Only officially announced last week in a fanfare of publicity, Bristol’s Urban Beach already has more than a hint of fiasco about it.
Reputed to be costing £200k, the beach at Redcliffe was supposed to open on 30 June and be there for 10 weeks. However the opening has been very quietly switched to 30 July, which means the cost of this beach is now running at an incredible £30k a week. How much home care would that buy?
The cock-up is hardly surprising as cash and the responsibility for the beach have been handed by Bristol City Council on a whim to some trendy local wonk – Melissa Mean from the overbearingly pretentious Blairite think tank Demos.
How she got the gig and what her qualifications are to run a £200k construction project are unclear. Although Bristol City Council’s chief exec Nick Gurney is said to have a penchant for young redheads…
Doubtless too, the useless civil service third-rater Gurney believes think tanks like Demos are still thrillingly edgy, urban and exciting, what with all their impressive jargon and gibberish about “mass imagination projects” and “the collaborative state”.
The self-styled “‘public interest consultancy” spouting its smelly little orthodoxies designed to hoover up public cash from easily impressed politicians and civil servants has definitely struck gold with Gurney that’s for sure.
But where Gurney sees exciting cutting edge, outside-the-box thinking from some state-of-the-art organisation, most of us just see a tired and embarrassing throwback to the days of Cool Brittania and the Millennium Dome.
What we get with Demos is yet another of these nominally “left wing” Westminster think tanks. Obsessed with image, presentation and New Labour spin techniques, they’re largely populated with wrongheaded Marxist academic has-beens on the make who have miraculously “embraced the market” – and considerable salaries – to sell the New Labour government dodgy advice that fucks up our public services with painfully trendy – and usually unworkable – free market ideas.
Indeed, so old hat and tired is Demos’s urban beach plan for Bristol, even freelancers at The Guardian – not the most critical of breeds – are groaning out loud at the mention of it:
“[Bristol’s] waterfront which, miraculously, retains its industrial heritage (though there are mutterings – groan – of an urban beach)” http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2007/jun/09/bristol.shortbreaks
OK. So her idea might be crap and her project is already way behind schedule but Melissa has been busy producing a rather stylish looking Beach Blog for us. It’s just a pity it has sod-all information on it at and is still announcing the grand opening as 30 June…
Which unfortunately makes Melissa’s elegant if empty vessel a better advert for a desert than a beach. An image confirmed by the fact that plebs like us aren’t allowed to even post comments on her precious blog.
No worries though as Melissa has, at least, made the effort on her exclusive blog to dress up her expensive plan to dump 500 tons of sand in a car park in Redcliffe and sell overpriced Pieminister pies from a shed there as some kind of urgent and radical intellectual intervention of the very highest order.
“[the beach] will be animated by a set of ideas to create some deeper and wider value, experimenting with ideas around place-making, civic branding, and public space,” she breathlessly informs us.
In English this means she’ll be sticking up a few signs around the place and then forking out on a lavish and confusing advertising campaign, doubtless produced – for a fat fee – by some designer (surely global branding consultant? Ed.) friend.
Melissa also assures us her giant sandpit has “a DIY philosophy” and is therefore a “DIY Beach”; it is also a “high profile platform to showcase and develop Bristol’s green entrepreneurs” and is therefore a “Green Beach” and – because it’s Demos – it’s therefore a “Democracy Beach” too! (Although unelected Melissa actually seems to take all the decisions herself and seems to be funneling the funds at her disposal to a charmed network of insiders, friends and associates with scant regard for boring old transparent and democratic processes like competitive tendering).
Just how many meaningless, overblown buzz phrases does a town centre car park with some fucking sand for kiddies to play in need? Remarkably the one beach Melissa isn’t mentioning in this blizzard of absurd pretension is the “Overpriced and Behind Schedule Beach”. Wonder why?