Appeal for community support as The Margate School faces threat of closure

The Margate School community with Uwe Derksen (front) Photo David Babaian

The Margate School is under threat of closure after recent funding bids failed to come to fruition.

The independent art school is one of Margate’s largest creative communities with nine staff, 25 students, 17 tutors, 12 fellows, 42 studio holders, and a number of volunteers who are in danger of being displaced by the end of January.

Courses are suspended with immediate effect and if TMS cannot raise the necessary funds this month, then it will not be able to restart the courses and will begin the process of winding down all provisions over the coming months.

This would result in the loss of jobs and livelihoods and also a hub for innovation and creativity in Margate. It would also see the Woolworths building, which is such a feature of the High Street, empty once again.

The Margate School is currently speaking with funders, partners, and Thanet council to find an urgent solution. It is seeking a minimum of £50,000 in additional funding to stabilise, continue current teaching provision, and make future plans.

Since December 2018, The Margate School, established by founder Uwe Derksen, has played a prominent role in the redevelopment of Margate High Street and the town, attracting the interest of new students, staff, artists, fellows, small businesses, and visitors to Margate High Street.

From the initial crew of three people, the School has grown rapidly into a community of 100 creative practitioners, attracting some 16,000 visitors to exhibitions, talks, and events annually. It is the only higher education provider for the arts in Thanet and has successfully provided the only creative apprenticeship in Margate.

The School has also supported numerous art professionals through residencies, created a community and sculpture garden, raised £4,000 for Ukraine, trained staff to support community members with mental health challenges, and much more.

In late 2018, with the announcement of a successful Coastal Community Fund (CCF) application, The Margate School had its first breakthrough. The concept was to develop a creative not-for-profit provision, with technical facilities and support for people from all backgrounds.

Uwe Derksen, previously of the University for the Creative Arts, British Design Innovation, and South East Design Forum, established TMS as “a revolutionary and alternative, independent, liberal-arts school”.

The School’s investment into the building created 42 new studio spaces, alongside a FabLab (Fabrication Laboratory) and MakerSpace with state-of-the-art facilities, two darkrooms, a sound auditorium, and a screening and gallery space and offering affordable postgraduate arts courses

The Margate School is now gathering evidence of support for the School to share with funders and also wants to make contact with individuals or organisations who can help using this form.

A fundraising appeal may be launched.

A statement from TMS said: “We are looking for a minimum of £50,000 to stabilise, continue our provision and to make future plans..

“We want to recognise the time, talents and hard work of all our brilliant staff, tutors, students, studio holders and supporters so far. With the right financial support now we’re confident we can continue to grow our impact and secure the future of The Margate School for this community.

“We are on the brink, we can be saved, but time is running out.”

Margate councillor Rob Yates said: “The Margate School is a bedrock of creative culture for the local area, it has brought in artwork and knowledge from across the world and is key in providing high level education.

“I would like to thank Uwe Derksen, Arnold Schwartzman OBE and the Margate School Team for their work on the school and for continuing to fight to keep it open.

“I would ask as many people as possible to complete the feedback form to show what The Margate School means to you in the hope that the school and the education courses can be kept.”

62 Comments

    • But apparently only education in art and liberal studies to mature students – not education in reading, writing and arithmetic (and perhaps life skills) to children and youths . . .

      ”The Margate School” is apparently something of a misnomer when it has more staff than students – whereas in reality it is a glorified art market (which is clearly not financially viable).

  1. Make a profit like any other business or go bust like any other business… The state of this country when everyone wants to be bailed out…taxes already sky high

  2. I agree this is terrible news but no business can continue to function relying on handouts, grants etc.As soon as this money dries up the business has to fold. If they get the £50000 and continue as normal how long before they are in the same position again? A strategy needs to be arranged so this becomes a break even organisation where it can stand on its own two feet.I hope someone can make this a viable non profit making organisation as Margate needs this.

    • He is saying 50k minimum & we know that will not be enough. It will be a never ending need for funding-these vanity projects that benefit a few have to end.

  3. As we know TDC are having the former M & S building converted. Can the residents really afford to help everyone when we are paying so much out in severance payments and court fee’s.

