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Art-led regeneration in Margate: learning from Moonbow Jakes Café and Lido Nightclub intervention​ ​

Professor Loretta Lees and John McKiernan​​

In 2012, founder of Platform-7 and creator of the Moonbow Margate intervention began assessing the impact of the project with Professor Loretta Lee (King’s College London). The essay will be published in Art & the Public Sphere: Public Art & Accountability 2014. Intellect Press [click to read].


This paper considers whether a new iconic landmark – the Turner Contemporary - is likely to be a successful vehicle for the regeneration of the English seaside town of Margate in Kent. It does so by looking at the socio-economic context of Margate, the evidence about top-down models of art-led regeneration, and the data collected in a bottom up arts initiative – Moonbow Jakes Café and Lido Nightclub intervention – which was opened at the same time as the Turner Contemporary in the Summer of 2011.​

KEYWORDS: Margate, coastal regeneration, art-led regeneration, Turner Contemporary INTRODUCTION

​‘Margate is a great example of how art can play an effective role in regeneration’

(ACE, 2009​​)

​​​​​​​​​​​​With its ‘golden sands’ and ‘dilapidated seaside charm’, Margate, a coastal town in Kent on the south-east coast of England, is now ranked seventh in a respected international travel guide’s ‘must see’ destinations for 2013 (The Rough Guide, 2013)! The new Turner Contemporary Art Gallery (see Figure 1) is seen by some to have played a major role in turning the town's fortunes around - ‘the Turner effect’. But as subsequent media reports have demonstrated locals beg to differ. Resident Robert Spires, 41, was quoted in a number of national newspapers: ​

‘If this guide causes tens of thousands of people to descend on Margate from around the world I am afraid they will be very, very disappointed…Margate is run down, half of the shops are closed or in the process of closing down, there are yobs on every corner and amusement arcades all over the place…It is not the kind of place you really want to live in, let alone go on holiday to”. ​​ ​​

In this paper we question how successful the new Turner Contemporary, funded with the public purse, will be in turning around Margate’s social and economic fortunes, in light of the problematic evidence-base around arts-led regeneration and evidence from a live performance and art exhibitions space - Moonbow Jakes Café and Lido Nightclub intervention - which was set up to explore the differing aspects of the physical, emotional, political and communal change that was taking place in Margate, as an area designated for arts-led regeneration through the Turner Contemporary.​

The conclusions drawn in this paper are a result of a series of detailed discussions between Loretta Lees - a social scientist who was undertaking pilot research in Margate for an AHRC project on art-led regeneration and urban social inclusion and conceptual events producer, John McKiernan – who founded the micro events company Platform-7, which through conceptual live art performance and exhibitions explores and attempts to understand social issues facing the Western world and how people live life today. Loretta Lees has reviewed the evidence base on art-led regeneration and urban social inclusion in the UK and concluded that the evidence base is both limited and poor and that better measures are needed (Lees and Melhuish, 2013). She advocates more qualitative methods of measurement such as ethnography, rather than the general quantitative measures that have tended to dominate arts evaluations, as such John McKiernan’s Moonbow Jakes Café and Lido Nightclub intervention was an invaluable piece of ethnography in its own right through which to consider the efficacy of arts-led regeneration in Margate.

View the Margate [gallery here] and see the intervention summary [here]

To read the full essay [here]

Loretta Lees biography and contact details

Loretta Lees is an urban geographer who has recently taken up the position of Director of Research in Geography at the University of Leicester, before that she was Chair in Geography and the Director of the Cities Research Group at King’s College London. Loretta is an international expert on gentrification and urban regeneration, global urbanism, urban policy, urban public space, architecture and urban social theory. Her comparative research has charted the changing nature of gentrification processes (see Lees, Slater and Wyly, 2008, Gentrification, Routledge), the effectiveness of arts- and design-led regeneration policies (see Lees and Melhuish, 2013, Arts-led regeneration in the UK: the rhetoric and the evidence on urban social inclusion, European Urban and Regional Studies), and the effects of social mixing on the meaning and character of public space and urban community, in, inter alia, the US, Canada, the UK, and Europe. Her current work is extending this to the global south and east. She has also led on attempts to forge a critical geography of architecture that takes account of both the materiality and immateriality of the built environment. She has extensive experience with end-user engagement: she was an expert guest onto the new Regeneration Committee at the GLA and the City of Vancouver Major’s Office have invited her to input into their Downtown Eastside Plan. She has also collaborated successfully with ODPM, The Peabody Trust, Arup and CABE, among others. She is currently working on An Anti-Gentrification Toolkit for London, a result of an Antipode-Activist Scholar Award in which she has worked with Just Space, the London Tenants Federation and Southwark Notes Archive Group. She has also written with John McKiernan - Art-led regeneration in Margate: learning from Moonbow Jakes café and Lido Nightclub intervention, forthcoming in Art and the Public Sphere. She is co-organiser of The Urban Salon: A London forum for architecture, cities and international urbanism (see

John McKiernan biography and contact details

John McKiernan is the founder of Platform-7 Events, a five-year research project that uses various forms of live abstract art performance in public spaces to explore community, regeneration, social exclusion, environment, technology, conflict and war. Previously, John founded and run Moonbow Jakes Coffee Bars in south east London (1998-2009) and spent 9 years working in above-the-line advertising agencies including BBH (1987-89) and GGT (1989-1995). John has travelled extensively including a 18-month journey across India, Australasia and North America, working in Australia and USA (1995-1997).

#margate #academic #intervention

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