Art among the funfairs

Couple watching sunset at Newbiggin on Sea

Last week Front Row on Radio 4 asked whether art can regenerate our coastal resorts and looked at what’s happening in Scarborough, Hastings, Southport and Weston-super-mare. I’m not sure whether the programme answered its own question but it did get me thinking that outside our major cities, seaside resorts are the places to find great arts experiences.

We all know about St Ives and of course in 2011 Margate will be opening a spectacular new Turner Contemporary Gallery on the seafront. Now Hastings is about to bring us The Jerwood Gallery including a new regional venue for the Jerwood Visual Arts programme. Then there is The Folkestone Triennial a three-yearly exhibition of contemporary artworks sited in public spaces throughout the town. The first included Tracey Emin’s Baby Things included in The Observer’s The 10 Best Public Works of Art. Artists are signing up now for 2011.

Let’s not forget poetry on the beach in Scarborough, the couple sculpture at Newbiggin-on-Sea (see above) and Antony Gormley’s Another Place at Crosby.

So when did the marriage between art and seaside resort begin? Some say resort retro-chic started around 2000 – Tracey Emin, beach huts with price tickets like houses and the Camber Sands music festival where Sonic Youth met crazy golf. Maybe that’s it – high and low culture meet in seaside resorts in a way possible nowhere else and it works, very eclectic British; helping to define ‘distinctive’ places and reshape our destinations.