It was my first visit to Margate yesterday since I was a kid. I walked around and got a feel for the town, and was lucky enough to get a tour of the dilapidated theme park, Dreamland. There are creepers and weeds everywhere - a stark reminder that nature takes over astonishingly quickly when left to its own devices.
As I looked through old photos of the pristine Dreamland from the 40s, I was struck by how gorgeous it was - clean and classy, and very very fashionable. There were perfect little working steam trains, clean white 30s style buildings - everything was shiny. When I visited in the 80s as a kid there was a certain energy and excitement but it certainly wasn't glamorous, and there was a distinct feeling that this place was past its prime.
Margate clearly has its problems and is rough around the edges. But it's heartening to see new shiny bits emerging; a completely modernised and refurbished hotel, a proper coffee shop that does a great flat white (pretentious I know but I'd be more than useless without a decent coffee :) ), a bar that serves chocolate, fancy restaurants, including a trendy pizza house all set to attract the local hipster community, and of course the Turner gallery.
It's nice to see some of the local architecture live up to its original promise; classic Victorian seaside architecture, but somehow more delicate than Brighton (my home town).
It seems that the Geek Festival - and also the work of the game making artists - can work to bring a bit of sparkle back to this historic town. I'm going to be thinking about how I can recreate the joy and excitement of the classic fairground sideshow, using computer technology, sensors, and most likely lasers. Because what's more sparkly than a laser? :) More of that in my next post.