Funding for research project aimed at making Ramsgate a centre for creative businesses

The isle has seen a massive growth in artists-led businesses

Research aimed at establishing Ramsgate as a centre for creative businesses will be carried out by a community interest company founded by former Thanet council community services director Rob Kenyon.

Mr Kenyon, who left the authority in 2017, is joined by Dreamland Trust chairperson Bernie Morgan and construction boss Derek Newman at Heritage Lab CIC.

Kent and Medway’s inward investment agency, Locate in Kent, is partnering with Arts Council England and Heritage Lab for the major research project.

The digital and creative industries have been highlighted by government as a priority for growth with the aim for the UK to become a world leader in this area. Thanet district is already putting down a marker with businesses in this sector growing by an impressive 84% in the four years to 2017.

Photo Brian Whitehead

Locate in Kent and Arts Council England are jointly funding the work by Heritage Lab, which aims to regenerate historic buildings and community assets to make affordable space for the creative sector and community.

The research will help to determine the size, scope, needs and potential of the Ramsgate creative economy. It will look at the potential demand over the next five years for a range of creative space from studios and co-working projects to exhibition and performance space; and determine the area’s unique selling points and investment offer.

Ramsgate is one of the only Heritage Actions Zones (HAZ) in the UK and is home to more than 450 listed buildings. Many of the buildings are in poor condition, underused or remain empty but once restored could bring an increase in visitors and spend to support further regeneration.

Rob Kenyon

Mr Kenyon said: “Ramsgate is steeped in cultural heritage. World-renowned authors, artists and architects such as Jane Austen, Wilkie Collins, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Mary Townley, Vincent Van Gogh, Karl Marx and Augustus and Edward Pugin have all lived and thrived in Ramsgate. Its cultural and heritage assets are now attracting a new generation of successful creative professionals and this research will help us to help the sector to grow.”

Gavin Cleary, CEO, Locate in Kent, said: “We know that many creative industries and start ups are concentrated in areas with a high heritage density. With over 450 listed buildings, and only 63 minutes to London by train, Ramsgate is ideally placed for continued growth in the creative sector and is a prime location for those wanting to invest or relocate in Kent. This research will provide invaluable insight for investors and business leaders about the future opportunities in Ramsgate.”

Photo Brian Whitehead

Hedley Swain, Area Director, South East, Arts Council England, added: “Arts, culture and creativity can have a vital role in driving our economy and so it is really exciting to support Heritage Lab’s research project.

“I hope that this research creates a platform for Ramsgate to become a creative hub in the South East, providing the space and support for creative businesses, organisations and artists to thrive.”

Find out more about Heritage Lab CIC here


  1. This seems to be a very encouraging development . Britain’s finest painter of the first half of the last century, Walter Sickert, also lived in Thanet in the late 1930s, painting Margate Harbour, portraits, houses and allotments in Broadstairs and St Peters, teaching and exhibiting in Margate, while his 3rd wife Therese Lessore painted hop pickers. They were supported by a Thanet resident, Sir Alec Martin of the auctioneers Christies, and by the still existing Margate Lovely’s Gallery.
    Other major late 19th century painters such as Sir William Quiller Orchardson lived and painted in Thanet, while the American painter Whistler painted in Westgate. Thanet was where the first bungalows were built in Birchington in the 1880s, one of them adorned with sculpture by the lading sculptor Sir George Frampton. The Victorian Jewish architect Delissa Joseph built a stunning Arts and Crafts bungalow with a studio for his artist wife , the suffragette Lily. Solomon J Solomon , a highly successful portrait painter lived in another of them, and the painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti spent his last years in yet another. His grave monument with intriguing sculptural decoration still stands in the churchyard at Birchington.

  2. For the Birchington Bungalows see Alan Kay’s article in Birchington Heritage Trust Newsletter November 2002- February 2003 ‘The First Bungalow Estate’ . The architect was Rossetti’s friend John Pollard Seddon [1827-1906] . Charles Annesley Voysey was one of his pupils.
    The first bungalows had built in Westgate where on the cliff there are a series of very fine houses in the Arts and Crafts style designed by the architect, Charles Nightingale Beazley
    Ernest George and Peto also designed Arts and Crafts buildings on the Thanet coast, the finest of which is on the East Cliff in Ramsgate

  3. Ramsgate has all the potential (ask those Victorians) especially if/when the port opens its doors to the continent again just watch the small businesses thrive.

  4. Typically these schemes are aimed at encouraging incomers rather than residents with an artistic flair. In the last fifteen years we’ve seen a massive drop in creative opportunities for local talent in favour of incomers, and largely locally funded. I’d prefer to see indigenous creative talent developed and encouraged rather than making great economic opportunities for creatives who are already well developed and capitalised. Locals deserve more than the opportunity to wait tables for folk enjoying funding from their taxes.

    • What a negative response to what seems like an excellent idea and it does state in the article that it is aimed at incomers and the community.
      Look at what the Turner Gallery has done for Margate.

      • You might not agree with my point of view but it doesn’t make it a negative one. I’d like to look at what the Turner has done for Margate but there’s no metrics which might show what this actually is. There’s no independent auditing of the Turner so what is often claimed about the Turner is nothing more than a claim, and there’s no hint of what else might have been achieved with the same amount of money.

  5. Sandra, Brenda’s point is very fair and factual. Turner Contemporary has been a highly subsidised project to regenerate Margate. This, however, does nothing for the poor in the community other than raise rents and property prices. This proposal by Rob Kenyon and his decorative shirts says more about middle-class ambition than genuine regard for the majority of the local population who pay their taxes too.

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