Posted by: James Kennell | October 14, 2010

Margate’s Old Town

This is a slideshow of pictures taken as I walked around Margate’s Old Town last week.  There are clearly a greater range of activities taking place in this regenerating space than were observed in Folkestone in this previous post, and more people using the space, for a variety of reasons.  The Old Town is a focus of creative activity in the town but, to a greater extent than in Folkestone’s Creative Quarter, it features a range of uses and is integrated into a broader residential and retail context.

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  1. James,

    I think there you’ve hit on a fascinating contrast between Margate and Folkestone. Both places have a very long way to go before their regeration can be seen as lasting. However, at the former, it seems to me too that regeneration in the Old Town is more diverse and largely bottom up, led by energetic individuals acting as entrepreneurs. Obviously the Turner is increasingly providing something of a push, although I still wonder whether it is really value for money, but all the stuff going on in Old town and on the Harbour Arm is the result of individual efforts in a loose “partnership for good”.

    Regeneration in Folkestone, on the other hand, seems rather too heavily dependent on the corporate force of the Creative Foundation with the cash reserves of De Haan Foundation. Artists are moving out of the Old Town, blaming the Creative Foundation for not doing enough to help them, which seems unfair on CF but is a reflection of the promises they made to the artists in the first place! It’s so much easier to blame the Corporation and pack your bags when things get tough, rather than working out how to change your own business model to suit the times.

    In both places change is very slow and there’s a lot more that needs to be done. However I suspect that the change in Margate may be more robust simply because individuals are more dependent on making it work rather than in Folkestone where there is more dependence on the CF to make things happen.

    I wonder if CF are addressing that at all and if your research might help them focus better their resources to tap into something of what seems to be happening in Margate.

  2. Great to see the Fabulous Heritage in Margate’s Old Town, but be assured that there is plenty more to see across the whole of Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs. James don’t make a sreanger of yourself when you come down we should to coffee again

  3. You are so right about Margate. People doing it for themselves is creating something much more real.

  4. I think what is underemphasised in both cases is the spatial context of the two ‘creative quarters’ – the developments in Folkestone are dependent for their eventual success on a number of parallel developments in the harbour and on the seafront itself. There have been lots of people trying to ‘do it for themselves’ in Folkestone, but Tontine Street and The Old High Street are hard places to make a go of it at the moment. I think it’s interesting in Folkestone how there is ‘the rendezvous street thing’ going on, with creatives moving closer to the town’s core retail offer and creating a bit of a buzz around the top end of the creative quarter. The CF are taking a very long term view of regeneration in Folkestone, but there may be some disconnect between this and the initial expectations of the pace of change in a town that has been in decline for the best part of a generation.

    In Margate, the old town area is a bit of the beaten track, but is not so isolated as the CQ in Folkestone. The presence of Morrissons and a big car park nearby helps, as does the fact that there are some creative but ‘not arty’ shops and some ‘ordinary’ business , espcially pubs, in the old town that mean it is not concentrated on creative production and cosumption to the same extent as the CQ.

    Where creative quarter developments have been succesful in the past, they have tended to be in large urban areas, with a diverse business and residential ecology. The gamble for seaside towns is whether these very specific creative retail and production spaces can be sustainable in and of themselves. Whitstable is an interesting case in point – there is still a significant amount of employment on the edges of Whitstable in light manufacturing, distribution and commercial businesses that have nothing to do with the creative industries, as well as people commuting out to work in Canterbury and even London.

    And Lynn, yes, coffee would be lovely!

  5. James Margate has a small amount of light industry but Pfizer have been the source of many jobs in the past. TDC try and encourage firms and small bussiness but I feel the area needs more small startup units. We have some but with costs being a primary factor we need more inexpensive units and I do mean inexpensive.

  6. OOPS FORGOT TO SAY I found this blog this morning and like it . Don

  7. I have lived on and off in the old town for 25 years. Many changes over the years, things are now looking up with much improvement to the area. There is still a way to go to attract more people to the area, groups and individuals are doing a great job at promoting the area.More shops and galleries are opening or expanding. The next Old Town Action Group (OTAG) meeting is at the Wig and Pen 6pm 1st Nov 2010

  8. Sorry Anthony, I missed this one – perhaps I could pop along to the next one, when is it? Thanks!

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