The Seaside Resort, Nostalgia and Restoration

Steele, Jenny and Jarratt, David orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-7244-428X (2019) The Seaside Resort, Nostalgia and Restoration. In: Practising Place: Creative and Critical Reflections on Place. Art Editions North (AEN), pp. 132-149. ISBN 9781906832353

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The traditional British seaside resort developed in the industrial revolution as a place of leisure and restoration, thereby offering a stark contrast to the urban areas which generated its visitors. This distinctive place identity was vital to the appeal of these resorts and continued to evolve into the twentieth century; architecture was part of this and can be considered the historical expression of place. These resorts have faced a variety of challenges through the years and economic restructuring in the later part of the twentieth century. Yet this article does not focus on this popular but often inaccurate narrative of decline, instead it considers the reaction to these places; in particular restoration and nostalgia. The chapter is a jointly authored text, produced as an extended conversation between the authors.

Seaside resorts are long associated with wellness and according to visitor based research in Morecambe, Lancashire, and this still appears to be the case. According to Jarratt (2015) the most strongly felt elements of a seaside specific sense of place, or seasideness, were nostalgia and wellness; both are framed by the natural environment on one side and the built environment on the other. Likewise the practice of artist Jenny Steele explores our reaction to these places, in particular the modernist seafront architecture of the post-war leisure boom. During this period, distinctive architecture, such as hotels and lidos, were built whilst adverts portrayed fit and healthy bodies in the sun to encourage visits to the seaside. Steele has reflected on this seemingly optimistic coastal architecture.

A vital ingredient of the traditional seaside resort is built heritage, which can facilitate nostalgia. This melancholic emotional reaction relies on a selective and relatively positive version of the past, modified to suit the needs of today. Nostalgia has been condemned as something best avoided or even a disease; however in recent years it has been portrayed in a more sympathetic light. It potentially offers the chance not only to comfort, but to renew and repair. Jenny Steele’s practice recurrently uses both personal and collective nostalgia to invoke emotions by the viewer to consider seasideness and their past experience of it. This chapter suggests that our nostalgic experiences of built heritage can be described as restorative. Indeed this multi-faceted and long-standing theme of restoration does appear to lie at the core of the seaside visitor experience more generally. Ironically though seaside heritage itself is threatened and in many cases is in need of physical restoration.

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