March 17, 2014 § Leave a comment
Looking for some concrete substance to the claims of this petition that the Bournemouth Pier Theatre is to be turned into an indoor ball pool, I came across this curious piece of ideology again. The Mail version of this story, wh/ I won’t provide clicks for, frames it as the restoration of a “beautiful sea view”. In the story that phrase lack speech marks, as if beauty were a natural & social fact like any other a reputable newspaper would report. It’s a view I know well in fact, visible nicely from other angles from East Cliff & the arts & crafts villas west of the BIC. But the notion that the view’s restoration – after nearly 15 years & more than £5 million of public money splurged by the council – would restore Bournemouth residents’ morale & encourage tourists exemplifies a species of magical thinking inherited from Hollywood: “put the light where the money is”. It’s a genre of gesture that occurs several levels away from the actual affective & economic experience of urban subjects – my own melancholy investment in the light & texture of the sea air seems more bankable.
As far as I can ascertain the Pier Theatre story is no different from the numerous threats & opaque reprieves made by the council over the last decade (see for example this Torygraph article from last year that claims it’s to be replaced by a climbing wall) – there’s no substantiations even in the local ‘paper of record’ (haha). But the obscurity of the council’s decision-making processes, wh/ rivals the machinations of Opus Dei, obviously doesn’t mean that the Theatre is safe, any more than the Liberal Democrats’ electoral promise to preserve the Winter Gardens meant that it was spared the wrecking ball. Plans appear in the local press or vague rumour w/out any concrete announcement, floated as utopian schemes for prosperity (the infamous surf reef) or concealed as back-channel faits accompli. (For more of wh/ see this recent Novara episode, wh/ includes a brief discussion of Bournemouth property mogul Dave Wells.)
That one policy should contradict w/ another project or initiative, sufficiently vaguely defined for the council to do as much or as little as they want to do in order to satisfy it, shouldn’t ultimately surprise us, correlating as it does w/ post-Blairite urban policy in general. Thus the plan to regenerate Boscombe by encouraging ‘the arts’* – an objective surely best achieved by rent controls, subsidies for studios & spaces, funds for groups & projects based among local artists, the creation of public sector jobs that allow artists to support themselves & still work – coincides with increasing rents, the closure of bookshops, the closure of key local venues, the encouragement of their occupation by pub & nightclub chains. Thus the opening of Pavilion Dance, looking out over the lower gardens, coincides w/ the absolute lack of public venues for local music, a lack of funds for those that do exist, so that the Shelley Manor Theatre does maybe one show a year, & the introduction of exorbitant entrance fees for the only local art museum (since the council closed KUBE, wh/ housed some lovely Paolozzi prints, in 2010). Thus the refurbishment of Boscombe Pier & bringing in Wayne Hemingway (design’s Jools Holland) to redesign the marked-up beach huts coincides with the encouragement of commercial defacement of the town centre’s Art Deco buildings. Better perhaps to be consistent & ruin it all.
*’the arts’ refers de facto to a species of ‘artiness’: vintage shops & ‘quirky’ design emporia, bougie coffee shops, pop-up galleries selling amateurish paintings. When I occasionally think about moving back to Bournemouth, it’s w/ thoughts of cheap rents & the space & independence they might provide, not where to buy bespoke dog cardigans.