    • Ah yes, the digital training in jobs that don’t exist in Thanet & no plan has been put forward for these jobs to be in Thanet. So KCC/Thanet spends vast sums training people up to go & work & in most cases live in London, up North etc where these jobs actually are.

  4. Aren’t they supposed to be a partner in the new East Kent College building (M&S building) ? If so, where does it leave that project ?

  5. Oh dear, is the Thanet ‘art’ gravy train coming to an end? What exactly has it done for Margate High Street?

    Since December 2018, The Margate School, established by founder Uwe Derksen, has played a prominent role in the redevelopment of Margate High Street and the town, attracting the interest of new students, staff, artists, fellows, small businesses, and visitors to Margate High Street.

    So in reality it has only attracted ‘artists’ picking up the grant money. Where are all these new shops? Because all I see are the same old boarded up & empty shops-the solicitors next to Peacocks is now gone & so is a shop a few doors down & most that open up here don’t last very long.

    Lots of back-slapping stuff being thrown out-but of all the students in the last four years how many have gone on to actual full time paid positions in the ‘art world’ in Thanet? Not Brighton, London or Paris but locally? Very nice they managed to raise some money for Ukraine-but again, how is that benefiting Thanet?

    Basically the jobs being lost will be in the centre itself, which has zero benefit to the area, only to godawful art/vanity projects. Same thing with the fairly recent announcements of training in graphics etc, but where are these jobs?

    Unless there is some massive investment in Thanet then like the latest Manston Airport propaganda it isn’t going to be improve the lives of people here-if they get the qualifications then they are off to London where these jobs actually exist.

    Just look at what the cash is being spent on-the adage go woke, go broke seems to be very apt again. One does wonder again where Mrs I made millions selling my dirty bed & millions selling other junk is? She wouldn’t miss 500k, let alone 50k, but the self professed art lover of Margate seems to be MIA again when it isn’t her own project. https://www.themargateschool.com/post/open-call-lgbt-history-month-2023

  6. “….nine staff, 25 students, 17 tutors, 12 fellows, 42 studio holders”

    Nine staff and 17 tutors for just 25 students? Does not make sense. Studio holders to me indicates a business which should be selling items and making money. In which case they should be paying rent towards the running costs of the building as well as making a living. Otherwise it is just a subsidised hobby. And how many of us would love to live that lifestyle instead of having to work at a job we may not enjoy?

    It’s time for all these arty folks to have a dose of realism and join the real world.

    • Some of the staff are part time, some full time, AIUI.

      And the studio holders do pay rent.

      More assumptions and rants from the Thanet anti-art curmudgeons.

      • Think you will find most of us are pro art-actual art, not stick people with giant genitals, not bits of old rags or random objects stuck to a wall, not dirty old beds etc.

        What a shame that the Turner could have been such a genuine art attraction & one that made money. Instead we have something nobody would pay to go in & they don’t charge because of that, full of vanity projects that basically burn all the taxpayer & arts council money they get handed every year & didn’t even have a Turner artwork for several years.

        • I know that down here at the bottom of the internet we don’t believe in facts, Steve, but Turner Contemporary’s first show included Turner’s ‘The Eruption of the Souffrier Mountains…’ and they’ve included dozens of his works in exhibitions since then.

          • As in permanent-it took several years for them to actually have Turner work in there, rather than a loan. If you search online you will see complaints on TripAdvisor about there not being any for many years after it opened.

  7. The Ministry provided the initial Coastal Community Fund seedcorn and endorsing the Team’s application (Margate Charter Trustees, Margate Town Team and Margate Neighbourhood Plan Forum) which had 3 specific objectives : 1) ‘deghosting’ one of the worst High Streets in the country 2) supporting the ‘Turner Effect’ and Margate’s groing reputation as a focus for ‘creative industry’ (a national strategic imperative) supporting ‘makers’ with skills and hardware input (FabLab in embryo) and 3) wider ‘community hub’ outreach. Uwe and his dedicated little team have more than accomplished all those objectives with a very thin shoestring.
    One of the mysteries is : where was the vaunted ‘Town Deal’ in all this – reviving High Streets and skills provision were top of the national agenda. And there’s a further irony in that last Spring
    Arts Council England with SE Local Enterprise Partnership published a Creative High Streets report pointing out various wheezes for repurposing all that redundant commercial property. Sadly it now looks as if Woolies is to revert to the Waste Land though perhaps TDC already have it earmarked for further Air BnB and any notion of a ‘cultural corridor’ is for the seagulls ?
    Plus ca change c’est la meme chose but a valiant effort nevertheless.
    At least the Ministry enjoyed a very healthy Return On Investment and attempted to ‘show the way’ but down here in the boondocks …

    • Useful background, thank you Geoff. Indeed, where is the Town Deal in all of this and what meaningful impact will it make? Nothing seems very clear or transparent on all of this at all.

