Former Sunshine Cafe doors to open for Turner Prize exhibition

Dreamland Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty

The former Sunshine Café on Margate seafront will open its doors again for the first time since 2011.

The Dreamland Cinema complex opened with considerable fanfare in March 1935. Following closure during World War Two, the cinema complex reopened in 1946 with the Sunshine Cafe as a billiard hall. Since then, the space has been a musical hall, a bingo hall and a childrens’ play area. Its last use, as the ‘Oriental Buffet’, ceased in 2011. The cinemas and bingo hall closed in 2008.

The 1930s Grade II* listed building is now to be the venue for a five week long contemporary art exhibition featuring past Turner Prize winners and nominees.

Opening on Friday, September 13 the exhibition ‘We Must Cultivate our Garden’ will raise funds for new arts and education charity The Sixteen Trust.

The Sixteen Trust is a new arts and education charity aimed at giving opportunities and raising aspirations for 11-16 year olds in deprived parts of the UK.

As part of the exhibition, pieces created by members of the Thanet community who have been attending weekly art workshops will be on display. They will be shown alongside the work from former Turner Prize winners and nominees including Margate’s Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst and Jeremy Deller.

Thanet council leader Cllr Bob Bayford said: “The Sunshine Cafe is an iconic building in Margate and has a rich history. Opening the space up as a gallery will give people the opportunity to see some outstanding contemporary art, as well as a chance to get up close to one of Margate’s finest architectural gems.

“It’s wonderful to see Margate’s rising profile as a creative destination of choice, with the Turner Prize coming to the town to reinforce that view. This project is a fantastic example of how working in partnership we can harness, art, education and location to forge new connections and shift perspectives.”

Lee Cavaliere, exhibition curator and founder of The Sixteen Trust, said: “We are delighted to be bringing the work some of contemporary arts’ greatest artistic talents to Margate. This project will raise money for the Sixteen Trust.  The charity’s core focus is on creating opportunities for young people with historically low engagement with the arts. Thanet council has been supportive from the outset and we’ve really worked positively together to bring the exhibition to fruition.”

Photo TDC

Thanet council has worked in partnership with the exhibition organiser and founder of The Sixteen Trust to facilitate the reopening of the space which is usually closed to the public. As a Grade 2* listed building there have been few opportunities to access it in recent years. Restoration work to the windows was competed in 2017.

The Sunshine Cafe exhibition ‘We Must Cultivate our Garden’ will be open Friday to Sunday from 12pm until 5pm, Friday, September 13 to Friday, October 18.


  1. Good news for the town I look forward to the restoration of this iconic cinema building perhaps the ground format Bali hi bar and former arcade could be turned into an exhibition of the glory days of projected cinema.

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