Bathing Beauties, Knobbly Knees and Music by the Sea: The Marina, Great Yarmouth 1937-1979

Book review

By Colin Miller; reviewed by Trevor James, published 5th June 2019

Bathing Beauties, Knobbly Knees and Music by the Sea: The Marina, Great Yarmouth 1937-1979, Colin Miller, Poppyland Publishing, 2019, 134p, £10-95, ISBN 9781909796584.

At one level this is a detailed chronicle of what happened in Great Yarmouth when the local council decided in the 1930s to develop an open-air music auditorium in a central position on its promenade, and how it fared over the next forty-two years.

There is plenty of details about how decisions were made; about the judgements and assessments that were exercised as the complex was built and utilised over its life-span; and how this innovation proved not to fit the needs of the local climate or indeed its potential clientele. An open-air facility on the East Coast, only available as a venue for entertainment for five months of the year, in an era when public tastes for comfort were beginning to change substantially, was inevitably at risk.

This is an interesting story but ordinarily it would only warrant the enthusiasm of local people or those who visited Great Yarmouth as day-trippers or holiday-makers in that rapidly changing era. However, my instinct is that this book offers something significant to a wider readership. It is a case study in how careful planners at a local level need to be as they try to reconcile competing local interests – such as support or hostility to loud musical entertainment or whether the Sabbath should or should not be respected – amidst being certain that decisions being made reflect good value for local investment and that they have definitely and adequately considered future likely trends.

My experience in local government and in sports leadership tell me that what happened in Great Yarmouth has been replicated in a vast number of contexts, many of which have ultimately had to be abandoned or replaced. This ought to be essential reading for anyone planning a long-term local government or regional sporting or leisure facility to learn from the Great Yarmouth experience.