Work gets underway for £2 million upgrade at Turner Contemporary

Turner Contemporary Credit Hufton + Crow

Work has begun on a £2 million upgrade at Turner Contemporary following the appointment of WW Martin Ltd, the Ramsgate-based construction company.

The gallery is now closed until February 2021 while the works take place, which will include a redesigned retail area which will showcase products and artworks from the gallery’s creative community, new and additional toilet facilities, new café furniture, installation of lighter doors to each of the galleries and faster Wi-Fi. The CCTV system will be upgraded, and a new finishing kitchen will improve the capacity of the café and enable it to stay open during events.

Improving the environmental efficiency of the building is central to the building works, including the replacement of halogen lighting with LED lighting which will greatly reduce electricity consumption and costs.

The aim is for the gallery to increase its financial resilience and provide a better experience for the thousands of visitors that it welcomes each year. An 86 space, fee charged car park to bring income into the gallery is also planned for a separate works project. This project is now going through the procurement process, with a management contract to be followed by the appointment of a contractor to carry out the work.

In February 2021, the gallery will reopen for its 10th anniversary celebrations with a programme of new exhibitions and learning activities.

Children at Turner Contemporary Photography by John Sainsbury

The works follow almost 10 years of operation, in which Turner Contemporary has attracted 3.5million visits and established an international reputation for artistic and learning excellence.

In 2019, the gallery brought the world-famous Turner Prize 2019 to Kent, and saw significantly increased visits during the autumn season. The building was also featured on the new £20 note which launched in February 2020.  This summer, Turner Contemporary opened with new measures in place and welcomed 24,000 visits from July 22 to September 7.

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

KCC is contributing £1.28 million towards the capital scheme with £495,000 coming from Arts Council England. The works have been in planning since 2018.

Mike Hill, KCC’s Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Services, said: “KCC is supporting these important works to Turner Contemporary to build on the outstanding success of the gallery since it opened almost 10 years ago.

“These improvements will not only improve the experience that thousands of visitors enjoy every year; they will secure the sustainability of the gallery which will in turn boost the local economy in Margate and the surrounding areas.”

Clive Stevens, Chair of Turner Contemporary, said: “It’s fantastic that works have begun here at Turner Contemporary. We are pleased to be working with a locally based contractor to realise the capital improvements, funded by Kent County Council and Arts Council England.

“This comes ahead of our tenth anniversary year in 2021, when there is an exciting programme of exhibitions planned to mark the gallery’s birthday. 2021 will be an opportunity to celebrate the phenomenal impact that Turner Contemporary has had on Margate, Thanet and Kent, and look ahead to the next decade. As the sector at large faces challenges in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, this project aims to support the gallery’s future and recognises the vital role that arts and creativity play in our society.”

Perpetual Canon at Turner Contemporary 2018

WW Martin Director Mike Darling said: “As a Kent contractor, we are delighted to be working at Turner Contemporary.  To undertake a programme of improvement works in what is widely recognised as a landmark building in Kent is an exciting opportunity for our business.”

Hedley Swain, Area Director, South East, Arts Council England, said: “Turner Contemporary is a wonderful gallery that has contributed so much to both Margate and Kent, not just for illustrating the vital role that arts and culture can play in our communities, but also for the positive economic impact that it drives. It is great to see that these works have now started, helping to support the gallery’s long-term future.”


  1. I’ve nothing against the Turner center and call me cynical but if they are closed for a refurb, why did they need that £104k handout.

    • The bigger question is why a bunch of Papier mache people in seats & a load of brass instruments put on a wall considered art? Why did Tracey Emin’s dirty bed sell for 2.5 million? Why do the cleaners at these modern art galleries/exhibitions keep throwing out the exhibits thinking they are just pieces of rubbish/junk that nobody in their right mind would have any interest in or want to buy? Why is this pretentious nonsense that anybody can do lauded & why is it getting any kind of funding? Victoria Pompousry must be laughing all the way to the bank.

      • Totally agree I find it scandalous that a building only 10 years old needs 2 million spending on it. Disgraceful. On the plus side art is going to save margate thanet, kent, England and the world so its improved an area of about 100 yards radius of the shed at a cost of nearly 20 million so valve for money !.

        I really dont get how the arts get a free pass, charge an entry fee.

  2. I find it hard to believe that a 10 year old building needs two million spent on it.
    I also feel that if they charged a minimum 50p entrance fee nobody would mind and they wouldn’t have to rely on handouts..

