The well-known local filmmaker, who was recently awarded an MBE for services to Manx culture and heritage, said that he released the 14-minute ‘Welcome to the Isle of Man’ video ‘with some trepidation, as showing the Isle of Man in a less than flattering light is something I have never done before’.
Since the video came out, Douglas Council appears to have quickly set about cleaning up some of the mess which Mr Guard pointed out – with councillor Andrew Bentley tweeting that barriers and sandbags had been removed from the prom, weeds removed from the ground near the sea terminal.
He explained that after seeing how Garff MHK Daphne Caine had spoken out about the state of the island’s heritage sites, he had done so in the hope that highlighting issues would mean that ‘the powers that be would, at last, take things in hand and sort them out’.
‘As the summer is in prospect and hundreds of coach parties and dozens of cruise ships are due, what sort of an impression is our island going to make on them?,’ the video opens.
Mr Guard describes Marine Drive as being ‘in a dreadful state’, noting that when he had filmed there 15 years ago barriers were in place at sections of the road which were unstable – and these barriers are still there today, in a rusted, damaged condition.
‘So the road needs a bit of civil engineering, but it’s not as though we can’t do this - we did build it in the first place,’ the director narrates.
‘Just think of the extension to the airport runway in 2009 - a huge project which looked superb when it was completed - surely we can repair a bit of road’.
He pointed to rusted Victorian railings on the road, which had not been painted since 1998, and compared these to those on Douglas Promenade – some of which had also been replaced by temporary barriers.
Moving to the prom, Mr Guard says that while the finished parts look good, he points to the ‘botched job’ of black tarmac being cut directly into the asphalt on the walkway, and the sunken garden walls which have still not been repaired since they were destroyed by storms in December.
He explained how this was delayed by the council having to deal with its insurers, and while the Department of Infrastructure implements their new plans for walls.
Also highlighted are the planned ‘wildflower meadows’ at the stretch of Loch Promenade where the horse trams would run, which currently resemble ‘a mass of weeds’.
Scenes in the video are interspersed with historical pictures of Douglas from its tourist heyday.
For example, a photo from Victorian times of the same area opposite Villiers Square where a large ‘Welcome to our Visitors’ gate had been constructed.
Mr Guard also laments the condition of Douglas beach as being ‘a sea of stones’, explaining that this issue had first been solved by the addition of groynes during the 1930s to reclaim sand, groynes which since became neglected and were eventually removed.
There were however some ‘successes’ on the promenade which the video does note, such as the newly rebuilt horse tram shed at Strathallan, and the ‘marvellous order’ which boarding house owners had kept their properties in along Queens Promenade.
The Laxey Wheel is also mentioned in the video, with Mr Guard saying that it had ‘scandalously been allowed to deteriorate until it was broken and couldn’t turn’, whilst applauding the ‘superb job’ that recent renovation works had been doing, after a public outcry had prompted the issue to go to Tynwald.
In the outro the video Mr Guard concedes that the island’s budgets are stretched amidst the problems the world is experiencing, he asks why basic upkeep cannot be carried out for ‘a few thousand [pounds] if £75 million can be found for the new Liverpool ferry terminal, or over £78 million for the Steam Packet’s new ship, or over £48 million to combat the effects of climate change.
The last piece of disrepair to be singled out is the official sign welcoming people to the sea terminal - faded and unreadable.