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Saturday, June 22, 2024
Laterally SpeakingDisneyfication


I read that trouble continues to bubble in Cornwall where English Heritage is accused of commercialising Tintagel Castle, the legendary birthplace of King Arthur. In recent months they’ve commissioned a sculpture of Merlin carved into the rock face plus an eight foot high bronze statue of King Arthur plonked on top of the nearby cliffs. According to some, this is crass commercialism or ‘Disneyfication’ but I can’t see a problem if it’s a sympathetic design (which I think it is) and it also brings in much needed tourist loot to help with conservation. Since English Heritage completed their Arthurian Art, Tingtagel castle is now one of their biggest money-spinners with its gift shop selling ‘sword in the stone snow globes’ (bargain at £15 a shake) and a full-sized “Excalibur” sword at a Guinevere-weeping price of £250.

However, the whole Arthurian thing is still pure fiction. King Arthur (if he existed at all) might be buried in Glastonbury, on top of Pilsden Pen or under the traffic lights in Chard for all we know. For Camelot, read Colyton or Cattistock. The Arthurian Legend could have happened anywhere in the Marshwood Vale. There’s no need to be restricted by historical fact. Invent a good story, put up a statue and open a gift shop – that’s the way to boost our summer visitors. Here are some Disneyfication ideas for west country tourism:

Christmas: According to legend, the famous Devon Saint Boniface was the creator of the very first Christmas tree (yes really) and he was apparently born in Crediton. So, where’s the Christmas Tree museum, giant 200 foot Tree Statue or Total Tree Party? I gather Crediton Parish Church already puts on a nice little show each year but we need global coverage and events. The good townsfolk could dress in green and put fairies on their heads every Thursday before Christmas. Monty Don launches the BBC’s Festival of Trees while the gift shop (of course, there’s a gift shop!) sells tree decorations, tinsel and ‘Ho-Ho-Ho’ crying plastic Father Christmases. Incidentally, make sure the shop sells every known spare Christmas light bulb. No one else sells all the spares, which means you have to buy a complete new set of lights when just one bulb breaks! Maddening! Last Christmas I had to throw away six old sets of lights. Anyway, the shop will make a fortune. Expand the legend and commercialise the opportunity. Be shameless. Be Trump-like. Go for it.

Teddies: There’s already a fine Teddy Bear Museum in Dorchester, but I’m sure this only scratches the bear skin of a massive global Hub of Teddies. We need a leap of imagination here… perhaps Rupert Bear was born near the Corn Exchange? Was Yogi ever spotted in Kingston Maurward? Photo opportunities include being hugged by various celebrity teddies, make a bear competitions, teddy recipes and all types of bear necessities for sale in a new Bear Hypermarket and online Bear-Mart. Road signs in the new Brewery Square can be renamed as ‘Grizzly Gardens’, ‘Panda Place’ and ‘Koala Korner’ while you can drink at the new Baloo Jungle Book Bar which serves real ale and ‘…every type of Bear’. Winnie the Pooh has already been Disneyfied, but perhaps Michael Bond (Paddington Bear’s author, now aged 91) could be persuaded to write a new story ‘Paddington Goes To Poundbury’? Anything’s possible. There’s always a fine line between taste and tat but in this case you could really make commercial vulgarity fashionable.

Cakes: Athelney in Somerset is famous as the place where King Alfred burnt the cakes in the ninth century. What better venue for the new TV ‘Bake Off’ series! Paul Hollywood could ride through Bridgwater wearing a crown as the team bakes Alfred’s Exotic Fruit Babas in a dung fuelled Aga. Or something…

This whole medieval period in history is so topical that it loudly screams ‘Disney Theme Park’ as a commercial opportunity. Not only do we have King Arthur as already mentioned, but we also have BBC TV’s latest blockbuster ‘The Last Kingdom’ plus the endless ‘Game of Thrones’, ‘Lord of the Rings’ and other sword slashing myth and legend epics. So, where’s our national Sword and Sorcery Theme Park? Obviously Somerset’s the place for a new Camelot style Disneyland complete with virtual reality jousting (with Health and Safety bendable lances and CGI horses) and Lancelot Knight rides etc. Fun for all the family, provided you don’t mind being scorched by dragon’s breath. Arthur and Alfred – both begin with the same letter, so mix them up a bit and nobody will know. Never let the Truth get in the way of a good concept.

Marriage: You may know that the hilltop chapel overlooking Abbotsbury in Dorset is named after St Catherine, the patron saint of spinsters. In olden days, young women used to climb up there to pray for a husband, so it’s absolutely perfect as the site for a new online dating agency—Swan Match Makers. The chapel would also double as a speed dating venue at 10am every Saturday (£20 per half hour for ladies, free for men). If queues were too long, they could visit the sub-Tropical gardens and practice wearing fig leaves.

Unfulfilled regular visitors who had yet to find a mate, would be taken by coach to the nearby new Cerne Abbas Giant Sex Shop sponsored by Ann Summers (not sponsored by Disney who probably wouldn’t approve). Situated at the bottom of the hill, this Giant Sex-o-Market would feature various huge artistic objects and inflatable members. The venture will be a gigantic success until closed down by West Dorset District Council following complaints of indecent exposure by a group of jealous visiting tourists from London.


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