Margate Festival of Design to launch in September

Film director Arnold Schwartzman

The Margate Festival of Design, an event which will explore social and environmental matters through the language of design, launches this September.

A programme of talks, walks, workshops and exhibitions will draw together education, community and industry. The focus will be graphic design and it will be a festival for all, with many events free to attend. The festival is the brainchild of The Margate School – a not for profit postgraduate school and creative space based in an ex-Woolworths shop on Margate High Street.

Confirmed speakers are:

Thomas Sharp –

Mary Leonard of MRLD (More Reason — Less Decoration) –

Graham Wood –

Greg Bunbury –

GF Smith –

Louise Sloper, Creative Director & Founder at Here.We.Go.Studio –

Bernard Hay of Design Council –

Speakers and workshops by national design experts will be supported by local talent, community activities and an installation by The Margate School’s Visual Communication 2022 graduating students.

The Visual Communication course, Design, Society, Nature is integral to the festival, with students contributing to its planning through their academic curriculum.

The event will be opened by designer, author and Oscar winning film director Arnold Schwartzman OBE RDI FRSA, who grew up in the town and is the Patron of The Margate School.


  1. Grrr! An ‘event which will explore social and environmental matters’. Speaking of which, the loss of the Winter Gardens (and, basically almost all amenities and many good & interesting buildings in Margate) is a pressing social and environmental matter.

    How can Margate proudly host a festival of design whilst trashing its design heritage?

      • Do you speak for everyone in Margate and Thanet? I think you do people in Margate and the surrounding area a disservice by suggesting they are not interested in Art and Design. Everyone benefits from the arts and everyone benefits from better design and plenty of people from all walks of life enjoy appreciating and creating art. It’s important to be create events and so on that are inclusive – much of the design festival is free so it’s hardly exclusive. Why don’t you go to some of the talks, see what’s happening, maybe talk to a few people…you might realise the so called arty community ain’t so bad.

    • As I see it Carina, the Margate school has had well over £500,000 in grants.
      The poor old Winter Gardens £300,000 for a feasibility study.
      I know which one I would rather patronise.
      Kcc Cllr. Barry Lewis all age groups live in Thanet not just the arty people, newly moved to this area.
      Not everybody is interested in their style of art.
      As Carina has said, let us look after our heritage buildings as that is what Margate is all about. As far as I am concerned the Turner never really displays any real works of art like Turner, Constable,
      Gainsborough, real artists.

    • The design festival has literally nothing to do with the the Winter Gardens…it’s just a design festival run by the college. The council hasn’t put the money into refurbishing the Winter Gardens so the council is at fault there. Not the college.

  2. The closure of theatres is down to the tory run council.this project is free of the Tory policy of closing down art and should be welcomed. Margate is changing from a 20 th century culture into a modern diverse town, the quicker the better, so my mantra is to keep traditional enents, at the same time add new events.

    • If you really believe that tradition can survive the current agenda, you are likely to be disappointed.
      Its website describes The Margate School as a ‘not-for-profit postgraduate liberal arts school’. This press release omits the telling word ‘liberal’.
      ‘Inclusion’ can be a code for exclusion of those who do not share modish views.

  3. Hear what you’re saying Councillor Lewis. But it all sounds so jarringly upbeat & optimistic given the context of Margate in 2022. Yep, I know that sounds great & I try to cultivate such an approach to life in general … but sheer fury and protest would be more appropriate & galvanising than the same ol’ ‘isn’t everything just lovely’ approach of the arty milieu. Head in clouds stuff, just sales talk.

    • Carina, agree we must protest against closure of thanet s theatres, that why i was at the massive demonstration at the council offices last month against the closure of the winter gardens by the tory run council

      • Barry, the ONLY way you’ll unite people to protest is by you personally staying away! Seriously, NO representatives of ANY political parties should be involved, otherwise a significant number are automatically alienated (I love the Winter Gardens, but I wouldn’t go to a protest full of grubby lefties shouting “Tory scum!”).

  4. The way I see it is…we can welcome the arts as year round employment and give young people a career path or we can hope that the bucket and spade season continues its way to slow death and the area closes down between September and May. Encourage the new and the many new businesses it’s creating. The option is……

    • Johnny

      I have been trying to sell my teenagers unmade bed for months now.

      He is a great artist his bed and his bedroom floor are a work of art.

      He trys very hard in making this art.

      He doesnt just throw his smelly pants anywhere or his smelly socks, he thinks long and hard as to where to throw them.

      His painting is as good as any 5 year old.

      His career is going well he produces alot but earns sod all.

  5. How would you assess the Winter Gardens’ chances of survival Councillor Lewis?

    As for the Arts as a career path … it’s not great. And I’d say it was mostly a wing of the tourist industry here but admittedly with a longer season.

    I think my main point is that this town has many wonderful buildings and facilities for tourists and residents alike to use and enjoy. But ‘has’ is fast changing to ‘had’. They contribute to Margate’s year round appeal as well as making this a good place in which to live. I don’t object to Art, far from it, I object to its pre-eminence in this town, the hype around it and the money it attracts that might well be used for less trendy but more important causes.

    • Winter gardens future lies in the hands of the people. If tories keep control in the elections next may it will never reopen as the tories sell everything they can for a quick buck, for example the ramsgate granville theatre. Labour policy is to keep it in council hands

  6. I taught on the Visual Communication course at The Margate School (TMS) this academic year. I am a retired design educator. I was introduced to TMS by a former student of mine who is a freelance designer in Thanet working part-time for the school. I thoroughly enjoyed the year helping others develop their practice. In no way did I find the environment exclusive or excluding.

