The Margate School (TMS) & Margate Made (Shoreline) Local Makers Event held on 20 January 2020 at the School (former Woolworths bldg) located in Margate’s High Street.
Following the success of the collaborative creative art and craft trader event in November 2019, TMS and Margate Made created a unique opportunity for local makers and traders to come together and engage in a discussion exploring the challenges and arising opportunities for their creative businesses and professional practice in Margate.
34 local businesses and professionals registered and 26 people attended the event, a number of others enquired about the event subsequently. We have collected the following feedback from the event against three broad categories; i) training, ii) professional development support, and iii) facilities.
TMS (www.themargateschool.com) is an independent post-graduate liberal art school and operates as a not-for-profit organisation with a strong community outreach. It is located in Margate’s High Street having taken on a vacant derelict commercial building (the former Woolworths store, vacant since 2008) in May 2019 and since then supported over 50 local artists and over community facing events, attracting over 10,000 visitors to the High Street and into the School. TMS commenced its provision of a Masters degree in FIne Art in October 2019, ran a number of short-courses in video production and photography as well as creative business development and others. It is in the process of developing its facilities in terms of studio spaces, film and photography, FabLab/MakerSpace. The ground floor is publicly facing with exhibition spaces, work tables, meeting room, social area, performance space as well as a darkroom.
TMS received a fund from the Coastal Community Fund to develop the FabLab facilities and support Margate’s emerging creative community through courses, events and mentoring and as such contribute to Margate’s town centre regeneration. The event on 20 January contributes to the understanding of this community’s needs. It also feeds into the latest funding opportunities of the Town Fund with an allocation of £25m to the town of Margate, which potentially can be drawn down to support Margate’s emerging creative community. There will hopefully be an opportunity for feedback from this event to the (yet to be established) Town Deal Board charged to draw up a Town Deal Investment Plan for the Town Fund allocation (see https://www.gov.uk/government/news/100-places-to-benefit-from-new-towns-fund). Margate’s community will principally be represented by the Margate Town Team (https://www.facebook.com/MargateTownTeam/)
Shoreline is the trading partnership name of Sarah Gibbon and Vivienne Rose, and the home of Margate Made, a well-established and popular local makers’ pop-up event, that celebrates creativity with a strong focus on community engagement locally. Margate Made events showcase high quality handmade arts and crafts, alongside free creative activities, embodying their belief that art and creativity are accessible and for everyone to enjoy. Shoreline is also the home of The Eclectic Art Gallery in Margate Old Town since they took over the lead role in September 2019. The gallery’s mission is to showcase the talents of Kent-based artists, with regularly changing displays to appeal to the visitors, it also sells handmade greeting cards, and framed and unframed prints of some of our artists beautiful original pieces. In November 2019 they also opened the Westgate Galleria at 29 Station Road, Westgate on Sea which comprises two airy, well-lit and inviting spaces exhibiting unique and individual arts, crafts and gifts created by Kent based Artists, Makers and Creatives. There is space to rent at Westgate Galleria for meetings, workshops and courses, together with live demonstrations by some of those selling and associated with the Galleria.
The feedback in terms of the required training and courses (hosted at TMS and supported by Stronger Kent Communities) highlighted the need for educational provision in the five key areas; Social Media, Upcycling, Fundraising, Business (contracts, management, finance), and Marketing. Participants suggested the following training providers:
Kent Adult Education
East Kent College
Local chamber of commerce
Local trade organisations
Also make use of local independent creative businesses that teach too
3. Professional Development Support
The key argument in this area was the lack of the role of a creative coordinator to develop the local network and keep creatives informed about funding opportunities, upcoming events etc. The TMS team could take lead on that. The participants have also proposed the idea of Membership to a creatives network (approx. £40 per year TBC) that organises regular meetings, networking events etc. This could be linked to the discussed TMS fellowship scheme. Creating work experience opportunities and artists in residence programme have also been highlighted as priority in the area.
There have been some very concrete suggestions like, for example, creation of a ‘What’s on’ information blackboard at TMS listing event and opportunities for local creatives. This could be ‘curated’ by the above mentioned creative coordinator. Another important area was the access to facilities and use of the equipment of the TMS FabLab as well as the access to knowledge database of services and resources available in the area.
5. Common Themes
Common themes running through the discussions about using government money to regenerate Margate
The participants suggested that the focus needs to be beyond Margate (Thanet-wide) and emphasised that creating Margate’s creative quarter needs support from both private sector and TDC. Artists need a customer-base that is not other artists or creatives and other industries need to be developed too. Lessons from previous attempts to regenerate the high street should be learned as it is unlikely that creating a cafe culture is enough.
Participants highlighted the need of regular markets of all sorts (craft, farmers, etc) - high quality, to drive the footfall into the old town and the high street. Although it was also mentioned that they should get rid of the parking and have a regular market along the harbour arm. Overall, there was an agreement that a Year-round regeneration is needed, not just seasonal, residential or artistic businesses - preferably a proper combo of them to be sustainable long term. One of the strategies to achieve that might be Integrating arts into the local annual festivals creating links with established community groups and enhancing collaboration that breaks down distrust and barriers. Here lack of inclusivity has been presented as an issue and a barrier.
More generally, it was noted that the government expects future employment to be very largely generated by small-scale enterprises - especially in the 'creative sector' which has been identified as one of the five most promising under the national industrial strategy (along with aviation/avionics which may also soon feature in the East Kent economy.) Margate itself has been earmarked as a 'spearhead' exemplar of creative regeneration. It is therefore important that TMS along with other providers, develop their supportive role for 'small creatives' with network facilitation, training access and the provision of 'Fourth Industrial Revolution' technology as per the Margate Economic Plan objectives devised for the Coastal Community Fund initiative.
The accelerating pace of technological redundancies (the Bank of England has forecast 30% job loss in low-skill, low-wage areas and 80% of those losses are likely to be among females) not only creates threats but also opportunities for re-skilling and 'upskilling' and it is expected that the government will seriously address relatively neglected Further Education/ vocational issues as a matter of national priority in 'levelling' up the 'left behind' economies, as manifested in the Town Deal programme.
6. Next steps
Make representation to the new Town Deal Board via Margate Town Team
TMS to host FabLab/MakerSpace membership event
Training providers, including TMS, to develop affordable skills opportunities
Seek funding and establish creative network coordinator
Creating residency opportunities at TMS