Back to the Seaside

Getting my fix of seaside towns to re-energise after a hard winter of #communityorganisers and the birth of Locality.

Last summer’s Seaside Tour (see earlier blogs) took in Southend, Southwold, Yarmouth, Cromer, Scarborough, Southport, Blackpool and St Anne’s, before returning to Hastings. In October I stood through the night watching the devastating Hastings Pier fire. November was absorbed working with Angela Davis on the Heritage Lottery Fund and with Keith Sadler on the Communitybuilders – putting together a future for the People’s Pier. Since December I’ve been working with Seasider and Destination Alliances on the STEP, the Seaside Towns Enterprise Partnership, now likely to be renamed the Seaside Towns Economic Powerhouse. We held a fantastic Party on the Prom in March for @thepeoplespier, plastered the town with JUST SAY YES TO THE PEOPLE’S PIER posters and welcomed HLF visitors to Hastings. Even in the depths of Corganisers activity I felicitously bump into seasiders like Neil Measures from Blackpool who was at the first talk I gave about the programme, Derek Harding of Margate Renewal Partnership well-met by chance on a platform at London Bridge, or David Brown of Igloo who still thinks of himself as a seaside-boy.

So I haven’t really been away, just too busy to enjoy it and work on my seaside imagination. (Collingwood describes the historical imagination that gives historians the strong sense of period and chronology, I think there’s a regeneration imagination that guides intervention in the complex and unpredictable world of social and physical renewal, and a similar but special sense for seaside!).

Having dropped Daughter + friend at PGL for a multi-activity week which they’ll be loving, DH, Scuffle and I got to know Weymouth.

Brewers Quay – sad but inevitable 1980s regen scheme ‘closed for redevelopment’. Huge potential for this site on Hope Square but our B&B landlord said it seems to be going nowhere.

The Chapel – looked more like a theatre and so tragic as to require a second visit with camera. On the door is a notice stating that building works will start ‘on April 6th’ and that it is private property. By the look of things, confirmed by a helpful street cleaner, it refers to a spring several years ago. Looks like a case for CPO to me – would even wager that the owner could be charged with seeking deterioration in order to redevelop the land (which carries a penalty of no compensation).

The Guildhall is having its western elevation ‘stabilised’. I wonder about its future use but it was Sunday and no-one around to ask.

A beautiful drive onto the Isle of Portland and then westwards along the coast, to Lyme Regis for lunch. A hilly place with lots going on – trad seaside, lively community activity. Locality member Lyme Regis Development Trust works very closely with the Lyme Regis Town Council. Wish it wasn’t Sunday and I could find out more. Never mind, onwards to Beer, although sadly didn’t partake at the Barrel of Beer PH, instead having the worst cup of coffee ever at Ducky’s on the beach.

After a night in Totnes we’re off to Penzance today – and we need to get going so we can set up camp before the storm breaks! Four nights camping at Marazion will put the salt back in my blood…

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