For the last two centuries it has become a destination for holidaymakers and aesthetes seeking a break from the city. From Tolkein to Jane Austen, Tennyson to Whistler it has been a site of artistic endeavour; great thinkers and artists have painted and written about Lyme Regis’ charms.
Ambling along the beach the other day, with a pocket full of ammonites and a paper under my arm, I chanced across a man carrying an enormous boulder. This was Adrian Gray. He lives and works in the town and is a practitioner of the delicate art of stone balancing. This involves taking one enormous, back-breakingly heavy stone, positioning it on top of another even larger stone and somehow coaxing the two into equilibrium, so that the one balances on the other. It is, as he explained, an ephemeral business, strong winds will wreak havoc on his precarious constructions, so he photographs all his creations and then they are gone – back to being boulders on the beach.
It made for an arresting spectacle. Children with buckets and spades, pensioners, mums and dads, all transfixed by a couple of stones. As Adrian explains, “It’s a paradox of fragility and solidity. These are really heavy stones, balanced in a very, very fragile way. It’s the illusionary quality that makes it so magical. Your brain is telling you that’s not possible, while your eyes say it is.”
It is worth remembering that while the attractions industry is buzzing with technologies, equally important are the performers, the individuals with outstanding artistic or performance skills that can dazzle crowds just as brilliantly as an encounter with the latest gadgetry. The jugglers, the street artists, the bubble makers and the acrobats, the mascots and the actors: all these people are as much a part of modern amusement parks and attractions as they were a hundred years ago at the traveling carnivals and festivals.
Adrian Gray can be contacted at ww.stonebalancing.com