“The coast is the essence of Britishness,” says the Jerwood’s director Liz Gilmore. “Hastings is massively changing. The coast seems to attract artists. We have these astonishing areas of regeneration where there are huge clusters of artistic people.” Needless to say for a country that was once an imperial and maritime superpower, the ocean’s influence on the British imagination is hard to summarize. And current metropolitan overcrowding and the high cost of living make coastal cities a particularly pressing alternative to the city, and yield associated benefits.
In Hastings, a local authority-driven “cultural regeneration strategy” is ongoing. The Folkestone Triennial, up the coast in Kent, boosted the local seaside economy by £2.7 million in 2014, its organizers have claimed. There are countless examples of institutions capitalizing on and reinforcing British coastal cultural hotspots—from Tate St Ives to Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery.