Review: Built on Sand – 200 years of Southport’s changing street scene at The Atkinson in Southport by Andrew Brown
Think you know about Southport’s past, and what it used to be like?
Prepare to think again as a fascinating new exhibition – ‘Built on Sand – 200 years of Southport’s changing street scene’ opens at The Atkinson on Lord Street today (Saturday, 18th June 2022).
Prepare to give yourself lots of time to enjoy this one too for an exploration of Southport’s rich heritage.
And take people with you if you can, as there are so many talking points – both for reminiscing about Southport’s past, and about starting points for Southport’s future.
One of the most impressive sights is the opportunity for visitors to explore a giant floor map of Southport from 130 years ago, when the Promenade was the edge of town.
The exhibition also presents a chance to find out how local streets got their names, and to see how artists and photographers have shown our town over two centuries.
There are some remarkable paintings on display, and some amazing photos of Southport over the decades. It’s brilliant to see them on display.
The exhibition is very timely, coming amidst a huge debate taking place about how our town should look in the future.
In my time living and working in Southport, I have never known so much investment, so much change happening, all at the same time.
We have already seen the new-look Southport Market open.
This July we will see The Grand open on Lord Street. Later this year Southport’s Enterprise Arcade is due to open. Future schemes include the new Marine Lake Events Centre, Southport Cove, a transformed Southport Pleasureland, the Tower of Hope and the redevelopment of The Waterfront.
A greater understanding of how our town was formed will help to inform where and how it should redevelop; what we need to preserve, and what we need to create that’s brand new, exciting and fit for both the present and the future.
In that sense ‘Built On Sand’ is an excellent title, because it shows just how Southport has evolved over the years.
There has been excellent debate on what people want to see from our town through our Stand Up For Southport Facebook group, which has grown to over 20,500 members in just two years.
We also carried out consultation work for the Southport Town Deal, which attracted over 7,000 responses.
Both of these statistics demonstrate just how much pride local people and local businesses have in our town, and how much they want to be a part of shaping its future.
‘Built On Sand’ demonstrates just how far we’ve come, starting with a model of Southport’s first ever hotel, built in glorious solitude in the sand dunes in 1792.
Nicknamed ‘Duke’s Folly’, it mocked a vision of how a seaside resort could develop on this stretch of coastline – but grow it did, to one of the UK’s leading leisure destinations.
The exhibition shows some of our town’s lost landmarks – the incredible Winter Gardens, the glorious old picture palaces of Lord Street, the legendary lost underground Nevill Street – did you know that there is an old underground Coronation Walk too?
It is superb to see too some of our town’s heritage being restored and remodelled at the moment; the £3million investment by Mikhail Hotel & Leisure in The Grand; the Victorian Silcock’s Carousel on the Promenade; new businesses moving into Wayfarers Arcade; huge investment along the historic Lord Street boulevard.
The display also shows changing habits too, from the days when Southport was dominated by old cinemas, in the days before the likes of Netflix, YouTube, and social media, and how we used to enjoy our days out.
Activities will run throughout the summer, which include family workshops and guided walks. There will also be opportunities for people to look more closely at Southport’s startlingly varied buildings by sketching, taking photographs and sharing memories.
It is great to see lots of work taking place to repair and restore some of our town’s most historic features at the moment.
Thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Southport Townscape Heritage Project is providing grants to help owners preserve the historic features of their buildings and give them a new economic future.
This Built on Sand exhibition is free to attend, and it’s on until September. I will definitely be returning a few times while it’s here.
- Built on Sand – 200 years of Southport’s changing street scene’ is at The Atkinson on Lord Street in Southport from Saturday, June 18th 2022 to September 2022, admission free.