How do you go about reviving a seaside town whose principal economy has slowly disappeared along with its tourists? This is the question asked by Jimmy Loizeau’s project “The Illegal Town Plan: Rhyl”, a work-in-progress exhibition showing the early stages of the project at this month’s Goldsmiths Design Festival.
Designer Jimmy Loizeau, Lecturer on the BA Design programme (from Rhyl), witnessed the steady decline of this small seaside town in North Wales: “Over the past twenty years or more it has lost its tourist industry. All attempts to lure people back have failed.”
The project aims to inspire and harness the ideas and ambitions of the local community. Challenging them to speculate on what they would do if they were in charge of town planning and urban regeneration. Jimmy Loizeau explains: “Those who are in charge of the development of the town have failed to come up with imaginative and exciting visions for the community, the people of the town are disengaged and detached form large scale decisions regarding the town’s future. This project aims to empower people to suggest anything, any idea that they want to see happen in the town will be taken seriously. That’s what this exhibition is about, reinvigorating the ambition from the local level up.”
We’re currently trying to find the right process of talking to locals and getting their ideas. We’ve made a set of illustrations that attempt to find methods of development, comparing it to other towns, or seeing it through the filter of a different economy. One of the suggestions received by the designer was imagining the economic impact of a large digital company such as Facebook and Google establishing their headquarters in Rhyl. A veteran punk singer proposed revitalising Rhyl as a student town through a Welsh Institute of Music and Media, placed on the world’s longest pier.
An important aspect of the initiative is to illustrate people’s ideas through drawings “that look official and architectural, so that when we take them to show the Rhyl town council and the local politicians they take it seriously, they can’t just dismiss them as frivolous dreams, because they’ve gone through a professional aesthetic in terms of making them believable.” But this step is still some time away in the future. Until then, the project must continue to develop, if it turns out to be successful, there is hope to repeated the process in another town.
You can see more images of the exhibition at Goldsmiths Design Festival on our Facebook page.