Moonbow Margate is a temporary café performance bar space in a derelict shop on a derelict parade in Cliftonville, Margate, within 4 minutes walk of the new £18m Turner Contemporary Gallery.
Running from June to September 2011, the space will become a representation of change that often takes place following art-led regeneration and will attempt to become a reflective of the way local people view and interact with this change.
The ward in which the café is located is one of the most deprived in the UK. Unemployment is above the national average and the area has a large overseas population.
Operating as a functioning café bar the intention is to use live performance and art exhibitions to explore differing aspects of the physical, emotional, political and communal change that takes place in an area designated for art-led regeneration. The space will engage with the ideas of shifting demographics, culinary tastes, housing stock and commercial investment, affordability, change resistance, displacement, community, apathy, culturalism, memory and nostalgia.
It is accepted that by creating this space, even for a short period of 3 months, it will be embedding itself within the narrative and the ripples will be a disruption to the order of any change already taking place. In an attempt at mitigation, the project will become user dependent over the period with customers, viewers, artists and commentators influencing the direction of the space.
Initially, exhibitions and performances will be pre-selected by Platform-7 using existing artists on the portfolio. This will set the scene for those unfamiliar with the project approach and create conversation. What follows will become contingent on those interested in becoming part of the project in a passive or active form.
The first exhibition, Café from the City, by photographer Paul Halliday, is a series of photos of the people working for a small independent coffee and venue bar chain in South London in 2005. The exhibition has been displayed in the café window from the day the agreement was made to rent the space. For the first two weeks the images were seen through dirty windows, a deliberate decision. The images appearance had the affect of people stopping briefly to view as they passed this otherwise deserted spot. When the windows were cleaned, many more people stopped to view and many others returned to having a second look. Comments centred on the sharpness, quality and composition of the images, yet at the time of writing, little has been mentioned on the subject of the images.
The second exhibition isGandhi in London 1931// Noakhali 1946: Exploring the Spaces Inhabited by Mahatma Gandhi, by Saif Osmani with kind permission of the Gandhi Foundation. Using paint on textiles, the work explores a number of aspects in relation to poverty, community disunion, displacement and historical contexture. By linking the chalk found on the beachfront Saif is attempting to forge links with Gandhi’s Salt Satyagraha (non-violent Salt March) of 1930. Presenting these paintings in a communal setting, inside a place that resonates a feeling of displacement for the artist, and who used to visit Margate as a child, the exhibition hopes to create a sense of a shared history.
The third exhibition by Jonathan Polkest presents Matter, a series of paint and textile images considering the origins of seaside communities. This presentation explores the visit of the stranger to the seaside. Many seaside towns often mask their own sense of community by immersing themselves in the idealized version of the tourist, even though tourism could be seen as a constructed ideal, created to benefit the same community it now deludes.
During this exhibition, Alarms and Excursions will present The Tide Sweeps In. The tide sweeps in, bringing with it prosperity and complacency. When the tide goes out it washes them both away again and sweeps in with a new imperative, survival. Who comes to Margate today and how are they different to yesterday’s visitors?
Platform-7 will begin the first of its community mapping events by presenting Jonathan Polkest Draw Me/Tenda Ve a popular participatory one day event that allows passers by to draw their friends via the lens of a camera obscurer. This event will begin a 4-year project to map the changing faces of Cliftonville.
What follows will be user determined with the next exhibition by an artist living or working in Margate.
To Be Continued…
Added January 2012: Concert pianist Julian Jacobson gave an impromptu free concert 2 weeks before the shop opened. With no marketing, besides a sign on the window, around 20 people turned up on a wet Sunday evening to hear Julian perform some of the great works of Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin while given the background to the pieces. It was a remarkable event for the people of Cliftonville and set the tone for the cafe, as word spread of this very strange happening.
Original post: Julian Jacobson is one of Britain’s most creative and distinctive pianists and is currently Professor of Piano and Chamber Music at the Royal College of Music. Julian played before the café officially opened while was still in pretty bad repair. The lucky audience for this performance was, quite literally, those who just happen to be passing; marketing was a single chalk marker announcement on the window, admission free. Having one of the countries leading pianist arriving, performing and leaving quickly spread across the local area and set the bar for what was to come.