  8. Isnt this just like any private/independent school in the country ? Or because its arty they think they are different ?

    If a private school doesn’t raise enough funds to run it closes.

    They wanted to be independent so why after only being open a short time has their business plan collapsed ?

    • Because their only plan is grants & with the economy the way it is there is going to be less coming for the ‘arts’ & it will always go to the Turner & Dreamland over anything else.

      Afraid this place has gone the same way as the Theatre Royal & Winter Gardens have since Dreamland turned into an all-singing conference, music & cultural ‘hub’ Of course Ms Emin who professes to love Margate & especially Margate ‘art’ so much could give them 50k as it is chump change to her, how odd she hasn’t.

    • Something not tight
      Nick Connington of sandsheritage an ex england rower bought it for 2m and he leases to the art school. Kathy said this in a report in 2019. The school was given coastal fund money of £499k

  9. They failed miserably on all three counts then-the high street is still one of the worst in the land, there is nothing creative about the garbage being churned out there & it reaches only a select few who are the ones interested in it to start with.

  10. It’s such a shame that the School may be closing shortly before the UK release of Empire of Light—which will give yet more recognition and another boost to Margate. With its exceptional and protected marine environment and as a venue for art, film, music, fine food and hospitality, drama, sea bathing, seaside recreation and coastal living Thanet can make an enormous contribution to the regeneration of the UK. TMS is part of a complex and diverse ecology that will help to sustain Thanet. We should find a way to support it because, in the end, it is initiatives like this that will support us.

    • Easy to do when you get grants free of charge,how many sport places get easily available money as the arts ,ask owners of both Margate or Ramsgate football clubs or the local rugby clubs

  11. Pity about staff losing jobs ,but most art places run on grants ,when grants dry up as they do ,they close,if they thought the stuff so good ,try selling the stuff, not many takers i bet,If Turner centre was made to charge entry fee ,it would close ,it is run on grants ,maybe ,that will close and we will get real jobs ,not funded by grants

  12. It is easy to get the said £50000,all art lovers give a massive amount to fund the place,don’t get your hopes up ,art lovers only like Joe public grants, not spending their own money,i love a lot of art ,but not the crap ,being dished out lately,in the name of art

  13. A town without art is a town without a soul.
    I wonder if those slating The Margate School have a artistic bone in their body’s

    • On the other hand Picasso’s paint brush. I wonder if any of these arty type have a business brain.

      They must be a fault with their business plane. It also seems abit top heavy with teachers and tutors.

      I dont believe art should only business plan should be our taxes. TC etc shouldnt be getting our money. If art is so popular why get it survive without our taxes ?

      I am not an arty person if I go and watch cricket, football, cycling, films, music gigs etc etc I pay.

      Give me one good reason why arty people can walking into the TC for free. What’s is wrong with charging 20quid ? I am surprised the arty people have to pay for parking outside TC thought they would have moaned about that !!!!

    • Nope, but neither do those involved either-just that we live in reality, not fantasy land. There is zero chance of Margate not having ‘art’ is there? Seeing as we have about 50 art galleries/hubs etc here.

  14. It does seem that there’s a problem with the economic model for this place.
    They need £50,000 just to keep from sinking. What happens next month, and the month after that?
    Thanet boasts a plethora of arts projects. But several seem to be the pet schemes of enthusiastic but misguided people.

  15. We are lead to believe that art is thriving in thanet. That art is improving the area.

    But the elephant in the room is why such a huge thriving industry cant support itself ?

    Something just doesn’t adding up ! How can you have a thriving industry if it totally depends on our taxes ?

    Why dont the arty community turn down the Grant’s etc and live of their takings. That way they can prove me wrong and I will willingly agree how great the art community is for thanet. Until than it’s just a drain on our taxes.