  3. and yet disabled older people have to use there disability money and pensions to pay for carers,we certainly have prioritys right!

  4. This is really absurd in a place of poverty, where much of the population is living below the standards. How can KCC keep pumping hard to find money into this arts centre? How does the Turner keep applying for and getting grants in the hundreds of thousands when kids are going to school without having a breakfast and sometimes a lunch also? Cliftonville West is full of bad non maintained rental accommodation with families living in desperate situations relying on the local charity foodbanks to survive yet this art centre is draining the authorities of funds that could and should be used to make life a bit better for those in poverty under the Tory government making. A two class system, those with plenty and those with nothing!
    We have seen no improvement in the area ten years after the Turner centre was opened in Margate, the management of the Turner have brought no schemes forward to help those living in need around it either. It’s just them and us! Extremely disappointing to hear this news.

    • Because TDC/KCC have put all their Thanet/Margate eggs in one basket & pronounced it as the saviour of the area-no doubt there has been a burgeoning luvvie/arty sector off of it in the old town area, but the high street, seafront & Cliftonville has been ignored/left to rot. It gets famous people waxing lyrical about it on television & the national press/social media which the politicians love-of course none of them despite their vast wealth stump up any cash in times like this & why would they when these places get vast amounts of subsidies?

      This was never aimed at the average Joe-if it was then it would never have been located in Thanet in the first place & would have been put in Brighton or somewhere arty/wealthy/cosmopolitan, it was for the art crowd in London piggybacking off the Turner name-despite having nothing of his for a long time after it opened & of course Emin’s name. If I remember correctly when it opened it opened to the ‘great & the good’ of the art crowd to have a piss-up & the peasants had to wait a day or two to be let in.

      The centre exists purely to be pretentious, elitist & to siphon as much cash from grants as possible by hanging a few things on giant white painted walls like all the other modern galleries/art exhibitions.

    • Surely having had nearly 10 years of selective licensing , all the licence fee cash and the might of TDC,there can longer be any substandard housing in the private rented sector in cliftonville west.
      Though it does look like Riverside is going for the dishevelled tatty look associated with cliftonville with the manner in which Hatherley Court in Edgar Road is maintained.

  5. What about the outside ? Its disgrace . It needs a good clean…But saying that KCC should be ashamed of themselves.People homeless on the Streets .
    No decent housing for people who are unable to get any type of Mortgage ..Health & Social Services and Disability Services suffering. This News comes amid Covid when Peoples livelihoods and businesses are collapsing .Not even decent toilets for our Tourists .Roads are left in an appalling state after the Contracters have done their bit.Parking charges through the roof .Our Council Tax and Water charges are extortionate compared to other Councils
    How can KKC justify their actions at a time like this ???

  6. Headlines:£2 million refurb for the Turner Centre followed by Thanet has 2nd worst child poverty in the country. We should be ashamed to allow this to happen. But, as someone pointed out art will be the saviour of Thanet, certainly saves our wealthy lovies an entrance fee. Tory Britain 2020 and beyond. Disgracefu!!!

  7. So the stories go in Order Turner Centre receiving a huge amount of funding then underneath head lines that Thanet has the second highest child poverty rates in the south of England and the highest in Kent . How does that work , in what world is that acceptable.

  8. I just not understand why art gets a free ride. Why do us tax payers have to fund their hobby ?
    If I want to go to a football match I have to pay , if I want to play golf I have to pay etc yet art is free. I am happy to pay for our NHS, police, fire brigade, schools, etc but not the arty people. No this is so wrong that kids are in poverty yet millions is spent on a building less than 10 years old and doesnt even charge an entrance fee to help maintain it. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Margate has the worst high street in thanet by miles this shed has bought nothing to thanet apart from a few new shops within a few hundred yards of it.
    Is the new car to stop the Arty people from having to park in margate and see the real rundown Margate ? So they dont have to walk passed the homeless ? So they dont have to walk passed all the empty shops ?

    • UK’s Creative Industries contributes almost £13 million to the UK economy every hour. New government figures show the country’s successful creative industries contributed £111.7 billion to the UK in 2018, equivalent to £306 million every day.6 Feb 2020
      So even if you have no curiousity, get no joy or spiritual strength from either making stuff or seeing others’ creativity, at least the arty people are fuelling the economy.

