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)
1.1 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
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 could be attracted by the incubator the area’s profile would change significantly.
Need for Economic Diversification
The Turner Contemporary, though an internationally branded operation, cannot single handedly regenerate Margate. Its regeneration effects are apparent but alone cannot be expected to reposition Margate and sustainably transform its economic performance comprehensively. Margate needs a diverse portfolio of jobs and needs to give local people ambitions and aspirations.
Role of Higher and Further Education
Several stakeholders have expressed the view that education, especially higher education is considered as an important factor in addressing Margate’s regeneration issues and requirements and that HE establishments need to continue to be persuaded to set up provision in the area.
There is not much other arts education provision serving Thanet and part of what exists is expected to reduce. The fine arts provision at Christchurch Canterbury is being phased out and its photography and graphic and web design in Broadstairs is to be relocated to Canterbury within the next 2-3 years. East Kent College has an FE faculty with a software course.
The Margate School could add another string to Margate’s bow, but needs to be developed well and slowly, in an attractive building to draw in students and businesses. Big name artists need to be involved to give it credibility.
The higher education institutions are keen to enhance graduate retention. In Canterbury there are limited opportunities to offer graduate employment and enterprise opportunities in an attractive environment because it is an expensive location. The existence of an incubator in Margate could provide a future outlet in the local area for arts graduates. This could provide a channel for collaboration in the future.
Support for the Project
Strong encouragement was given to the project at a meeting in April 2016 with leading politicians, the chief executive and senior officers of Thanet District Council. In parallel, the Margate Town Team, the Margate Civic Society and the Margate Coastal Community Team are strongly behind the Margate School moving forward and the sustinable design incubator has been given priority in the Margate economic plan. Most of the new arts studio and gallery operators have expressed a strong level of enthusiasm for an art school in the community in Margate.
The higher and further education institutions and Turner Contemporary can be described as cautiously supportive seeing mutual interest and advocating open discussion.
3. EVIDENCE OF DEMAND FOR THE SUSTAINABLE DESIGN INCUBATOR
3.1 Evidence of the Current Base of Creative Sector Businesses in Margate
An analysis of an Experian database in the Margate shows the make-up of businesses in the creative and cultural businesses within the area.
Sector/ No. of Businesses
Advertising Agencies: 2
Artistic Creation Organisations:7
Business and Domestic Software Development:4
Computer Consultancy Activities:10
Manufacturing of Office and Shop Furniture:2
Motion Picture Production Activities:3
Operation of Art Facilities:11
Operation of Historical Sites and Buildings and Similar Visitor Attractions:2
Other Information Technology and Computer Service Activities:5
Other Photography Activities:3
Other Software Publishing:1
Pre-Press and Pre-Media Services:1
Publishing of Newspapers:2
Specialised Design Activities:4
Support Activities to Performing Arts:1
Television Programming and Broadcasting Activities:1
Video Production Activities:1
It is believed that the above figures do not include a large number of sole trader artists.
3.2 Findings from Local Commercial Agents
Local commercial property agents currently report high demand for creative industry workspace. This is particularly the case for artists, designer makers, graphic and other designers. Demand from digital media, software design, computing and IT also exists, though less prominently.
Findings from Local Incubator & Workspace Operators
The studio and gallery space set up by organisations such as Resort, Marine, Pie Factory, Crate, Limbo, Margate House and Bon Vorex have filled up quickly. This suggests that demand for affordable workspace is not being fully met.
Findings from Local Creative Sector Businesses
Early findings from a surveys of small Margate-based creative businesses indicate that most would be keen to be part of a local creative business network, and be likely to take up help with business planning and opportunities for supply and for collabration with related businesses. Around half expressed interest in accessing univeristy expertise and one third for support to home working. A young animation business and two designer makers expressed exceptionally strong interest in the services of the proposed incubator.
As regards strengths and weaknesses of Margate as a business location, creative businesses consulted have highlighted key advantages as being its coastal placing, ease of trade relations to other areas of East Kent, affordable rental prices for commercial usage making it easy to set up and sustain a business and the good community of creatives in Margate. Weaknesses expressed stem from the fact that Margate is still emerging, a little isolated and in need of something to boost the area and make it more self-reliable and independent.
3.3 Findings from Fab Lab Operations
Discussions have also been held with the Fab Lab operations in Plymouth and Manchester to find out about the benefits these can bring about and the potential for establishing such as facility in Margate. There is an aspiration to attract such as facility to Margate if the relevant parties can be brought together.
The Fab Lab have highly trained staff and working equipment to facilitate the needs of users. They provide a high amount of community training and help with learning of new skills, allowing for some to even set up businesses. Prototypes have also been tested out, allowing for them to later be put on the market.
A warehouse size is ideal for the Fab Lab to facilitate enough space for equipment and studios, it also needs it’s own entrance and security system. Access is critical so that people from the public can get to the site.
4. KEY CONCLUSIONS FROM CONSULTATION FINDINGS
From the findings, there would appear to be common agreement on the following points.
The Turner Contemporary has stimulated a degree of regeneration activity in Margate but more needs to be done. Additional drivers are needed to diversify Margate’s economy.
The emerging creative sector is fragile and needs to be supported. However existing initiatives are fragmented. There is a need for a clear vision, strategy and coherent infrastructure for supporting the sector based on collective action. It is generally agreed there is a need for a creative hub which can provide a focus for addressing these gaps and that the proposed sustainable design incubator could fulfil this role.
The Margate School and the proposed incubator would need to be of high quality and highly visible. They should attract big name artists and creative companies as this would help establish them and help to re-position Margate. There is limited arts and cultural education provision in Margate and what there is is expected to decline. The Margate school should continue seek collaboration opportunities with FE and HE bodies to address these gaps. The Margate School and sustainable design incubator would be an important opportunity for encouraging graduate retention in the area.
No major areas of conflict or overlap have been identified amongst those who participated in the consultation, and the overall findings suggest sound support from relevant stakeholders across the Margate area for the proposed Margate School and the design incubator. On-going dialogue and engagement is to be welcomed.
Thanet District Council Planning and Economic Development
Thanet District Council Heritage Officer
Local Stakeholder Organisations
Margate Coastal Community Team
Margate Civic Society
Margate Arts Culture and Heritage
Pearson and Gore
Arts Studio Operators
A Plus C Studios
Water Jet Signs LTD.
Margate Arts Club
A Plus C Studios
All Sign Solutions
Fab Lab UK
Fab Lab Manchester
Fab Lab Plymouth
The following organisations were contacted but either did not respond or did not agree to be interviewed:
Margate Media Centre
Jonathan Viner (Thanet Printing Works)
Clark and Crittenden