Friends who visit Scarborough are amazed, fall in love with the place, and can’t wait to tuck into fish and chips or ice cream, sample the arcades, take in the views and perhaps recapture the spirit of family holidays of their childhood. The element of nostalgia has a very strong ‘pull’ and possibly the austere times are helping to revive the allure of the British seaside resort. Scarborough has the major advantage of two bays, two great beaches, one with all the trappings of the seaside resort and the other slightly wilder attracting those who aren’t so keen on slot machines, candy floss and souvenir shops. If you’re staying for a few days you can take your pick, according to your mood.
I’d visit for the architecture alone. I like the train station for its plainness. Its solid Victorian stone provides a gateway, signposting the architectural wealth of Scarborough. The long bench, visible as you pull into the station, is intriguing and has its own place in the history of railway architecture and design. It’s not difficult to compile a long list of architectural highlights from the quaint charms of the old town, the Victorian aspirations of The Rotunda, the bridges, The Spa and Esplanade to the classical Art Deco splendour of Stephen Joseph Theatre.
Scarborough may not be as glamorous as Brighton or as hell-bent on instant pleasure as Blackpool, but it has a characterful, dramatic blend of architecture, landscaping and sea that few other seaside resorts can rival. We should count ourselves lucky that these elements define the town; the ‘natural’ colliding with the ‘artificial’. In my view, that’s what the ‘Scarborough experience’ offers today and I think many people enjoy this slightly surreal mix. That it has a down side is perhaps inevitable, given that most towns and cities across Britain have this in common especially at weekends.
I work in the arts, and of course I’d like to see more investment in a broader range of cultural attractions enabling Scarborough to take pride in itself as a cultural destination. After all, it’s home to Britain’s best-known playwright and one of our most celebrated artists lives down the road. I know times are hard, but the town could build a more coherent cultural identity and ‘offer’ for visitors to enjoy. This doesn’t happen overnight. It takes vision, resources, effort, time, dedication, collaboration, support and investment from all sectors; businesses, education, entertainment, arts and cultural industries, press and media, traders, the hospitality and tourism industries, local authority and residents.
Director of Crescent Arts