    Even graffiti is ok by the arty sector if it’s done by banksy if its done by a local scally its graffiti lol. And boy does that have alot of local art graffiti its everywhere lol. Banksy very busy encouraging the local graffiti artists

    • “But the elephant in the room is why such a huge thriving industry cant support itself ?”
      Because Art isn’t an industry.

      • It is for people like Emin & Hirst & to a far lesser extent to people like Pomery.

        But those signing up for these courses are being taught by zero talents who draw stick people with giant sex organs, create dirty beds etc & it means nothing in Thanet-because we aren’t & never will be Paris, Brighton, London etc & none of these people will be able to sell their junk for millions like Emin & her pals.

      • I am sorry your deluded ,art is a very big business,just look to see how much local artists want ,never mind the top people ,millions and millions

    • It is entirely an elitist thing & the supposed benefits are these companies coming down to film here & the guy out of Friends with his advert, but ultimately what other than huge traffic problems does it bring here? Nobody cares, it isn’t turning Margate into the place to be for celebrities & even if it had done that is a five minute fashion wonder until they move on to a ‘cooler’ place. I should also point out that filming films & tv shows in Margate is not something new due to Turner & Dreamland as revisionist history form the local luvvies have been implying lately, they have been doing it for decades-Last Orders, Last Resort, Only Fools & Horses, Break In The Sun etc.

      There is no long term planning for long term benefit to Thanet-just another Manston airport that cost TDC/KCC/Taxpayers vast sums of money from 1998-2014 as outlined in a KCC reportin the mid 2010’s, every operator has lost money on it, yet here are the same old promises that never happen from the current lot wanting to open it & people still falling for it.

      Endless art places that make no money & just take from the arts council & the taxpayer via KCC/TDC year after year & over a decade in the case of the Turner. The only money being invested is in the old town. The high street, Cliftonville & the seafront(other than Dreamland & their moved in BLM friends) aren’t getting it & still look like the dumps they did 20 plus years back.

      As we see here & long suspected clearly when money gets tight unless you are Turner or Emin you will not get the cash-even if you need it more than they do, as even in an elitist folly such as ‘modern art’ there is a clear pecking order/snobbery & even though they are just a short walk away from Turner this lot are not looked at in the same league-Emin who professes her love for Margate & modern art could fund this thing forever without even noticing, but she isn’t going to.

  16. “It is entirely an elitist thing”

    More ranting nonsense.

    You interact with the creative arts every single hour of your life.

    Books, movies, music, TV, radio, magazines, adverts, etc and the design of every single thing that you see and touch.

    When you nurture creativity in the young then they have the potential to be the creators of the future.

    There is no point to this? eg. Jonny Ive, who designed a lot of the Apple products is British.

    Your attitude makea the arts elitist, by removing funding you make it accessible only to those people who have paid for their children to have access to it via private school.

  17. I have read all the negative comments from the usual suspects that mosm about everyone and everything they need to get it through their heads high streets have changed how many of you go to Westwood cross and shop online there is the problem here and nationally the school has brought of interest in the high street as for turner it’s time they started charging entry and stand on their own feet instead of literally getting arts council money that should go to the wintergardens and the theatre royal that’s been there for many years do you all want another large empty building the people in there are all hard working and ordinary people like all of us who believe in what they are doing come on you lot get with it and come on board

  18. Paul – the huge difference here is that we are not asked to fund the studies for those who work in “Books, movies, music, TV, radio, magazines, adverts, etc”. Why should we be asked to subsidise those who study art when all other forms of study have to be paid for by the people themselves. Like the majority of the population who went on to further education and did not have wealthy parents, I had to work evenings, weekends & holidays to fund my studies and have a loan that took years to pay off. Why so those in the art community always think they deserve to be funded? Even nurses have to pay to study to become a nurse and they are far more deserving. So your comments simply do not make sense.

    • It’s called investment.

      You put some money in to the sector, and you get *more* out.

      That more out translates to higher GDP and larger tax revenues, which fund the other things you want in society.

      As to funding, my understanding is that they are courses open to regular student loans as with all other study topics, which then get paid back out of your future earnings. I don’t think there is anything special or different about the funding of the TMS students.

      I’m not sure where this special funding discourse has come from.

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