Posted by: maisiegrace | November 21, 2010

Margate’s last winter

This winter of 2010/11 will, I believe, be Margate’s last. Margate has desperately needed to escape from the all-or-nothing seasonality of the British seaside economy; in recent years the number of summer visitors just hasn’t been generating enough income for businesses to sustain themselves all year round. I think the Turner Contemporary (opening on 16th April 2011 if there’s anyone who didn’t know yet) is more than the perfect tonic for local business, it’s the magic pill.

The benefit of the predicted 130,000 annual visitors to Turner Contemporary is not just in the number. It’s in the fact that those visitors will be spread throughout the year. Tate St Ives is not quite the same in this regard where visitor numbers are significantly greater in the summer. Cornwall is a long way to travel, and people tend to pull in a visit to the gallery while they are on holiday. Margate is different – we’re a quick train ride from London, or indeed a quick plane ride from Edinburgh or Manchester. I’m not saying we’ll get 356 new visitors per day all year round, it’s bound to be skewed towards the summer, but even if we only have 100 new visitors to the town on a winter’s day the effect of that will be enormous.

Smoothing out that summer-only curve will transform the fortunes of local businesses and create sustainable non-seasonal employment. Shops and cafes will be open for more days per week in the winter, and for longer hours. There will be people on the streets with money in their pockets all year round. For the Old Town in particular, there will be no such thing as ‘out of season’.

It won’t stop there. When Margate is truly open for year-round business it will attract the knock-on, non-art gallery visitors – all those local people from Ramsgate and Broadstairs who hadn’t set foot in Margate for years, and visitors who decide to check out Margate for a weekend break instead of going to Whitstable, Broadstairs or Brighton.  I feel sure that those people who have stuck with Margate, those who have invested here and those who have had the vision and courage to start quality new businesses here will be rewarded. Mark my words – this is Margate’s last winter.

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Responses

  1. We’re already seeing that Margate can be an all year round destination. Visitors who enjoy the Old Town and who come to walk on windswept beaches, come to Margate rain and shine all year round. Crucially, these visitors spend money when they visit, breathing new life into businesses here. The Turner will make this even more possible.

  2. I personally doubt the Turner Contemporary will do anything to revive Margate. I’d prefer to have seen the money spent on redecorating the town’s shabby buildings. If the council had one iota of sense – which it hasn’t – it would also lift parking charges and exempt local shops from business rates. Then, and only then, might Margate stand a hope of attracting shoppers and inward trade. As it is, a few small-scale art shows in a building that’s a blot on the skyline just doesn’t cut it.

  3. Aha that old chestnut. Unfortunately the Arts Council doesn’t do property renovation (or ice rinks or swimming pools), Dave.

  4. I think the sucess ot the Turner Center will be down to the exhibitions they put on and the business confidence it will inject in to the old town and lower high street.

  5. @Dave Evans: Lifting parking charges isn’t really an investment as such. The TC will pull in thousands of people a month to Margate and the wider area; having free parking outside MacDonalds probably won’t.

  6. Friends have also discovered how brilliant it is to come from, say Nottingham, to St Pancras, board the Javelin (HS1) and then arrive in Margate. Already they are visiting Margate. The Harbour Arm draws them to the bar there (LHB ??), food at Bebeached and a look at the studios there.
    I think it possible that the winter of 2009/10 was the last.

  7. Dave, the council can not lift parking charges, it can not exempt business rates. As has been pointed out the arts council wont pay for redecorating shabby buildings. Do you think a major exhibition about Turner is small-scale? Have you been to Eastborne to visit the Towner gallery and seen and spoke to local businesses to hear what the gallery has done for them? Have you been to Bexhill and likewise seen what the newly renovated De La Warr pavilion has achieved in that town? It can be argued that the Turner Contemporary has already started to help revive Margate, case in point – Margate old town was featured in Time Out magazine last week as great place to shop, do you think those shops/cafes would have set up and traded if nothing was happening?

  8. Apparently budgets are being cut on the council soon and for margates smaller attractions. How will margate become truely regerated if smaller attractions such as the Margate Museum and The Tudor House are not given the support they need?

  9. Can’t wait for the gallery to open btw! its going to be really great.

  10. […] Margate’s last winter November 2010 9 comments 4 […]


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