By Dan Thompson
An Opinionated Guide To Margate is published by Hoxton Mini Press (Hoxton apparently being, these days, one of Margate’s most westerly suburbs). It covers local shops, the town’s broad spread of cafes and restaurants, and key tourist attractions like Margate Caves, Walpole Bay Tidal Pool, and Turner Contemporary.
The book includes beautiful photography. If you’ve fallen out of love with the town, it’ll remind you just how beautiful the landscape is, and how good the historic buildings look.
It also shows the real impact of 20 years of regeneration funding. Yes, the big projects are all there – Turner Contemporary, Dreamland, Margate Caves.
But there’s also something interesting in the way that shops, cafes, and restaurants working independently have created a distinct Margate look. Think slightly battered industrial furniture, peeling paint, handpainted shop signs, and the colour palette Zoe Murphy pioneered around 2010.
It’s a straight line from businesses like The Reading Rooms, Forts, and Tom Thumb Theatre (that might now be seen as pioneers) through the mid-wave of businesses like Margate Bookshop and The Bus Cafe, and up to more recent arrivals. This newer wave, roughly opened as and since Covid arrived, are undoubtedly playing to a wealthier audience, but post-gentrification the Margate style is still there.
Totally Locally, the national ‘shop local’ campaign, has shown how spending £10 in a local independent can mean up to £50 going back into the local economy. This book suggests just some of the good places that £10 can go.
But there are some notable omissions – it’s odd to write a guide to Margate that misses cornerstones of the Old Town like GB Pizza, Breuer & Dawson, and Paraphernalia. And most of the galleries, studios, and art spaces that have made Margate what it is are missing – where’s Zoe Murphy’s workshop, Marine Studios, Crate and Limbo?
Of course, at the end of the day it is one person’s take on the town, and like any guidebook that aims to be contemporary, it only captures a moment in time – in three months time, it’ll be a historic artefact. But it’s worth having, right now, and would make a good Christmas gift. Even if by next summer, the town will have moved on and everyone will be excited by something new.
An Opinionated Guide To Margate is published by Hoxton Mini Press, and is available from Margate Bookshop, 2 Market Place, Margate.