‘Vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be’.
A tent is a tent is a tent - for that is the true origin of the word (old french: pavilion = tent).
Our 'tent' is an architectural abomination of gigantic proportions, hideous, ugly, and an expensive disgrace positioned as the visual climax to the most beautiful Georgian esplanade, which in turn is set against the stunning backdrop of the Jurassic Coast.
If you don’t believe me, ask any visitor, even many locals - find me one person, just one who can even bear to look at it for 30 seconds without emitting a low level groan/moan?
For many years it has been the subject of much debate and consternation within the local community providing many column inches for the local rag. So, imagine how my heart leapt when I saw this headline ….
Please don’t muddle my words, the tent is one thing, what happens inside the tent is another.
I wholeheartedly endorse the arts - that which happens inside the tent; the art of performance, of community, of expression, of joy and dreams.
However, having served my time inside the ‘theatrical’ tent of life, it is but a ‘black box’ experience that does not warrant such a high quality natural site with nothing but a car park around it. A drive thru takeaway - sorry, theatre?
(If my words offend your eyes, please click away now - you are probably on the wrong website).
2012 has been the most fantastic opportunity for us here in Weymouth. You know the stories, you saw the global tv coverage we had, now we must grasp the metal and deliver on our promise for the future.
Are you Wild About Weymouth & Portland? if so …...
KNOCK THE TENT DOWN!
Then recycle all of it's bits and create an exciting sustainable future on our most important site in this fantastic town. A future that is not an architectural (Barcelona) orgasm, or a cultural Tate of St Ives. And don’t even dream of a Howard Holdover stitch-up.
Think more, ‘Eden(project)-on-Sea’.
This place is UNIQUE, we have a huge responsibility now. We are the main Gateway Town to this World (repeat, Natural World) Heritage Site - which currently delivers around 16,000,000 tourists every year - and that ‘attraction’, the Jurassic Coast, ain’t going nowhere!
- Opportunities are made of this.
- A collision of Time and Circumstance.
- A real chance to think Positive and have a redesign.
- Not Big, but Balanced.
- Sustainable, not Stupid.
- By the people, for the People.
- For the kids with Backbones rather than Wishbones.
- Sounds a bit like hippie speak...eh? Well, it is!
Our post war generation has a lot to answer for. We helped create greed, consumption, waste, poverty and pollution. We have deviated from those wholesome values we held so close way back then in the ‘60s - who remembers Schumacher’s book ‘Small is Beautiful’? If you missed it go get it now, free, at your local library and then reconsider it’s premise!
OK. This bit requires imagination. If you have read thus far you are probably up for a bit of ‘blue sky’ thinking. So, here goes!
- Physically clear the site (in your mind). No Pav, no Condor sheds, no motorcars.
- Superimpose a huge circular 3D ammonite symbol across the space (partially made from recycled Pavilion bits).
- Depress its middle spirals to create an amphitheatre - a performance/picnic/market space.
- Cover the whole ammonite landscape in soil and grass. (Some people want to enjoy the ‘seaside’ without actually sitting on the lovely beach/sand!)
- Plant trees, plant shrubs, plant crops, create an environment for permaculture.
- Create a park to mirror the high quality of the Nothe Gardens across the harbour - a son-of-Nothe.
- Harvest sunlight (for energy) and rainwater (for the permaculture).
- Underneath this new ‘urban park’, fill the coils of the ammonite with an ‘exploratorium’ about life, the coast and how permaculture can make a sustainable future both for Weymouth and it’s wider audiences. Oh, and slot in the Museum and a few cafes and shops for those rainy days too!
Make Weymouth a destination for Importing pedestrians by sea, not a grey anonymous transit point for export/importing cars people and their euros (give that valueless privilege to Poole).
Think about the harbour/Condor quay as our new front door. (Remember the 'paddlers' from Victorian times, this idea is not exactly new!).
Laying out that green carpet and welcoming pedestrians into our town = instant economic regeneration.
A change of mindset - a giant leap - an opportunity to lead, not follow.
We have the sea, the coast, a fantastic harbour, the river, the sunlight, the wind and a fantastic site - in a part-pedestrianised town (just keep those cars north of King St!).
We could become that new Eden-on-Sea, a place where people really want to live, work and visit in a thoroughly sustainable way. The best classroom is roofed only by the sky.
Think of money as but stored energy. The leisure company Merlin is already on site (perhaps they might like to put a new Jurassic SeaLife Centre inside the ammonite?). They are forever looking for the next big thing. Embrace them.
‘And what about our theatre?’ I hear you ask.
- Go full-on into the town centre.
- Bring back life, culture a sense of fun and excitement.
- Bring ‘community’ slap bang into the middle of town.
- Forget parking (for now), think walking.
- Think fast ferries bringing visitors in from Bournemouth for an evening out.
- Think people dressed up, people with pride taking back ownership of their streets, their shops, cafes and some really good after-show restaurants - thereby, cleaning up the night time economy too. Simples!
‘Build it where?’ Gut the old Post Office (retaining it’s frontage!), or the burnt out Methodist Church - perhaps the Bowling alley site - or the bus garage site? (or perhaps combine with the new stadium at Lodmore if happening).
‘Who pays for it?’ Large Arts Council grants are long gone. If the public want a theatre badly enough people will always find a way to raise the funds. For example, the brand new Park Theatre in N London is planned as a £2.5m twin auditoria (200 and 90 seater) - being built with loans and donations and by selling some flats on top.
(Advice from W&P BC - 'The Council has no direct financial resources to put into alternatives to closure and demolition but is looking to set up a fund of £100k for grants to the arts and culture section. Any proposals for the theatre complex would be able to bid to this pot, alongside other community organisations'. You can read more here.)
Solutions exist, it just requires a change of mindset, a slight shift of emphasis.
So, that’s my New Year’s resolution done!
Now - over to you, do you have any positive ideas, let’s debate?
For a fuller understanding of permaculture, a current definition is: ‘Consciously designed landscapes which mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature, while yielding an abundance of food, fibre and energy for provision of local needs.’
People, their buildings and the ways in which they organise themselves are central to permaculture. Thus the permaculture vision of permanent or sustainable agriculture has evolved to one of permanent or sustainable culture.
Permaculture is relevant, timely and so ‘on message’ as we hit Peak Oil and outmoded financial systems. Read a short thesis here.
And if you still don't know what the Jurassic Coast is really all about, try this 5 minute Python-esque video for a swift overview!
If you came to this article through Twitter or Facebook, please 'RT' or 'Like' below. Let's debate a future - our future!