Founder of Haeckels
The patchwork of heavy cloud seems to be carving a pathway out over the ocean, to far-off places whose existence is attested by occasional container ships appearing on the horizon before vanishing almost as suddenly as they have come. But the clouds are heading for the coast of Margate, a town on the North Kent coast in south-east England which around 64,000 people have made their home. The houses thronging the coast road appear to throw a protective shield around the real life of Margate people, their façades concealing it from view and instead welcoming visitors with no plans to stay in this place for long: the tourists. One brick building proclaims Dreamland in oversized letters, hinting at the activities within: cinema, restaurants, cafes and bars, amusements. But in the grey world outside where a blanket of clouds stretches over near deserted streets, the word has an almost cynical ring. A string of tourist shops with names like Life’s a Beach, pizza joints, chip shops, ice-cream parlours, casinos and holiday lets unfurls along the street, all bearing witness to the abundance of tourists—which, however, had already begun to decline even before Covid-19 came along. We abandon our walk and drive out of Margate along the coast. Here Margate’s attraction for visitors enticed by holiday brochures is revealed; the entire coast is fringed by soaring chalk cliffs, already defying the ocean long before humans appeared on the land. We get out and head down between the cliffs to the beach. As if a switch had been flicked, the sounds of the sea are swallowed up between the cliffs and only the tiniest, most muted sounds—like the faint rippling of water droplets—are audible. The chalk flattens out towards the waterline and becomes a bed for a plant so familiar from many coasts, yet so frequently ignored: seaweed. When Dom Bridges came to Margate, he looked closer. He identified seaweed as the bearer of potential that would allow him to strike out along a new path and embrace change not only in his own life, but also for the town, the people and the sea itself.