MARGATE OR CLIFTONVILLE: WHO DO YOU LOVE?

A beautiful mosaic artwork, in the form of a giant mobile, that for many captured the communities of modern day Margate and Cliftonville.

Artists: Maureen (Mo) Black and Jane Black

Concept: Maureen Black and John McKiernan

Cliftonville and Margate are two separate areas on the Kent coast interweaved in a physical sense yet, as the Moonbow Margate art intervention found, distant in the sense of harmonic living. Moonbow Margate was situated on the very border between the two areas ensuring a mix of customers from both neighbourhoods. What became apparent within a week was despite being entwined physically, many people in each area had deep-rooted suspicions of their neighbouring community. It was felt by us inside the café, as people from outside Kent, that many in Margate had animosity towards Cliftonville, while Cliftonville had more envious feelings towards Margate. The comparison was of two sisters competing for the attention of a suitor, with one feeling positive and the other feeling neglected, downtrodden and maybe having her best days behind her. The suitors being sought were in the form of government funding, investment or the elusive tourist.

Discussing how to capture this somewhat sad yet fascinating dichotomy in a conceptual way, environmental artist Maureen (Mo) Black and the intervention curator, John McKiernan conceived ‘Margate or Cliftonville: Who do you Love?’ Auguste Rodin’s ‘The Kiss’ was to be exhibited at the Turner and it was this, in keeping with the overall aims of the intervention, which inspired the final piece.

Mo, along with fellow artist and daughter Jane Black, made a series of hearts of differing sizes out of light scrap wood. Over two weekends local people visiting the café were asked to write on the wood which area they loved most, Margate or Cliftonville, before decorating the heart using mosaic. This was a free event with over 50 hearts completed. Unknown to the participant, the hearts were not to be used as hearts but turned sideways to resemble lips.

The lips were hung as a giant mobile that gently spun with the lips occasionally touching; resembling a kiss. Aesthetically beautiful, the mobile engaged the viewers of all ages and generated many discussions regarding how the local neighbourhoods interact and the way they see themselves and their neighbours.

Opening Observations

Before the Moonbow Jakes cafe opened as part of the Moonbow Margate intervention, there were already a number of aspersions being cast upon the area from people living in and around the Old Town of Margate. On opening it became quickly apparent that this negative feeling was widespread among many living in Thanet towards Cliftonville. Race was often cited as a key reason for Cliftonville’s ‘decline’. A woman who has lived all her life in Thanet told me that ‘people of Kent look down on Thanet, Thanet looks down on Margate and Margate looks down on Cliftonville’[1]. There was credence in this statement as the project bore witness and the comment book seems to show. The recent publication, Saving Thanet [2] mentions similar views going back over a century.

For those who do not know Margate, the area of Cliftonville, which is a large area in itself, comes under the postal address of Margate. Many in Cliftonville state they live in Margate although it is clearly not Margate. There is no longer any identity to Cliftonville even though it has a high street, the biggest park and cemetery in the area, numerous iconic buildings and was once the most up market costal resorts in the UK.

One of the more striking aspects of the project has been despite clear animosity towards Cliftonville from other Thanetians, people of Cliftonville did not seem to have any similar hostile attitudes towards other Thanet towns. John McKiernan

[1] Krista Bubble, June 2011

[2] http://www.savebritainsheritage.org/news/article.php?id=203