Erpel/Linz Gary Blackburn has made a virtue out of necessity: instead of downsizing his "Little Britain" exhibition in Kretzhaus, he is moving it to a hotel in Kalenborn.
The „Queen“ herself has already mastered her personal Brexit from "Little Britain": Instead of residing in Linz-Kretzhaus, the resolute monarch, or rather her true-to-the-original duplicate, accompanied by two corgis, Her Majesty's favorite breed of dog, and well guarded by a stern-looking Bobby and a red-robed Grenadier Guard with a bearskin cap, is standing in front of her new domicile in Kalenborn. Gary Blackburn makes a virtue out of the necessity of having to reduce the size of his exhibition of all kinds of British devotional objects under the name "Little Britain": only about 400 meters from the previous site, he opens a small themed hotel with eight rooms - "The Little Britain Inn".
Many items from his Union Jack-themed open-air museum have moved with him - including the Queen, Mister Bean, two red double-decker buses, telephone boxes, vintage English cars and other vehicles such as comedy character Mister Bean's iconic Mini Cooper. "The hotel is my plan B for all the things I'd like to show," Blackburn tells the General-Anzeiger.
Background: At the end of December the Erpel local council had unanimously taken the decision to terminate the lease contracts for the municipally owned areas along the hiking trail from the Kasbachtal to the Linzer Höhe to the head of Baumdienst Siebengebirge GmbH by March 31. On a part of these plots and on its company’s grounds the native Briton, who also has the German nationality, had accommodated its imaginative museum in the open air.
Exhibition arises out of anger over Brexit decision by the British
Out of anger over the Brexit decision, Blackburn, who has lived in Germany for more than 35 years, had gathered everything that reminds him of his homeland on the area he had leased from the municipality since 2014, as well as on forest land on the outskirts of Kretzhaus around a hiking trail to the Rheinsteig. Royal palace soldiers, Robin Hood's hut, double-decker buses, red telephone booths and a figure of the Queen have been on display since 2016. The eye-catcher is the 52-ton Centurion tank from the 1950s, which has been decorated with all kinds of fairy lights since Christmas and is part of the exhibition, but demilitarised and intended as a "memorial to peace and freedom," according to Blackburn.
"Three times we have given him the opportunities to submit the necessary documents," explains Günter Hirzmann, local mayor of Erpel, when asked by the General-Anzeiger. As early as March 2018, the entrepreneur with around 40 employees had applied for urban land use planning, which had become necessary due to the increasingly expanding museum areas and superstructures. But that was not enough: furthermore, the collector, who does not charge an entrance fee for a visit to "Little Britain" but, according to his own statement, simply wants to create "a small counterweight to Brexit," had to submit a so-called description of operations, a statement from the State Office for Mobility, the approval of the local forestry office, the provision of compensatory areas, and proof of a secure water supply and wastewater disposal for the site.
"Mr. Blackburn also took up land that he had not leased," Hirzmann says. The company site and the whimsical UK enclave are located on the L 253 in Linz-Kretzhaus, but are part of the Erpel municipal area.
Talks about new leased land for Gary Blackburn
The vote against "Little Britain" was not easy for the council, Hirzmann admits. "It is an unpopular decision, but the submitted documents were partly insufficient or they were missing completely," reports the Erpel community leader. The Neuwied district administration had taken particular exception to the superstructure, such as the hut where the Queen and Mister Bean sit together to debate the impact of the Brexit, according to Blackburn. "According to the building code, the area is an 'outdoor area.' That's why nothing is actually allowed to be changed or built there," Hirzmann knows. But, Hirzmann and Blackburn plan to meet later in January to look for new leased land and to discuss the future of a public walking trail that runs through the company's property.
Gary Blackburn is saddened by the council's vote. "On the one hand, there are many tens of thousands of dollars that I had invested in the preparation and desired refinement of various planning documents in good faith that approval was possible. On the other hand, there is a great disappointment that many friends of our 'Little Britain' share with us," says the entrepreneur, who hopes that the termination of the nearly 2000 square meters of leased space will leave him enough space for his company. "I'm not sure I can keep running them like this. I have 40 employees and over 40 vehicles," he reports.
But the heart of "Little Britain" will continue to beat in his small hotel, which until recently was part of the gourmet restaurant "Nattermann's Fine Dining," which closed at the end of 2019. "I don't get 'Little Britain' completely housed there, though," Blackburn says. He will have to part with one or two exhibits with a heavy heart. "We've already had several people interested in buying the tank."
Original text: Mario Quadt
Translation: Mareike Graepel