MyCake founder Sarah Thelwall spent time in East Kent last month delivering a short masterclass on benchmarking arts organisations and then a marketing session for School for Creative Startups. There was time in the schedule to do some more exploring of the Creative and Cultural Industries in East Kent following on from Sarah’s earlier post about Exploring the Creative Quarter in Folkestone. This time Sarah is in Margate with the tour guiding expertise of Dan Thompson and John Cripps.
We started at the Cup Cake Cafe in the old town with a discussion of the question ‘What does Margate want to be?’ As a city it is clearly on the up and much of this regeneration is being lead by the creative and entrepreneurial visionaries such as Louise Oldfield who runs a variety of local businesses including the The Reading Rooms. It is this crowd who are spearheading the Dreamland revamp and campaigning to save Margate Caves. So with folks like this who have both vision and energy the city is off to a good start. Another tick in the box is the availability of interesting spaces and the relatively low property prices (domestic, industrial and retail). Property pioneers such as HKD, Marine Studios and the recently reopened Sands Hotel have made a good start but there is a need for good and interesting restaurants and better signage. There is also a great selection of both privately owned and charity led attractions such as the Shell Grotto, Tudor House and Margate Museum not to mention the delights of Turner Contemporary.
However whilst there is great potential in terms of infrastructure and buildings and some exceptional individuals what seems to be lacking is an overall vision. What does Margate want to be and how does it avoid enjoying only a short-lived boom fuelled by the current trend for vintage and cakes only to slip back into obscurity in a few years time? Don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying the variety of independent shops in the old town but the turnover of retailers is very high which indicates that very few are becoming sustainable businesses.
How can a small seaside town set itself apart from the competition? To what extent do the set of towns that make up East Kent need to work together? How can the creative and cultural entrepreneurs quantify the contribution they are making now and the value that can be realised in the decade to come? How do we build sustainable business models in areas of economic deprivation without compromising the quality of the creative contribution?
In the first instance it would be good to know what the total turnover of the cultural organisations is and then to understand the levels of Local Authority investment and grant dependency. We need to get on with this as Dreamland reopens in a year and if we are to maximise the benefit of this launch not just to Dreamland but also to the rest of Margate then we need a strategy and we need it ASAP!
And on another note…..
Meet the creators of Margate Games, part of #GEEK2014 this Friday at 6pm at Marine Studios,
17 Albert Terrace, Margate.
Further details about Friday’s event http://www.marinestudios.co.uk/events.html