British seaside culture is worth preserving!

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British seaside, heritage, museums, face-in-hole boards
Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside … do you?

We live in hopes that British seaside culture is making  a comeback as people rediscover its traditional delights: rock, sand, sun, candy floss, donkey rides, crazy golf and face-in-hole boards for holiday snaps.

photo board, skinny jimmy, british seaside tradition
Skinny Jimmy, a classic seaside photo cutout board

A new initiative to bring together Britain’s seaside heritage experts and museum collections aims to celebrate and preserve interest in the seaside. Spearheaded by Scarborough Museums Trust, The Seaside Heritage Network aims to:

  • Promote the value of seaside heritage and culture
  • Further understand and research the British seaside and seaside–related collections
  • Locate custodians of seaside heritage and share knowledge and expertise
  • Provide membership to professionals working with seaside collections and all those interested in seaside history, heritage and culture.

We think this is brilliant. The seaside has taken a hit in recent years, with the loss by fire of 3 beautiful piers: Weston Super Mare, Hastings and then Eastbourne’s exquisite pier. Government funding for seaside resorts has been thin. Arguably, the semi-neglected state of many of our seaside towns has become part of their charm. But it would be nice to see them given a new coat of paint. Preserving the culture and artefacts that made them great is vital for maintaining interest in the seaside as well as bringing it into the 21st century without losing its quintessentially English identity.

Pier review, british seaside heritage
Hopefully not a swansong

In February this year, John Bounds and Danny Smith published a book titled Pier Review: A Road Trip in Search of the Great British Seaside. Its cover blurb starts with: ‘Before the seaside of their youth disappears forever, two friends from the landlocked Midlands embark on a peculiar journey to see all the surviving pleasure piers in England and Wales.’ The Seaside Heritage Network will help towards ensuring that the seaside of the authors’ youth does not disappear forever and will be there for future generations to enjoy.

Project Manager Esther Graham, of Scarborough Museums, said: ‘From the introduction of bathing machines to ‘Kiss Me Quick’ hats, the seaside resort culture of the UK is absolutely unique … because a lot of the items relating to the days out at the seaside that we all remember are seen as throwaway, more often than not they’re not preserved. We’re in danger of losing a remarkable part of our collective culture.’

Partner organisations include Southend Museums Service, Hastings Museum and Art Gallery, Manx National Heritage, Blackpool Museum Project and the National Piers Society.

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