Kent County Council agrees to move ahead with £2million Turner Contemporary upgrade

Turner Contemporary Photo Visit Thanet

The go-ahead to undertake legal agreements connected to a £1.5million grant for work on Turner Contemporary has been approved by Kent County Council.

The county council money, plus a £495,000 contribution from Arts Council England, will be used to reconfigure and update Turner Contemporary (TC) and the Rendezvous site in Margate.

The project, which will be carried out in two phases, in January and then major works in September next year, will include the creation of an 86 space, fee charged car park to bring income into the gallery.

Cash will be used for a finishing kitchen – to cater for events and conferences- and shop upgrades, install LED lighting to reduce running costs, carry out a broadband upgrade and introduce AV equipment .

There will also be automatic front and gallery doors to improve access, and increased and upgraded toilets, new signs, a CCTV upgrade and external storage.

County council funding

Photo Dean Spinks

The latest grant is in addition to some £11,3million in county council grants, on top of an initial £6.4 million of the original  £17.5 million spend on the art gallery build, between 2011 and March 31, 2019.

County council contributions, according to accounts lodged with the Charity Commission and, prior to that, Companies House, are for core funding, the Rendezvous site and various projects. These include this year’s Turner Prize for which KCC contributed £40,000.

In the financial year 2018-2019 the gallery’s total income amounted to £3,125,404. Expenditure amounted to £2,877,691.

In 2017-18 the income was £3,375,724 with expenditure of £2,695,452.

Kent County Council’s  core grant in 2014 and again in 2015  was £990,000 per tax year. In 2016 the grant was £890,000 and 2017 it was £840,000.

In 2018 and 2019 (up until March 31) the amount was £790,000.This was in addition to Rendezvous funds of £295,000, capital funds of  £10,235 and Creative Coast funding of £10,000 – making some £1.145million in the 2018-19 financial year.

The need to upgrade

Perpetual Canon previously at Turner Contemporary

At a county council meeting where members approved going ahead with legal agreements related to the latest sum Cllr Sarah Hohler, who is a Turner Contemporary trustee, said: “It is our (KCC) project and our building. It needs reconfiguring to keep up the standard.”

Calling the original KCC decision to go ahead with the project “brave and bold,” Cllr Hohler said it had been a huge success with 3million visitors -double the predicted yearly numbers – generating £70million in the local economy and being the driver for 40 new businesses in the Old Town and Cliftonville.

KCC’s Corporate Director Growth, Environment and Transport Barbara Cooper told councillors investment had originally been proposed at £6million to create a new wing at Turner Contemporary.

This scheme has been dropped in favour of the £2million project.

She added: “It is something we need to do in order to equip Turner Contemporary with the best chance it’s got for the next ten years.”

Thanet councillor Ros Binks raised the issue of the costs, saying: “I look at this list and I do not see £2million.” She also questioned why works needed to be undertaken just eight years into the life of the building.

It was agreed a breakdown of costs would be shared after the meeting. Cllr Cooper said the huge number of visitors meant some areas, such as the toilets, were “looking tired.”

RNLI and Margate Yacht Club

Councillors approved going ahead with a Memorandum of Understanding and Collaboration Agreement with Turner Contemporary, the RNLI, Margate Yacht Club and Arts Council England.

Margate RNLI and Margate Yacht Club both use the Rendezvous site.

Margate Yacht Club recently put its Fort Hill property up for sale with plans to reinvest into facilities.

Margate RNLI has been investigating options for a new base.

The RNLI will be served notice on the site, at latest when the lease expires in April 2021, for the current boathouse which is based behind Turner Contemporary.

Works at Margate harbour Photo Cliff Tamplin

The current site will become untenable as Turner Contemporary carries out the expansion plans RNLI investigatory works at the harbour were carried out last year.

Tony Witton, KCC;’s Arts and Culture service manager, told the meeting that work to “refresh and review” costs was ongoing.

