Wednesday, 22 April 2009

850 - Whitley and the Regeneration Myth

Many moons ago I wondered whether it would be possible to tell the story of Whitley Bay according to the various genres listed in Robert McKee's book Story.

But I've been wedded to the idea that, whatever happens, Whitley must regenerate. Only now, reflecting on the possibility of wild and multiple plotlines, do I begin to ask, Does Whitley have to regenerate after all?

John Gray, in Black Mass, argues that the political pursuit of utopian visions is just the tail-end of apocalyptic religion. The regeneration of Whitley Bay is nothing if not a political football. Regeneration is about the death and rebirth of a town, newer and better than it was in its prime. The big myth it is incarnating is the Christian vision of a new Jerusalem. That myth's as bred in our Western European political bones as any.

But there are other myths, perhaps as powerful, perhaps more appropriate.

The myth of Pandora's Box. The myth of Order out of Chaos. The myth, encapsulated in evolution, of unending growth, variation, consolidation, regrowth and replacement.

Regeneration implies a crisis, and, whilst it is easy to imagine Whitley as having undergone a crisis, especially when the crisis is talked up by opposition politicians, over the years, of both hues, the idea is emotive, and can obscure a million mini miracles, growing all the while the Spanish-City-Saurus dies.

The point, perhaps, being that regeneration is too backward-looking a term - too re-, not enough new.

Just as we wee furry buggers were in no way the regeneration of the great reptiles, I wonder if the true inheritance of Whitley Bay won't be measurable in rebuilt playhouses and swimming pools, thriving commercial centres and sheer bulk of people, but something else, unexpected, entirely?

How's about, for instance, letting the grassland on the site of the old Marine Park First School, between Coquet Avenue and Marine Gardens, keep growing into a piece of meadowland. You could call it the Coquet Avenue Pocket Park. Then knock down more old buildings and replace them with allotments?

Or what else? Suggest something!

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