After quite a few days spent in historic churches and cathedrals over the last month, I began to feel as if I was living part-time in the Dark Ages. So, I was thoroughly up for a day trip to Margate. Years ago, before anyone thought of doing anything artistic out there, Kent Opera used to present small shows in the venerable (1787) Theatre Royal Margate. In those days, the train journey was astonishingly slow, but we would emerge from the theatre and see one or two beautiful though largely neglected terraces and squares. Now the high speed train links to St Pancras in ninety minutes, and we are informed that young professionals are pouring out of their garrets in Shoreditch to snap up mouldering properties in Margate which they are transforming into luxury mansions at a relatively small cost.
From my own very small observation, there is plenty of Margate yet to gentrify, but the experience of walking straight out of the station onto the massive sea front can’t be equalled in many places, whatever the buildings look like. And the Turner Contemporary is a wonderful addition. It could hardly have been a better experience with the current JMW Turner: Adventures in Colour show pulling in very enthusiastic crowds (some of whom, when I was there, were definitely local people, trying to work out where in Margate the pictures were painted.) I was so happy to read Turner's remark to Ruskin that Margate’s skies were ‘the loveliest in Europe’, and walked around the seafront afterwards with this in mind.