Growing the creative economy in Thanet, Kent

The creative economy in Thanet, Kent, has grown significantly over recent years thanks to a concerted effort by Thanet District Council and its partners. This case study forms part of the Value of culture - economic growth section of our online Culture Hub.


Thanet has seen an 84 per cent growth in creative business over the last four years, while the town of Margate has seen a 71 per cent increase in artist studios. This, combined with the country’s fastest growing tourist economy and rapid growth in employment, shows the extent to which Thanet is ‘turning the tide’ in terms of economic growth and putting itself firmly on the map as a destination for talented and ambitious creatives.

Creative industries contributed nearly £90 billion and 2.9 million jobs to the UK economy in 2015. Thanet’s economy is growing five times faster than the UK average and creative businesses are playing a key part in driving this regeneration. A 2017 report, ‘Thanet’s New Wave’, was commissioned by Thanet District Council to examine this creative boom. Local creative individuals and businesses were surveyed for the report, which found that:

  • 79 per cent of respondents expected their income to rise over the next five years.
  • 60 per cent had moved to Thanet since the Turner Contemporary opened in 2011, with 67 per cent coming from London.
  • 59 per cent were based in Margate’s Cliftonville area.

Thanet’s creative sector is highly community-minded: 70 per cent of them volunteer and one in three businesses surveyed had brought an empty property back into use. This has helped to revitalise areas such as Cliftonville, attracting new talent and investment. Twenty-seven per cent of the creative businesses in Thanet are IT, software and computer services, representing an important sub-sector which has grown by 330 per cent since 2012.

Thanet District Council and its partners have driven this growth through targeted activity, including:

  • Investing millions of pounds and in-kind resources in flagship cultural projects such as Dreamland, Townscape Heritage initiatives and the Turner Contemporary with Kent County Council. 
  • Accessing direct grant funding for creative enterprises through the South East Urban Coast Creative Enterprise Support Scheme.
  • Facilitating and funding festivals and events that showcase Thanet’s creativity and strengthen the sense of community.
  • Making the creative industries a continuing priority within Thanet’s economic growth strategy.
Turner Contemporary Landscape - credit Visit Kent and Thanet District Council

 

The report was the culmination of the innovative Margate Arts, Creativity and Heritage (MACH) programme, jointly funded by Thanet District Council, Historic England and Arts Council England to boost creative sector growth and draw inspiration from the historic built environment.

Councillor Hunter Stummer-Schmertzing, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Enterprise, said: “Thanet is a great place to live, work and invest in and it’s right that we should be celebrating the phenomenal growth in the district’s creative and digital sectors. This report clearly demonstrates the district’s capacity for fast growth, and I have no doubt that we will continue to build on this success.”

Thanet District Council and Turner Contemporary were shortlisted in the inaugural Hearts for the Arts awards in the category ‘best local authority arts project encouraging community cohesion’ for the Art Inspiring Change project, which has seen 80 primary school pupils in Margate become young arts leaders and work with resident artists, a philosopher, gallery staff, the planning committee and the wider community to plan, design and build public art and encourage the whole town to engage with it.

Looking to the future

The intention now is to take the principles of the MACH approach district-wide across Thanet. Ramsgate has recently been announced as a Historic England Heritage Action Zone, benefiting from funding and resources to help breathe life back into its history. The success of Art Inspiring Change will help inform further work with school pupils in Ramsgate to deliver Pioneering Places, a project designed to inform the feasibility modelling and planning of public spaces in the town, enabling the whole community to connect creatively with this process.

Key learning points

  • Creativity, culture and the arts provide powerful opportunities for places to grow and develop.
  • Heritage assets such as buildings, parkland and historic industry sites can play a key part in the regeneration of coastal towns.
  • Sustained place-based leadership and community engagement is key.

For further information, please contact Louise Askew, Sector Growth Manager for Creative and Tourism, Thanet District Council, at communications@thanet.gov.uk


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This case study has been developed in conjunction with Arts Council England