Bournemouth is a popular seaside town. Very popular, even. If I had to liken it to a Mexican resort, then Bournemouth is our version of Acapulco. Is the sea as warm or the tacos as good as those on the Pacific coast? No, of course not. But the outrageous traffic jams of visitors from the capital city at the beginning of a holiday weekend, and back out at the end, are very similar. Bournemouth is one of three prime coastal hotspots for Londoners fleeing the smoke.
Brighton is perhaps the most popular, but the beaches are shingle. Which is just rubbish if you actually want to use the beach for something other than stealing shingle. The other, Weymouth, is just another hour along from Bournemouth and provides visitors with a more traditional seaside atmosphere. By that, I mean that there are donkey rides on the beaches, Punch and Judy shows on the promenade and nothing has been decorated since the 1970s.
Bournemouth has changed since I first arrived. In the 1990s it had tried to attract the younger crowd and boasted more nightclubs per square mile than anywhere else in the country. It still has a fairly vibrant, and often somewhat violent, nightlife. But the focus is now on attracting families. We have various festivals, including the annual Wheels and Air Show. And the gardens, town square and pier approach have all been renovated. Or at least tarted up a bit.
Then there are the beach huts. These are cash cows for the local council. They might be a very seasonal source of revenue, but they can’t cost much to put up. And the visiting punters love them. I’ve noticed over the last couple of years that more and more beach huts have appeared along the beach front. If there is a spare couple of square metres, there’s space for a new hut. They could teach even Starbucks a thing or two about squeezing the maximum out of a vacant lot.
Someone has also decided to let local street artists loose along the beach front. Which is a great thing, in my opinion. Indeed, I don’t know why this country doesn’t make use of what is a very large and very talented pool of street artists. We have an awful lot of dull concrete blocks, very little sun and a splash of colour would do us all good. I’d like to see a lot more places given the street artist treatment. But for now, I’ll just have to satisfy myself with what they have decided to allow.