In The Eye of the Creative Storm: Margate's Second Regeneration Wave

Underneath the enchanting veil of Margate’s seaside charm, a seismic shift is in motion. Once a retreat for weary city dwellers, this gem of England fell into a period of stark decline. Today, however, as the golden sunset paints the horizon, Margate echoes a vibrant melody of rebirth. From its sandy beaches to the labyrinthine alleyways of independent shops, one can sense a pulsating heartbeat – the rhythm of regeneration.

We’ve been here before, just under a decade ago, when Margate’s first wave of regeneration began, nudged forward by pioneers willing to bet on this town. Among those early adopters was A+C Studios, establishing its roots in Margate’s soil long before it was cool. It was a time of promise, of potential, but the true scale of Margate’s transformation was yet to be revealed.

Margate beach/ creative storm

Now, we are in the throes of a second wave. A more audacious tide is washing over Margate, pushed by the force of larger entities with bold visions. The Margate Land Trust, backed by a significant £6 million government investment through the Margate Town Deal, is among those at the forefront of this resurgence. The Trust is more than a silent guardian of creative space. It is a dynamic enabler, striving to shield the artistic nerve-centres of Margate from commercial encroachment and spiralling rents. But it’s not just about preservation; it’s about propulsion – giving a platform to those unheard, underserved communities seeking entry into the vibrant world of creativity.

In sync with this, the monumental initiative of the Thames Estuary Production Corridor is unfolding. A pioneering venture, its heart beats with the ambition to forge a mammoth hub of cultural production, linking East London, the North Kent Coast, and South Essex. The vision, both audacious and intoxicating, promises to usher in 50,000 jobs, inject £3.7 billion into the UK’s economy, and solidify the Corridor as the UK’s largest concentration of creative production.

The energy of Margate’s regeneration reverberates far beyond the confines of creative studios or the interlinked web of commercial pursuits. Its heart beats in the vibrant celebration of Margate Pride, a beacon of diversity and a manifestation of the town’s welcoming spirit. As an arts-led initiative, Margate Pride is more than a jubilant festival; it is an affirmation of identity, a declaration of love, and a testament to the town’s embrace of all individuals, regardless of who they choose to love.

This colourful tableau of acceptance and celebration has cultivated a haven for queer people, a sanctuary where they can freely express their identities without fear or pretence. Margate’s sandy beaches, its quirky boutiques, and its streets filled with the thrum of creativity have become a magnetic draw for many who, inspired by Margate Pride’s example, now call this town home.

In this cornucopia of culture and diversity, entities such as the Creative Circle and the UK Creative Festival have found fertile ground, contributing to the town’s creative ebb and flow. They add to the growing chorus of artistic expression and innovation, bolstering Margate’s standing as an epicentre for creativity on a national scale.

And it’s not just organisations finding a home in Margate; globally recognised artists to have been drawn by the town’s transformative energy. With her sharp, provocative, and deeply emotive work, Tracey Emin returned to Margate in 2017. Her arrival back to her birthplace was not a mere relocation, but a journey of transformation. ‘I came back to Margate as a different person, and I came back to a different Margate. Everybody here gives me space, there’s nothing pretentious here,’ said Emin. The town has opened its arms to Emin, creating a symbiotic relationship where art and place fuel each other.

The rhythm of Margate’s transformation echoes across its regenerated landscape, from the footfall in independent shops to the waves breaking on its sandy beaches. But the most profound resonance is in the lives and identities of the individuals who have found solace, acceptance, and an opportunity to contribute to the rich tapestry of this seaside town. 

Margate is not just riding the wave; it’s shaping it. As a new narrative of regeneration unfolds, it brings forth a critical question – how can we ensure this transformation reverberates beyond economic upliftment to sow the seeds of socio-environmental justice? For this, the role of Margate’s creatives is pivotal.

We are witnesses to an epochal transformation as Margate transitions from a former seaside refuge to a powerhouse of creativity. As the paint dries on this new masterpiece, it’s crucial that the brush strokes of social justice and inclusion remain bold and visible. For Margate’s regeneration to stand as a paragon of change, the artists, the pioneers, and the creatives must continue to steer this second wave towards a future that is not just economically vibrant, but socially just and environmentally sustainable. For now, Margate, with its creative surge, is sculpting its own destiny, illustrating that the power of art is not only to reflect the world but to change it.