      • Would fuel it even more if the arty people paid to go in the shed instead of relying on mind and others taxes

      • So if art is making so much money for the uk why does it need tax payers money to fund its galleries ? Why cant they pay for their own maintenance and repairs after all like you say it earns millions

      • What is the point in trying to inform when they have ears that are deafened by their own point of view? Seriously, “shed”, “junk”, “bulldozers” and “arty types? This is the hackneyed rhetoric of those who dwell in the darkness. Still, worth a try! 🙂

        • They have such original arguments too. Someone got their art in a right muddle recently & referring to a Turner painting said that their 5 year old could do better. I immediately offered to be said child’s agent. 😍. Up with the arty types!!

  9. What a waste of public money! They should charge a minimal amount on the way in (£1 – £2) There are so many other things that are more important than this in Thanet that needs this money, the people that signed this off should be ashamed.

    We have been once and to be honest it is no Tate, it is full of a load of old rubbish, we were in and out in under 45 minutes. That is why they should charge to go in, then they would see the real numbers of how many people are actually prepared to pay to see this junk.

    My advice to Thanet council is always do the opposite of what you are thinking, then you might actually do the right thing for your council tax paying residents for once!

    • I agree.ive never set foot in the place,and the stuff in there called art load of rubbish,this money should not be wasted on this eyesore.

      • If you’ve never been to any of the exhibitions then you have not seen any of the exhibits and are not in a position to judge them.

      • A clever clairvoyant that Mark Durrant. He knows the stuff in the Turner is a load of rubbish – But he’s never set foot in the place. What’s your secret Mark?

    • You went once for less than 45 minutes? Wow. I’m impressed. You obviously therefore have an in depth knowledge of the gallery. I’m in awe.

      • Well he lasted longer than me I saw it all in less than 10 minutes, great big rooms with just one bit of ‘art’ like a chair !! 10 minutes max for me I even had to ask if there was another floor because I couldnt believe it took me less than 10 minutes to walk around the shed

  10. Why bring a massive increase in car parking on the seafront? And why should a cultural venue be basing income from car parking in the town? When Turner was conceived and first built car parking was supposed to be at the Morrison’s car park site and then it encouraged footfall through the Old Town. Why encourage seafront car parking which has a cost of environmental impact for residents and other businesses.

    • I would guess the idea for parking by the shed is so the arty people dont have to walk thought margate and see the real margate. They just drive down from London park with a nice view of the sea and than spend a few hours without paying a penny to look at ‘art’ or unmade beds and things. And than spend a few quid in the arty shops within a couple of hundred yards around the shed than go home.

  11. Don’t assume that all visitors from London drive here. I know several who come by train, which is much simpler, quicker and less stressful.

    I do not think there should be a new car park. Why not a shuttle bus service to and from the station?

    • And who will pay and fund a shuttle bus service for Turner Centre? You also appear to have a problem with cars which many of us need, not being able to use a bus or train. Are you new to Thanet from London by any chance?

      • I have got a problem with cars and judging by the comments on this paper so do plenty of other people in Thanet, whether they have one or not.

        Where I have lived is not relevant to the subject.

  12. I suspect that all of those moaning about The Turner Contemporary being free would be screaming “elitist” if they were to charge.

    Furthermore, a lack of understanding about the positive impact of the gallery does not justify the moans. Just having an opinion does not make you right. Doing some research and formulating a broader and more INFORMED response is likely to be far more convincing. Without a more balanced and informed view, the nay-sayers sound like bored and angry people wanting to vent for the sake of it.

    The curation at The Turner, over the years, has been exemplary in my opinion and has offered something for everybody. If you are not the type of person who finds the culture it promotes edifying then fine, but why must the rest of us stoop to your lowest common denominator?

    Talk of bulldozers and ‘arty types’ is patently ridiculous. The Turner, with a little investment from the taxpayer, brings in visitor revenue to Margate. Beyond that, however, it serves as a vital space for serious reflection on the human condition. Something, I would have thought, would be essential right now as we speedily head toward hell in a handcart.

    If that is not your bent, then there is also enough pretty stuff to distract you from the travails of the U.K in 2020.

    • ‘Hell in a handcart’ – and you accuse others of using hackneyed rhetoric!
      ‘Little investment from the taxpayer’ – like £20 million-plus and climbing.
      And yes, this figure is ‘informed’. Whether via local council, county council, Government, Arts Council or Europe, the money has come from taxes.
      I applaud the comment made by the chap asking why he should have to pay to watch a football match, yet the gallery is free.
      Could it just be that charging would expose a more realistic audience figure?

