The model village is a masterpiece of outsider art, generally dismissed as ‘kitsch”; living in the same place in the nation’s heart as buckets and spades and soft ice creams.
Many of them are by the sea, surviving because of the tourist trade, and visited by hordes of grannies and young children. Unlike the piers and other seaside architecture, the model villages have to fend for themselves – not often getting the help of English Heritage and The National Trust.
But – in my view- we’re missing something here – these strange little villages, made of stone and cement are magical reconstructions of real life. They were often begun by an enthusiast seeking some form of self expression, and built with love and an attention to detail that only a craftsman can deliver. They represent something from a bygone Britain, where people built their own henhouses and knew how to do an oilchange.
So, in this ridiculously global society, where nine tenths of us have at least one computing device, we should celebrate these pieces of vernacular art; promote them, drag overseas tourists round them so that they can see what we used to idealise as the British rural idyll. Because if we don’t – they’ll disappear – and the world will become a blander place, homogenous, with an IKEA in every out of town shopping park and none of us able to make anything for ourselves, unless it comes in a flat pack, or a peelable box.
Godshill in the Isle of Wight was the model village of my childhood. Littered with thatched roofs and with an exact copy of my great Aunt’s house in Shanklin, it fascinated me. I took my children a few years ago and they were drawn in, clamouring to build one for ourselves in our garden. Since then I have taken them to Babbacombe, probably the biggest of the model villages, and Corfe Caste, possibly the smallest. If we had another, closer by, I suspect it would be a regular watering hole.
So if you’re looking for something to do with your kids over Easter – bury your “kitsch” monitor and head on down to your nearest Model Village. I can’t promise wonders from the cafes, I can’t promise good weather, but I do promise an experience that makes you wonder why you ever thought about visiting Legoland.
And if you thought they were only a british phenomenon:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miniature_park for a list of Miniature Parks around the world, including more in Britain.