He added: “We believe we have got the best value packages for each element of work. Challenges are working in an existing building. The gallery has high quality finishes that we need to match.”

He also said KCC was ‘working very closely’ with Margate RNLI and Margate Yacht Club, saying it was evident it is important for the yacht club to have that local base and “we are working to make sure that remains.”

Research on benefits to Thanet

Children’s takeover day at Turner Contemporary Photography by John Sainsbury

A Turner Contemporary spokesperson said: “Since opening in 2011, the impact of Turner Contemporary has exceeded all expectations. It has welcomed 3.4million visits and worked with over 100,000 children and young people to offer them the opportunity to access world class art and develop vital creative skills.

“Independent research shows that opening Turner Contemporary has benefited the local economy by £70million through more people visiting the local area and spending at local businesses, the creation of jobs and the gallery’s use of local suppliers.

Turner Prize: Oscar Murillo (Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Stuart Wilson/Getty Images for Turner Contemporary)

“It’s success has been recognised nationally and internationally, most recently the gallery’s iconic building was chosen to feature on the new £20 note and  is currently hosting Turner Prize 2019, the most prestigious prize for contemporary art in the world.

The new £20 note

“It has worked to change perceptions and raise aspirations in one of the most deprived areas in the UK and has had proven economic and social impact. There is still considerable work to do and Margate’s creative ecology remains fragile.

“Going forward, the capital scheme, delivered in partnership with Kent County Council and  Arts Council England, will enable the gallery to build on its success to date and support it in its journey to becoming more sustainable, bringing increased opportunities to drive income.

Photo Manu Palomeque

“The capital scheme will make improvements to the well-used public areas within the gallery, thereby ensuring that it continues to offer excellent visitor experience. However, the gallery’s ongoing work to inspire change for the community relies on public investment as well as generous donations from trusts, foundations and individuals. Across the UK, many national and regional museums amd galleries are in receipt of public investment to deliver great art for everyone.

“These facts are drawn from independent research undertaken by Canterbury Christ Church University. The university conducts surveys and uses robust sample sizes and economic modelling drawn from the Treasury to calculate Turner Contemporary’s impact.”

KCC contributions (according to Charity Commission and Companies House account documents)


2019 (up until March 31) core £790,000, Turner Prize £40,000, Rendezvous £295,000, Capital funds of £10,235 and Creative Coast funding of £10,000


Kent County Council – Core £790,000, Rendezvous £295,000, Capital £15,120, Creative Coast £14,000


Kent County Council – Core £840,000, Rendezvous £295,000


Kent County Council – Core £840,000, Rendezvous £295,000, Programme £30,430


Kent County Council – Core £990,000, Rendezvous £295,000. Other £40,730, Capital £17,000


Kent County Council- Core £990,000, Rendezvous £295,000, Other  £8000


Kent County Council – Core  £1,091,400, Rendezvous £295,000, Other £175,978


Local authority grants £1,426,676


Local authority grants – £1,137,982


  1. Just a pity that KCC did not proceed with the proposed hotel next to the Turner Centre then lease it out to a hotel group. The capital investment could have been returned by way of purchasing of a lease and a yearly rental income by way of a percentage of the hotels income revenue.

  2. As I have said many a time before, if he Turner needs money for any improvements. The answer is simple charge a small £10 entrance fee to go in. Also who will get the money for the car park fees? Will it go to KCC to repay them or TDC to repay them for loss of the Rendezvous car park. Or am I being naïve and The Turner Centre will keep it.

  3. Not another car park, for goodness’ sake! How about funding a shuttle bus service to and from Margate Station instead?

  4. We need money put into housing and nhs not art sorry I like art but other things are sorely needed before art children in poverty need clothes and food and proper housing without damp and mould this should come before art and leisure surely

      • Nobody has to pay to go into the Turner. Donations are optional. Why then are its visitors mostly middle-class (if such is indeed the case)?

  5. Well that will keep the arty people happy , sod the real needs of thanet. Why do we have to pay for the arty people to have free access when they can easily afford to pay ?

