Stretch arts charity win bid to turn Newgate Gap shelter into first UK outsider art museum

Newgate Gap Photo Seb Reilly

Stretch arts charity, which has been delivering arts projects to marginalised groups for almost 16 years and has had a base in Margate for one year, will take on the Newgate Gap sea shelter and create the first national museum for ‘outsider art.’

The charity, which was one of four groups to put in an expression of interest for the shelter, was revealed by Thanet council as the successful applicant today (November 12).

Stretch delivers arts projects with prisoners, ex-prisoners, homeless, mental health groups and young people in care, making the arts accessible to some of the most vulnerable people in society. Projects can cover visual arts, museums, photography, creative writing and media skills. The charity works with people to make their voice heard in order to dispel myths and stereotypes and create positive change.

It was set up in 2003 by former prisoner Carlotta Allum and has had a base in Margate, headed up by former prisoner turned artist, writer and curator Dean Stalham, for almost a year.

The charity has headed up high profile and award-winning projects in partnership with museums, galleries, artists and writers and for the past 6 years delivered digital storytelling projects and championing the role of unheard voices and ‘outsider’ art.

Carlotta (pictured) previously told The Isle of Thanet News that the proposal for the Newgate Gap shelter is for a sensitive rebuild costing approximately £500,000 and an outsider arts trail, workshops and exhibitions.

She said: “Over the life of the charity we have raised over £1million towards our various projects. We will establish the Stretch Outsider Art Gallery permanent fixture in Margate. After the success of our Outsider Art Festivals we wish to develop our connection with this town.

Stretch Outsider exhibition

“Margate is a special place, with a growing arts ecology, spirit of collaboration and a passion to connect art and the wider community – some wards are amongst the most disadvantaged in the UK. There is an atmosphere of creative risk taking and an influx of creative practitioners. Outsider art has found a natural home here, we will develop relationships with artists, festivals, the museum and the galleries. We will offer workshops and exhibitions for those marginalised by society. We will raise the status of Outsider Art.

“Stretch would like to open the first national museum for Outsider Art. The site has such an unusual and brilliant position we want to make it an iconic addition to the Margate art scene. Every year we would commission an “outsider art walk” of outsider art works and sculptures from Turner Contemporary along the sea front and up to the site.

“The vision is that the rebuild will be sensitive to the original features and incorporate as much of the roof and iron work as is safe and possible, ideally some of the original seats or a row of seats to take in the view at least, in a modern twist on the original pavilion design.”

Stretch  works with Central Saint Martins and their sustainable design department and the building would be set as a ‘material futures’ architecture project to be made from sustainable materials. There would be a covered outside seating area and sculpture garden that would become a ‘Outcider Bar’ in the summer months for people to enjoy a locally brewed drink after the sculpture trail.

Dean Stalham 

Dean has organised local support from the likes of The Margate School and has worked to build Stretch’s reputation in Margate.

He said: “This is an amazing opportunity not only for myself but for all Outsider artists- it will open doors that would normally have been closed.”

The shelter was subject to a building control notice and in October the roof and seating were removed.

Photo Seb Reilly

Tim Howes, Thanet council Director of Corporate Governance and Monitoring Officer, said: ““We were pleased to see four organisations coming forward with Community Asset Transfer bids to secure the future of the Newgate Gap Shelter in Margate.

“The successful applicant, the arts charity Stretch, has a 15 year track record of delivering art projects and championing the role of unheard voices and ‘outsider’ art.

“We are committed to empowering communities to create their own success stories through the community asset transfer process and look forward to this project being one of them. The bid included working closely with local community organisations and charities that support some of our most vulnerable residents.”

Stretch arts charity, which aims to apply for National Portfolio Organisation status in three years’ time, has taken on a permanent residency and hopes for backing from funders such as Arts Council England, Heritage Lottery Fund, Henry Smith Foundation and local community foundations.

6 Comments

  1. I am concerned about the finances and relevant experience of this group. If they dont fulfill on their grandiose, expensive scheme, all we will have is the derelict shelter. No guarantee that they won’t just sell the site on either

  2. I am also seriously concerned. What proven track record? Something fishy is afoot. I am not convinced at all and I think it is a poor choice by the Council/The Fund. Where is their experience in building on a site like this? Do they have to give the money back if they do not fulfill the brief? Too many questions for my liking. I would have steered well clear.

  3. Curious how similar the two anonymous messages are and both posted within a few minutes. If you have a comment at least have the gumption to say who you are. I think this has incredible potential and you should wait and see the detailed plans before you start making presumptious judgements

  4. Can I just make it clear Stretch have not ‘won’ any money, there are no ‘funds’ to spend or to be allocated ? It is a community asset transfer and the charity have to raise the money to carry out the plans they have, which is a huge job. The track record is in raising money of which the charity have (over £1million).

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