A new lease of life for Margate’s Woolworths store

Renovating the Woolworths store

Report by Jodie Nesling

Woolies was once an integral part of Margate’s town centre and its closure a decade ago symbolised the decline of the High Street.

The store was purpose built at the corner of New Street for Woolworths in 1925 and traded its eclectic blend of pick ‘ n’ mix, records and then CDs and assorted items until the chain collapsed at the end of 2008.

But now the building is set to once again play a role in revitalising the area with plans for a cafe, exhibitions and co-working spaces on the ground floor.

The Margate School, who secured £499,000 from the Coastal Communities Fund in September, is currently renovating several floors of the former shop.

Uwe Derksen, school director, says they hope to lease the building from current owner Nick Conington who bought the building for £2million.

Photo M&L Genuine Ghost Experience LTD

“The ground floor will be for exhibitions and we have the first opening in September by Christopher Alexander who previously exhibited at Turner Contemporary,” he said.

Born in Margate, Christopher Alexander (1926 – 1982) was trained at the Royal College of Art after the Second World War, returning to Thanet in 1951 to teach figure drawing at Thanet School of Art and later Canterbury College of Art. He was a prolific artist and produced a huge number of drawings, paintings and prints including many of the local landscape and people.

The Margate School is also looking to offer technical support for creative industries with short courses; a Fine Art MA is set to start in the new academic year.

The school recently held an open day at the Woolworth’s site setting out their plans for the county’s first FabLab: a technical studio that specialises in 3D printing and computer-aided design.

Other sites are also being explored in a bid to bolster the provision which is intended to compliment Margate’s burgeoning creative industries.