  6. Not everyone who goes to art galleries is well-off. By “arty” I assume you mean “interested in looking at art”, rather than “artistic” or “a practising artist”.

    • Not everyone, but the article says they have spent seventy million pound in the local economy. Personally I wonder how many people came to Margate and popped in for something to do, rather than came with the turner contemporary their main aim. The arts have always had a larger share of the pie than they ought to.

  7. Hardly surprising the “arts” community are the epitome of the liberal attitudes that have largely taken over the media and politics, why when the “liberal elites” have become so influential is it any surprise that they push their own interests.
    The figures show that the TC has not been self sufficient since the day it opened and is now coming back for upgrades relatively soon after opening, that both the TC and Dreamland have required such huge financial inputs from the public purse ( ending with dreamland mired in confusion and corporate finegaling), rather suggests margate has some more entrenched problems. Not hard to see them when you venture past the bits that have been scrubbed up.
    Had an interesting chat with a visitor at the garlinge filling station, who summed things up “ margate was very disappointing , i can see why there’s a queue for fuel to leave”.

    The turner will never be the turning point for the town people envisage, it’ll keep attracting those coming from london who can set up small businesses with savings and capital from property sold in the capital, they’ll then live their own little dream happily existing on modest incomes, which is great for them but does little for the town. My experience is that about half the dfl’s return to london when the margate they expected doesn’t materialise.

    Time will tell

  8. that sums up the KCC s-d the people who cannot get a bus to get out because of cut backs yet can spend millions on art, its about time we the public voted KCC as useless

  9. Even Canterbury Cathedral has stopped asking for donations for entry, and charges a entrance fee of £12.50 for adults and £8.50 for children. Come on Turner Centre start earning your keep.

    • Never going to happen, impose any meaningful entry fee (£5 or over) and on the one hand you’d be getting true figures on entry numbers ( rather than those estimated from the sensors on the doors) and on the other the numbers would be much reduced as many of the casual browsing visitors would choose not to enter.
      Both would greatly alter the message of great success that’s currently promoted. In the modern world of spin , self promotion and an inability to accept a mistake, nothing that deviates from the official line will be entertained.
      Is a carpark and revamped cafe along with what seems to be a plan to run commercial events ever going to recoup the initial investment the additional investment now proposed and the ongoing running cost “top ups”. The TC needs to be self sufficient at some point but not at massive cost to get it there in provision of revenue earning add ons. Not sure a car park that negates the need of visitors to pass through other parts of the town is such a good idea.

  10. A car park is a terrible idea anyway. KCC should be doing things which encourage the use of public transport.

  11. The list of kcc total contributions is a disgrace all that money spent on one small section of the thanet community.

    • Spot on confused, here we are apparently about to vote in the Conservatives to continue doing what KCC (Conservative lead) are doing by handing out our money to the arty, elitists, mainly from London, on the pretence that it’s good for our economy. What would be good for the majority in Thanet is a change of government, unfortunately, so many people have bought into the lies that Boris and his money men have been peddling. How can we even consider using this money when you read what the headmaster of a local school has to say about the lack of investment for his school meaning that the school has to provide what I’d expect a good social service to provide. Vote Labour, if you’re undecided, if you have the interests of the many not just the few.

  12. So roughly speaking the turner centre has been given £13,750,000. Think about that people,….. the art people of thanet have had £13,750,000 spent on them……is that fair ?

    • Life’s a rich tapestry, i’ve no problem with original funding and a bit of ongoing assistance, but its time that stopped and the TC either stood on its own feet or folded, chucking more money at it to try and make it self sufficient just 8 years in doesn’t bode well.

  13. KCC pushing the Margate yacht club and RNLI out of the Rendevouz so it can spend millions more on the TC is just mind numbing nonsense and not what the majority of Kent would want their money spent on. There is so much more it could be put towards to improve the whole area rather than one business.

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