What had been billed as the “big-reveal” of last year’s Penarth Suggestion-Box Campaign – the moment when all would be disclosed – left members of the public none the wiser last night.
The “reveal” was set to take place at 19:00 hours last night at Foxy’s restaurant and delicatessen in Victoria Road . Those who turned up too early, found their way barred by police-style “do not cross” tape and the windows of Foxy’s obscured from inside by sheets of paper, preventing people from seeing what was going on inside.
When the curtain finally was raised, the paper screening taken down and the tapes across the doorway removed, people walked into to Foxy’s to find some 446 “suggestions” on display .
Most of the suggestions been submitted on pages torn from the notebooks which had been tied to each suggestion box at their respective locations around the town.
Each one was pinned up on strings along walls and shelves, pinned to a Batman manikin, a cardboard drum . An astronomical telescope bore the suggestion “Star-gazing on the beach”.
One Penarthian Margaret Phelps called in to see on what had happened to her suggestion – of having electric golf buggies run £1 a time commuter-service along the Railway Path to ease town centre parking. She also wants to start a Penarth choral competition.
Some suggestions received which were adjudged too risque for public display – had been pasted in a book labelled “Top Shelf” for the perusal of ‘Adults Only’. There were also other props installed .
What was missing was anyone representing the people behind the whole scheme. The organisers – it seems – had spent quite some time at the restaurant setting up the display and then preserved their anonymity by silently stealing away into the night, undetected – and unccountable.
Even restaurateur and proprietor Sian Fox said she didn’t know who had set up the display. She and her staff had been asked to vacate the premises whilst the exhibition was being set up and had only be re-admitted after the organisers had disappeared – leaving only some free bottles of complimentary wine for the public. Apparently no charge is being made for holding the display itself – which will be on show for several days,
This all left the puzzled members of the public who had turned-up to see the suggestions, speculating about what lay behind the whole bizarre affair.
The consensus was that this was all too slick a campaign to have been a purely amateur operation. Some theorised that there was a probably a public relations company behind it with creative input from its art department. Other guessed that it was a project carried out by students as part of an advertising or media course.
The only clue left by anonymous organisers was a photo-framed essay on one wall which said :-
“The motivations for this project were curiosity, boredom and a hypothesis about suggestion boxes In our experience they collect dust and chewing gum, or at best a few predictable complaints and ideas_ Would it be different if the boxes cajoled or dared you, What if there was no obvious purpose or direction for the suggestions?
The organisers go on to say “We couldn’t resist implementing suggestions to light the railway path and one Friday morning runners and dog walkers found the trees and Alberta Place barrier lit up with fairy lights “.
In their framed essay the organisers claim the suggestions collectively “present a snap shot of this town’s creative spirit, sense of community and fun” . They say “We think many of them represent voices that often go unheard.” .
The organisers modestly say they are “limited in our ability to make good things happen” and that “some ideas require public funding, support and planning to implement. we’ll pass these to the local councils. Others require a magic wand or talented animator “.
The essay ends with the believe-it-or-not assertion that “For the record we have no political affiliation or single issue axe to grind and the project was privately financed”.
…As for who the “we“ are – they don’t say.
Townspeople attending last night’s viewing said it might have been basic good manners for the organisers to at least introduce themselves and explain who did the financing – and why.