Wednesday, July 17, 2024
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Margate: Fun, History, Music, Art, Delicious Food & Fresh Sea Air – Part 1

Historic Margate Sign

It seems you can’t open a paper or magazine these days without reading about the gentrification of Margate and the corresponding increase in its house prices.  All this may be true, but you don’t have to move to Margate to enjoy its benefits.  Visitors have been enjoying visits to the seaside here since 1736.  Heck, even Karl Marx woz ‘ere (according to his blue plaque) in 1866.

Karl Marx Blue Plaque

Recently, I made my fourth visit to the town. I enjoy its bohemian feel, it’s abundance of artistry, its quirkiness and friendliness, I even take pleasure in its “seedy” areas.  Seedy areas?  I think every seaside town has them.  The seaside seems to attract people who’ve chosen, or been forced, to drop out of society.  At least they get nice views.

And a pleasant vista is something Margate certainly enjoys. J W Turner loved to paint here, the light from the north being prized by artists.  In testament to him, the Turner Contemporary sits at the entrance to the harbour wall adjacent to the beach and attracts many visitors to the town to view its cycle of high profile, and more exclusive side exhibitions.

 

Turner Contemporary External View
Turner Contemporary Gallery

The Turner Contemporary may be the best known, but it’s far from the only art gallery in Margate.  The town is truly a hub for artists, one of its most famous being Tracey Emin, who grew up in the town.  This abundance of creativity is  probably one of the reasons for its offbeat atmosphere.  Even the hotel we stayed in, the Walpole Bay, is a living museum and gallery displaying art on napkins – a “napery,” if you will – by former guests including Tracey Emin.

You never know what to expect in Margate.  Recently, the Rhodes Gallery, owned and run by Jessica Rhodes Robb & her partner, Gavin Blake, featured an exhibition dedicated to Hollywood star Pedro Pascal (star of The Last of Us).  The last thing they expected was for Mr Pascal himself to turn up to see the 17 paintings of himself by artist Heidi Gentle Burrell.  Unfortunately, it was a Sunday and the gallery was closed!  Such are the breaks.

Throughout Margate’s Old Town there are galleries to visit including the Pie Factory and Eclectic Art Gallery.  Cliftonville is an area where the huge old Victorian buildings are a pleasure to view in themselves (including the afore-mentioned Walpole Bay Hotel).  On the way, you can find more galleries including Joseph Wales Gallery, the Carl Freedman Gallery and Tracey Emin’s own TKE Studios.

Mural by Dreph, Rise Up Residency
Mural by Dreph at 22 Danesmead Terrace

Although recommended, you don’t even have to step inside anywhere to see some incredible art pieces.  As you walk around, you’re bound to come across some huge murals painted on the sides of buildings.  There are 17 of them in total stemming from “Rise Up Residency,” an event that took place in September 2022 when 17 artists, both local and international, created them to raise awareness of ocean conservation and plastic waste in our seas. You can download a map and plan a walking route to view them, each one is worth seeing.

Tunnels in the Shell Grotto, Margate
Tunnel in the Shell Grotto

From Cliftonville or the Old Town it’s an easy stroll downhill to Margate’s mysterious Shell Grotto.  What’s a Shell Grotto?  It’s a grotto full of shells, of course!  What else?  OK, I appreciate it’s not your everyday attraction, but Margate’s not your everyday town.

Shell walls in the Shell Grotto, Margate