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Hunstanton Esplanade Gardens toilet tiles made by the public at Heritage Lottery Fund-backed drop-in workshops run by Kate Dunbar

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When I first heard about a proposed ‘observatory’, north of the lighthouse at Hunstanton, my mind went back 20 years, to West Norfolk Council’s decision to accept an offer to turn the former coastguard lookout station into a holiday home.

This disappointed me because it meant the council had rejected a proposal to use the redundant building as a centre from which to study the effect of climate change on The Wash, in spite of the support it had from experts in the field and the town council.

Further investigation revealed that on this occasion the intention is to look upwards, at the stars, rather than out to sea.

Turnstone. Kate Dunbar's Tile Project – June 2022.
Turnstone. Kate Dunbar's Tile Project – June 2022.

It occurs to me that the idea might be part of a cunning plan to draw attention away from economic problems in the ‘here and now’ by encouraging people to look for pie in the sky.

The real irony for me is the fact that the project will utilise £30,000 from the European Regional Development Fund – EU money agreed with the UK before Brexit – which remains valid until the end of 2023.

This leads me to speculate that this forgotten corner of Norfolk might have been much closer by now to getting its railway back, had it not been for Brexit...

Turnstone. Kate Dunbar's Tile Project – June 2022.
Turnstone. Kate Dunbar's Tile Project – June 2022.

Moving swiftly on, from something that could easily lead to the breakup of the United Kingdom, to a project that is giving satisfaction to a good many local inhabitants and visitors alike.

Decorative tiles were made by members of the public, at drop-in workshops run by Kate Dunbar in the Esplanade Gardens over the past three summers in the town.

This project was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund via West Norfolk Council, which has been incredibly helpful and supportive to Kate throughout the whole process and an absolute pleasure for her to work with.

Turnstone. Kate Dunbar's Tile Project, June 2022.
Turnstone. Kate Dunbar's Tile Project, June 2022.

Two sides of the toilet block on The Green have been completed already, and now it is the Ladies’ turn.

As Kate works there, fixing the tiles in place, people have been telling her just how much they enjoy looking at the tiles, which is lovely for her to hear.

Kate explained: “They are all beautiful, and full of happy memories of Hunstanton, from locals and visitors alike.

“I have met so many lovely people whilst running this project, all kinds of people, even entire families including tiny children, teenagers and grandparents, all sitting, chatting and concentrating on their work.

“It really was an absolute privilege to spend time with them and there were some really happy memories for me.

“I am hoping to get all three panels up in the next few weeks, depending on the weather.

“I hope the artists will be really happy to see their tiles up at last.”

When she is not busy with the tile project, vegan runner Kate is often seen jogging along the seafront.

Unfortunately, when I spoke to her last Thursday she had tripped when running that morning and grazed her chin, but it takes more than that to stop Kate smiling...

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