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Blue Plaque unveiling 2022

On Friday, 21st October, 2022 The Margate School and the Margate Civic Society together with Kent County Council and Kent Adult Education unveiled two Blue Plaques placed at the entrance of the former Thanet College of Art & Crafts (originally opened on 8 July 1931 but now an Adult Education Centre) in Hawley Square in Margate commemorating two former notable artists who taught at the art school, namely Christopher Alexander (1926-1982) and Walter Sickert (1860-1942).

The two plaques in a way not only celebrates those two artists but also their pupils and fellow tutors, some of whom rose to eminence in their own right. Would it not be beautiful if we could find some funding to research more into those incredible artists and teachers to recognise the civic importance of the artistic and cultural heritage that these individuals and this Margate art school has left for us future generations. The wealth of knowledge and experience is all there for the taking.

Here are some of those artists:

John Archibald Austen, 1886 – 1948, illustrator

Clifford Bayly, Painter, 1927

Peter Raymond Brook, 1927 - 2009, painter

Audrey Evans, painter, wife and collaborator of painter Bernard Evans

Karin Jonzen, 1914 - 1998, sculptor

Martin John Lambie-Nairn 1945 – 2020, designer, co-creator of Spitting Image and designer of the Channel 4 logo

Gerald Norden, 1912 - 2000, painter, writer, teacher

Gillian Page 1935 - 2018 founded the Page Mason School of Dance and Drama in 1963

Monica Poole, 1921 - 2003, wood-engraver

Harry Redman, 1920 - 1994, painter, teacher

Arnold Schwartzman OBE, RDI, Oscar winner, 1936

Brian Sutherland, 1929 - 1998, potter

John Tribe, 1938, illustrator and graphic designer

Geoffrey Wales, 1912 - 1990 , wood-engraver, writer

Mary White, 1930 - 2020, ceramicist and textile artist

The Margate School, encouraged by some of these alumni, including Gillian Page, Martin Lambie-Nairn, John Tribe, Arnold Schwartzman and others, is trying to rekindle the spirit of the Thanet College of Art & Crafts. Of course we are small, don’t have any significant public funding and every bit of resource we need to secure is a struggle. Yet, within the last three years we have built up a community of around 80 creative professionals, academics and students. In fact, we managed to make a small contribution to preserving the heritage by having been able to commission a couple of artists, Lucy McGeown and Bradley Higgins, to work with Steven Alexander, to start developing the Chistopher Alexander virtual Archive, containing works by Alexander but also interviews with his former students: Brian Homewood, Christine Jeffryes, Cathryn Kuhfeld, David Sawyer, Glenis Cheesman, Lydia Thornley, Mick Bray, Nicholas Addison, Pat Castle, Susan Shaw. Some of these interviews are part of the archive The Christopher Alexander Archive.

“Commemorating, celebrating whilst critically assessing our heritage is not the same as ‘star-gazing’. I think it is an unfortunate and actually unhelpful mode of our time and culture to be obsessed with celebrity, wealth and stardom. As my late friend Anthony Heywood used to say, lots of energy is wasted by chasing the stars in the hope of some stardust falling onto our shoulder pads. I think it would be much more fruitful to invest in our heritage and create a robust basis for creativity and innovation as the Thanet College of Art and Crafts had tried to achieve and thus develop ways and means to retain and attract productive creative talent. Look at Mary White, her pottery business employed over thirty people in Thanet at one stage.” Uwe Derksen, Director of The Margate School

Photography by Sinead Le Blond and Carl Hudson