Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Turner Contemporary Goes Boing

I found myself with one of those bizarre questions today which is, why has the clock on Margate’s Droit House started chiming again?

Thanet district council are responsible for public clocks in Thanet, not my words but theirs, but having gone on the usual somewhat eccentric journey around their telephone system I was told that this public clock is not on their list.

The repairing of public clocks is a very strange business, you see although the council are responsible for them, the council isn’t eligible for grant funding, something that is apparently quite easy to get for repairing public clocks.

Let us say, for example, you notice that the clock on the church has made a final clonk and no longer goes boing, what you do is this.

Contact the council and if the clock is on their list then they can start the process of getting it repaired. They will then go and look at the clock and work out how much it will cost to repair. As they are not eligible for the grant funding, although they are responsible for the clock, they then write to the vicar asking him to apply for the funding. At this point you will probably have to give the vicar a nudge, I am at the nudging stage with one of the Ramsgate vicars. Once he has obtained the grant funding the council will arrange for the clock to be repaired.

The Droit House clock isn’t on the council’s list and the Droit House belongs to Kent County Council, so I rang them up, their phone system also takes one on an interesting journey, unfortunately none of the people at KCC knew anything about this clock.

No one I spoke to there had heard of the Margate Droit House, although they had all heard of the Turner Contemporary, KCC officers seem to be somewhat in awe of this project that seems to be able to get vast amounts of funding, regardless of cuts in other places.

Certainly none of them seemed surprised that the clock had been repaired, it seemed likely that KCC had funded this, although exactly how I wasn’t able to discover, I think that this may be because of the gallery having been given a blank cheque by the council.

I then phoned Turner Contemporary, I left this last as I find it a bit embarrassing because of their telephone system and its tendency to make me giggle. The problem is that it has a lot of options, you know you get one of those recorded messages telling you that if you want to press 3 press 5, I have to be careful here or our Ken may take umbrage like he did before, oh yes back to their telephone system, despite all of the impressive options you always seem to get through to the same person.

I think they all must lead to the phone on the desk in the Droit House, I always get the feeling that I am speaking to someone who has to live on a very particular bed of eggshells that can only be generated by modern art.

There is the fear of having their lunch, umbrella etc venerated to consider, combined with living in that peculiar state of nervousness where any unusual event could be anything from an act of modern art to an art theft.

Or even the next person through the door may be a man disguised as woman because they are an art thief, or a man wearing woman’s clothes because he is a famous artist, or even just a transvestite requiring a politically correct approach.

Difficult questions like why has your clock started chiming can result in some degree of nervousness, this could be for instance be interpreted as a surrealist phone call, anyway after tactfully ensuring that I was neither a great artist or a nutter they did concede that it had recently been repaired and was indeed going boing every quarter of an hour.

They didn’t know anything about the clock, they were fairly certain that the boings didn’t have an artistic significance, best to be careful when you have a neon sign that does.

They didn’t know if the clock had any historical significance, they didn’t know who had been responsible for mending it.

I have some sort of bizarre mental picture of our Trace going binggly boing dong into a microphone, followed by skilled artisans casting bells to match, Emin she had me made.

Well the gallery opening date has been announced 16th of April, to open on the first would have taken some nerve and to open on the 23rd of April 125 anniversary of Turner’s birth would probably have put them in local election purda or some such nonsense, what a missed opportunity, perhaps they weren’t even aware of it.


  1. Yes they were aware of it if you had watched/listened to the local bulletins you would of heard them talk about Turners Birthday.

  2. 00.32 Sorry to say I missed any mention of this and can’t find anything about it on the internet, it seemed like a bit of a golden opportunity to me as you only get one 125th anniversary.

  3. Perhaps this is why council services cost so much... the time spend running around after something that doesn't really matter !!

  4. Thank you Michael for trying to find out for me.
    And I do apologise to Anon for my quest to illuminate my ignorance. Please feel entitled to yours.
    And i'm twice sorry Michael but wouldn't it be the 235th anniversary?

    Kevin in Margate

  5. Kevin I wouldn’t do this if I was worried about being wrong, you are right Turner was born in 1775, I think I must have timewarped back to the millennium or something.

    A bit like today’s post really, started the day convinced that the picture wasn’t Margate, ended up certain that it is and am now working on the date.

    Anything to do with the Turner Contemporary is contentious and I don’t think it stands a hope of succeeding if this doesn’t remain the case, art that produces indifference, well I will quote a bloke who used to sit in one of Margate’s shelters.

    “Attachment to self and to things and to persons, detachment
    From self and from things and from persons; and, growing between them, indifference
    Which resembles the others as death resembles life,
    Being between two lives—unflowering, between
    The live and the dead nettle. This is the use of memory.”

    A curious cat, I know but he has a point that I wish the local council and media would take up.


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