Dreamland and Turner Contemporary, Margate

Thanet District Council responded to active community campaigns to restore and develop major cultural and visitor attractions in Margate. This case study forms part of the Value of culture - regeneration section of our online Culture Hub.

Dreamland and Turner Contemporary, Margate


Background and history

Margate was one of England’s earliest seaside reports, and for over a century its amusement park, Dreamland, was a major local visitor attraction. However, by 2000, as low-cost overseas holidays grew in popularity, the local tourism sector declined, and it was announced in 2003 that the owner was to redevelop the site. This news mobilised a grassroots ‘Save Dreamland’ community movement, and Thanet District Council responded to this groundswell by compulsory purchasing and restoring the site.

Over a similar period, another active community group sought a way to celebrate the artist JMW Turner’s association with Margate. Thanet District Council and other local partners supported this group to develop plans, attract funding, design and develop the new Turner Contemporary gallery, which opened in 2011.


  • 2001 Turner Contemporary Organisation founded
  • 2003 Formation of Save Dreamland Campaign
  • 2008 Construction of the Turner begins 2010 Dreamland restoration begins
  • 2013 Dreamland transfers fully into TDC ownership
  • 2015 Dreamland reopens
  • 2017 Announced Turner Contemporary will host the Turner Prize in 2019

Funding for Dreamland

  • £1.9 million Thanet District Council funding (2003-11)
  • £3.8 million Sea Change programme (2008)
  • £10.5 million from Heritage Lottery Fund (2009, 2011)
  • £1.9 million from Coastal Communities Fund (2015)
  • £35 million of private sector funding Total funding: £53.1 million

Delivery of activities

The Turner Contemporary offers regularly changing exhibitions designed to encourage repeat visits, and does not charge an admission fee. There is a strong focus on community engagement – for example the 2018 TS Eliot exhibition was curated by local residents with no prior experience in the art world. The gallery also draws high-profile activities, with the prestigious Turner Prize to be hosted there in 2019.

Dreamland is once again a high-profile amusement park, and also operates as a music venue and hosts a range of one-off annual festivals such as ‘GEEK’ (Games Expo East Kent), attracting new visitors to Margate throughout the year.



300 jobs supported directly and indirectly by Dreamland and the Turner Contemporary


one million new visitors to Margate directly due to the Turner Contemporary


19 per cent tourism grown between 2013-15, with annual tourism value rising to £293 million

  • 300 jobs – including 200 full-time equivalent jobs supported by Dreamland and over 100 by the Turner Contemporary, including direct employment, jobs supported in the supply chain and induced spending effects
  • one million new visitors to Margate – since opening in 2011, the Turner Contemporary has attracted almost one million people to the gallery who would not otherwise have visited Margate
  • half a million visitors in one summer – Dreamland attracted 500,000 unique visitors over a five-month summer period in 2017
  • 19 per cent tourism growth – Thanet’s tourism sector value grew by 19 per cent between 2013 and 2015, with annual value rising by £47 million to £293 million
  • 1,800 students and teachers from Kent and Medway entered artwork into the Turner’s ‘Portfolio’ competition in 2018, reflecting the opportunities presented by the gallery to inspire the next generation of creatives
  • shifting image – 2017 research shows that Margate is now strongly associated with artists by local visitors
  • catalysing new investment – as well as leveraging £35 million private funding for Dreamland, the developments have helped to attract other town centre investment including Tracy Emin’s new studio, due to open in 2018.

Learning points

Community involvement: both the Turner Contemporary and Dreamland were developed following active campaigning and development work by local community groups, and both now continue to work closely with local communities. The commitment of active community members, and the willingness of the local authority to listen and respond proactively, were critical to the realisation of these projects.

Celebrating local history: both projects were developed on the foundations of the history and heritage of Margate, enabling the town to regenerate in an authentic way, and this has helped both in attracting and engaging visitors locally and from further afield.

Breadth of funding sources: Thanet District Council and local partners have been very successful in identifying funding sources, making an effective case and securing the public sector funding needed, as well as attracting private sector investment and individual contributions to make the projects happen. For both projects, the developments occurred over a long period and required long-term commitment from the council.

“The development of the Turner Contemporary and the reopening of Dreamland have both required a commitment to a long-term vision. Projects of this scale require an enormous amount of perseverance and depend heavily on establishing and maintaining strong, working partnerships with a wide range of agencies."

Councillor Bob Bayford, Leader, Thanet District Council