    I met the founder who took the risk of leaving full-time higher education to set up an alternative. On my first visit to TMS a group of prisoners who were rehabilitating back into society entered. They were forming a band to play at the private view of other prisoner’s work being exhibited. This sense of contributing to community and society had a great impact on me.

    I helped interview the first cohort. Although a small group I was struck by the diversity of alternative backgrounds and ages (25-75). Many were not from a traditional arts background. Some undertook the course for personal reasons and others for professional development. I read their personal application statements and despite their personal struggles and sacrifices was impressed by their commitment to develop their lives positively. A year of study would provide them with new practical skills to make their own impact on the lives of others they care about.

    One of the projects was to protest something they felt motivated by. Many of the projects related to Margate such as a concern for the impact AirBnB has on local housing. Another mature student made a connection with a local charity and was able to help raise their profile though visual communication. Another was concerned over greenwashing from the clothing sector. The release of sewage into the sea concerned one student. A younger student felt motivated to fight the Nationality and Borders Act. I found the students to be particularly engaged with contemporary issues facing the larger society.

    The school provides a haven for many not just the main courses. The regular Tech Club allows families to up-skill free of charge. There are free public talks. There are many studio residents developing their craft and trade.

    My personal feeling is that The Margate School and the related Margate Festival of Design will contribute to the wider good of Thanet. The people I have met in this context genuinely want to contribute their best to a better society. They are good, honest, everyday people and not a clique.

    I understand and support the points of view in the comments section but would implore support for TMS who go above and beyond to offer their best.

    I am a retired design educator. My own education in art and design was fortunately supported by a grant from Kent County Council. I would not have been able to attend college otherwise. I studied a foundation course at Medway before progressing onto a degree. I worked commercially as self-employed with my tutors in their studio before completing my career imparting the knowledge I gained to others within education. I have kept track of my graduates and many like myself have been full-time employed. The investment in my art and design education and others has paid dividends. The art and design sector (including music and fashion) has contributed to the cultural wellbeing of all and benefited the economy.

  7. Art is often used to cover up or distract from a multitude of sins in Margate and I think that work / projects that are much heralded (or carry big price tags) often lack sincerity, for want of a better word.
    However … Tony Pritchard, such depth and balance are unusual on social media. You’ve persuaded me to check out what the Festival of Design has to offer a little more closely.

    • Thanks for your reply. I do understand the legitimate concerns over local issues. This can become exacerbated when decisions over funding are taken and what is perceived to be valued over another.

      Graphic design has been criticised for often not communicating clearly what it is and what it does. I also see the irony in that. Graphic design shares much of the same visual language as fine art. The borders can become blurred with practitioners operating in both fields.

      Many over the years have become suspicious of design’s intentions. The design decades of the 1980s and 90s maybe led to the idea that it was superfluous, over-priced, gimmicky and ephemeral. In many respects it is ephemeral and linked to passing fashions. In some ways that can be nostalgic.

      Graphic design can divide opinion as much as fine art, music, fashion and architecture. And that’s OK as this can be to do with taste and judgment. One thinks of the branding for the London Olympics 2012. Or maybe a logo for a fashion brand. Or a record sleeve. Some see visual style as getting in the way of key messages and not aiding it. Many notable designs from the past were by non-designers trying to solve an issue eg Dr John Snow’s cholera map of Victorian London. Hopefully people still find the London Underground Map and the UK road signage system useful.

      With regards the Margate Festival of Design, of the free events, I’m tempted by 1) the local typography tour; 2) GF Smith Papers have a lovely range; 3) Jules Pretty is a notable speaker; 4) Bernard Hay is from the Design Council – worth seeing what role design plays in societal issues; 5) Looks like the Design Society Nature exhibition is going up again and it has the projects I spoke about in my first comment.

  8. A little less myopia might be in order – ‘creative & cultural industries are one of the 5 main planks for the national strategy (aviation/avionics being another !) If there’s one talent the UK has in abundance it’s ‘Design’ and nurturing such a ‘cross-sectorial underpinning all’ facility by stimulating that talent is for the common economic good.
    And Margate/Thanet is at the cutting edge of the Creative Estuary – probably likely to encourage activity rather more than ‘toffee apples’ ? The Winter Gardens could have a role to play in acting as a conference/exhibition centre (think model toys, think GEEK) as well as a more traditional entertainment focus in these staycation times. And we need a home for the Beer Festival !
    Congratulations to The Margate School’s initiatives – and deghosting the High Street attempt – more power to its collective elbow !

  9. I truly do not understand what the negativity is around this event. It’s just an event run by an arts college in the town. An arts college incidentally that is reusing an otherwise abandoned store – would people rather was this was left empty like a dozen other stores in Margate? Many of the events are free so it’s hardly exclusive/excluding people on the basis of cost. Just because an event is not your cup of tea, it doesn’t mean it is bad/stupid/pointless – you can just not go to it. There are thousands of similar events all over the country happening all the time – they do no harm to anyone but do bring some enjoyment to some people. Likewise, I’m not sure how the event has anything to do with the Winter Gardens. The two things are completely unrelated – the issue with the Winter Gardens is that the council has not deemed it worth refurbishing. The council is at fault, not the arts college.

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