which are being reopened as bistros and cafes and many of the streets have been pedestrianised.      Inevitably there are several small art galleries opening - attracted by Grants from the council and of course the anticipated influx of 'arty' people who will visit the Turner Gallery.  I believe that there are also plans to reopen Dreamland as a heritage fairground

I had a long chat with the proprietor of one of the new Galleries and he was really enthusiastic and easy to deal with.  He offers a framing deal for 'his' artists which reduces costs for them and his commission percentage  for sales was very reasonable compared with many.   I am committed to exhibiting some of my framed pictures at the Horsebridge Gallery in my home town of Whitstable in November but thereafter, I think I'll be dealing with this new Gallery as a potential outlet.  So exciting times ... and I need to crack on with creating more exhibition pieces in addition to the Commissioned portraits.

Here's a photo of the Turner Gallery from the back - the front of the building overlooks the sea.

Lots of these old boarded up shops are coming back to life as gift shops, wine bars and cafes in Margate's 'old town'

So fingers crossed that the town continues to turn itself around and attract the right sort of businesses and visitors.

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