From Eliot to Emin, or Emin to Eliot, is just a short stroll across the broad stretch of Margate Sands. Here we were, on our short trip out of London, the mercury rocketing into the 20s (celsius, obviously), and enjoying most of what Margate has to offer.
Adorning Droit House, on Margate Harbour Arm, is a neon sign by Tracey Emin ‘I Never Stopped Loving You’; inside, in the small gallery space, there’s an exhibition of some of her other neon artworks, and a DVD playing her 1995 Super 8 film ‘Why I Never Became a Dancer’. It’s a poignant and moving little film, and the feelings it provoked – the awkwardness and anger of the teenage years, the need to get away, the defiance of self assertion – stayed with me all day. I’m not ashamed to proclaim myself a fan of Emin’s work.
Across from Droit House, overlooking the harbour, is the famed shelter where T.S. Eliot apparently sat and worked on The Waste Land in 1921 (according to the ‘Creative Margate’ brochure we picked up in the Visitor Information Centre). There’s no plaque (as yet) though the structure has been given listed building status. In homage to Eliot, I had, of course, to sit and read the relevant passage. I remember the exhilaration of reading this difficult, important poem for the English component of my subsequently abandoned BA – and my bemusement at the lack of enthusiasm from other students.
Beyond the Emin/Eliot connections, we found Margate an interesting mix of edgy, authentic, rundown and up-and-coming. That’s both the buildings and the people. I also hadn’t realised the strong association J.M.W. Turner had with Margate. On Thursday afternoon, looking out to sea from the harbour wall, the mist-smudged horizon was quite eerily beautiful. A Turner-esque epiphany, no less.