The Margate School — Local Stakeholder Consultation

TMS commissioned Economic Growth Management to consult a number of stakeholders in Margate and who are identified as being part of Margate's emerging creative sector, as to their view on the TMS initiative for their art school and the creative sector in Margate. Here is the summary of findings.

THE MARGATE SCHOOL

LOCAL STAKEHOLDER CONSULTATION

Summary of Key Findings

(Final 4th July 2016)

1.        INTRODUCTION

1.1       Scope and Purpose of the Consultation

The Margate School is bringing forward a project which will comprise three key elements:

The set-up of an arts school which develop accredited MA arts education provision and choice of short post graduate and general accredited courses oriented to experiential arts and creativity. The set-up of a support hub and network for creative and other knowledge based businesses aimed at bringing them together to intensify their opportunities and to coordinate initiatives of common interest to the local creative industries sector.  The set-up of sustainable design incubator, to support the creation, survival and growth of young businesses in the arts, creative digital and the design industries and to support young companies with scalable product innovations. The project will in the longer term seek to incorporate a Fab Lab operation into the incubator.  

In order to move the project forward, a consultation exercise has been undertaken amongst relevant stakeholders within the Margate area in order to capture their views as to the value of such as project, whether it is justified, and how it needs to be shaped in order to align with related parallel initiatives.

1.2       Issues Raised with Consultees

 In the course of the consultation, the following Issues have been raised with consultees.  

The scope of each organisation’s activity, relationship and plans related to artistic, cultural or regeneration activity in the Margate area. Views as to what is currently missing in Margate to propel it towards a becoming a significant hub of arts and creative activity generating jobs, wealth and prosperity for local people and what type of mechanism should be put in place to co-ordinate or support Margate's creative professionals and businesses. Potential synergy between consultees’ activities and the Margate School and its proposed incubator and related scope for collaboration. Potential areas of conflict, competition or sensitivity that should be taken into account in the development of proposals for the Margate School and its proposed sustainable design incubator. Other suggestions as to what might help the Margate School promote artistic activity, cultural development or regeneration within the town. 

In addition, research has been undertaken to generate evidence of demand for creative sector workspace and the services of the proposed sustainable design incubator amongst local commercial agents, workspace operators and with local creative businesses.  

1.3       Organisations Contacted

The consultation has involved contact with some 20 local organisations including:

The Local Authority and Civic Organisations Higher and Further Education Bodies Cultural Organisations Arts Studio Operators Commercial Property Agents Local Creative Businesses Fab Lab Organisations

A list of organisations that have been engaged is provided in Appendix 1.

2.        FINDINGS FROM STAKEHOLDER DISCUSSIONS

2.1       Growth Prospects for Margate

Council officers have highlighted the scale and potential of growth planned for Thanet, with proposals for development of 16,000 homes through urban extensions. This will change the demographics as there is evidence of much inward movement from Canterbury. 

On-going opportunities for development include the Lido site, as a possible visitor attraction, the Rendezvous site adjacent to Turner, possible extension of the Turner Contemporary, re-use of Theatre Royal, which is understood to be attracting interest, renovation of the Winter Gardens a potentially significant performance venue, Dreamland Phase 2, development opportunity of the curtilage of the residential tower around the station and initiatives set out in the Margate Economic Plan including the seafront upgrade and seafront park. However, realising these opportunities will depend on having the required economic drivers in place.  

2.2       Trends and Prospects for Arts, Creative and Cultural Activity in Margate

Recent Trends

The Turner Contemporary gallery opened in 2011 and is generally considered to have had a major impact on creating an image for and stimulating the creative sector in Margate, increasing tourism numbers and spend. Small galleries in the town have appeared including Resort Studios, Marine Studios, the Pie Factory and Crate; Margate House has opened up as a community arts and photographic gallery in the old Burton building in the high street and Bon Vorex has set up a successful photographic studio centre.

A stream of artists and designer makers have been moving to the area because of this profile and because of the affordability of space. The improved rail services have had a major impact on Margate.

2.3       Stakeholder Views on the Case for the Margate School and Design Incubator

The following issues have been highlighted from discussions with local authority, cultural and educational bodies.

Fragility of the Creative Sector

The creative and cultural ecology in the area is very fragile. So far, Margate has tended to attract the “lone wolf” sole traders in the creative sector operating as sole traders. Other things should need to be added to it if it is to be sustained. However there is a danger of duplication and dilution. Half-hearted schemes with a limited time perspective are not the way forward and have held Margate back up to now.

Need for a Strategic and Joined Up Approach

There is much hidden creative activity in the town. It needs to be brought together and made more visible. Margate has got transport links, interesting and inexpensive buildings and “edginess”, all of which is attractive to the art world. Artists need space to work and affordability is important since art is space hungry and therefore expensive.

Though some other small studio developments are planned, a common view expressed is that there is no coherent offer for accommodating these activities. Margate needs to formulate a collective vision for the future, good leadership and joined up thinking, based on collective rather than individual action. 

Case for a Creative Hub

It is widely agreed there is a need for a creative hub which can provide a focus for addressing these gaps. This is a role which the sustainable design incubator that could fulfil. This and other roles appear to be of interest to stakeholders beyond the original concept of just an arts school. Culture is a driver but the wider growth of Margate needs to be considered as well. To be nationally significant, the proposed incubator would need to be highly visible rather than underground. Resort is the only such facility, but this is in Cliftonville and fully subscribed. If there was a major name in the creative sector co