Written by Stan Moorcroft, City Living Local Life
Ever been stuck on a crowded tube, jostled, pushed and prodded, your face pushed into the armpit of a serial shower shirker? Have you then looked up to see those head height adverts of a sandy beach and a couple, lightly dressed, caressed by the sun as they hold hands watching the water lap in whispers to the shore? How you would love, in such moments, to step off the tube and out onto a sandy beach.
Well if you got off at Ladbroke Grove on Friday evening you could have found a beach a short distance away in Acklam Village. Think deck chairs, sandcastles, wind breakers, beach huts, ice cream, chips in paper cups, bunting, puppet shows, boat making, face painting, circus acts and live music, with an Edwardian theme, all in the late afternoon sunshine. This was Urban Beach.
A joint venture between InTRANSIT Festival, the Westway Trust and the National Trust, the Urban Beach is a celebration of 50 years since the launch of the National Trust Neptune Coastline Campaign. Acklam Village Market was transformed to host three days packed full of exciting seaside holiday fun, food, drink and entertainment.
In 1944 George Orwell, wrote “Except for a few surviving commons, the high roads and land owned by the National Trust, a certain number of parks and the sea shore below high-tide mark, every square inch of England is ‘owned’ by a few thousand families.”
Respecting the British coastline the Neptune campaign has sought to change this state of affairs and has helped to fund the acquisition of 574 miles of coastline. The National Trust now cares for 10% – or 775 miles – of the coastline of England, Wales and Northern Ireland – including the White Cliffs of Dover and the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.
Not that that this fact mattered much to the children playing in the sand, 40 tons of it, eating ice cream or being entertained from the stage. As Dominica from the Westway Trust explained, there was a strong emphasis on providing a fun environment for children and families, or as Westway Trust Chief Executive Angela McConville put it:
“Many local children grow up in an urban environment where they never normally have the opportunity to visit the coast, so bringing all the fun of the seaside to the Westway will be a truly exciting experience.”
Curated by Helen Scarlett O’Neill and Harry Ross, and commissioned by the National Trust, the Urban Beach represented just one part of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s InTRANSIT Festival of Arts.
So on a hot evening in June I found myself taking pictures on the beach. Watching children build sandcastles or posed inside the Edwardian cut outs, all just a stone’s throw away from Portobello Road and the buzz of central London.
Arriving home I even found some sand in my shoes.
Urban Beach is open today until 6pm. Come on by!