    • Clifford Sax

      So the fact that you think over 20 million of ours taxes is paid to support your hobby says all I need to know. You thinks it’s right that you dont pay a penny to enter the shed sorry turner centre. How is that fair, i spend over 2k year following my hobby which comes out of my hard earn wages. Yes it’s my choice and i am happy to pay it.
      Yet your hobby is also paid by ne through my taxes, and that’s be honest it’s not art an unmade bed some paper mache figures, it just middle/up class rubbish, who get the working classes to pay for your hobby.

      • Confused. If you want to start a culture war, you are picking on the wrong person.

        Your reductionist argument regarding taxes can be easily responded to with a broader discussion about what is funded by tax payers in this country and the broader good. It is not something that can be done any justice here but I can offer an illustrative example: the NHS. Should we not provide care for all of those people who need our tax money to heal them from ill health resulting from their ‘hobbies’? Shall we start with the smokers, the drinkers, the recreational sexers? How about rock climbers or those who get into trouble on their boats? What about children who break a bone whilst engaging in their chosen sport?

        What if I protest my tax contribution based on my non-engagement? Why, for example, should I contribute to funding anything at all that does not have a direct impact on my own world?

        The answer? The greater good.

        It is of no interest to me if you are unable to see the greater good that art and culture contribute to society but regardless of your denial, it does. That is a fact.

        I know that this is likely falling on deaf ears, and it is unfortunate that you relegate art to being a hobby of the middle classes and upper classes but again, I have to contradict you. That is simply not true. I am neither. Finding value in the arts has nothing to do with class and the Turner Contemporary being free to enter is part of it being accessible to all. It is an egalitarian space.

        Your repeated and distorted description of the exhibits which, I assume, is meant to characterise a space full of inaccessible, amateur art, is also deeply unfair and a ridiculous distortion. Over the last 10 years, the Turner has not only exhibited a dizzying and diverse range of art but also been responsible for pioneering educational programmes for young people. I can personally testify to the benefit of these programmes and accessibility to art for young people. I have made many trips to the gallery with SEN students. Did you know that cultural engagement improves cognitive function and can reduce depression?

        Anyway, as I said – the greater good.

        • Clifford Sax

          It is well know that sport helps to fight depression and helps the greater good. But if I want to go swimming, use a gym etc I have to pay. So why do art get a free pass. I wish I had the time and funds to go swimming, why cant swimming be free to all ? I cant afford about a tenner a week but you can look at you art for as long as you like for free. Fair ? I dont think so. Perhaps the money would have been better spent on having free sports centres, to help with peoples physical and mental well being.
          I dont care on jot about art just the fact a building less than 10 years old needs another 2 million spending on it has had o e 3 million visitors and not made a penny . How does the Turner centre raise funds to pay its rates or is that free as well !

      • The Turner has had much more than Tracey Emin’s bed and the figures mentioned above.
        I’ve looked at several exhibitions there: some I liked, some I didn’t.

        Confused- you can swim in the sea for free.

  13. Confused. Please read the Turner Contemporary Social Value report, as I have done. It will answer all of your questions and you can then change your moniker from ‘confused’ to ‘enlightened’!

    It will explain the benefits, both social AND financial and you will see that they are extensive.

    I appreciate that you are ‘sporty’ and not ‘arty’ but they are not mutually exclusive. I, for example, am both.

    Also, I can get fit and healthy without forking out for a gym membership or swimming pool membership. If I want to engage in team sports we have open spaces that are free. If I want to swim, the sea is a few minutes walk away (are you aware of the benefits of sea bathing)? I walk everywhere and exercise daily. If motivated to improve health and wellbeing there are countless free options available.

    If I want to ponder the creative output of world class artists, I need to go to a gallery.

    Also, there are various arts that I have to pay for: Opera, Theatre, Orchestral Music, ensembles, most live music in fact (be it Streisand or Strauss).

    So, forgive me if I dismiss your crocodile tears about having to fork out for a swim when the sea is on your doorstep (with numerous tidal pools no less).

    Forgive also, my dismissal of your economic argument. What does the local gym contribute to the wider economy – visitors spending days and weekends whilst paying for accommodation, meals out and more? No.

    “Let’s go to Margate for the weekend, I fancy a workout!” (said nobody ever).

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