Newgate shelter ‘art box’ makeover as ‘disheartened’ charity owner vows to hand it back if fundraising push fails

Carlotta Allum, of Stretch, on site at the shelter this week

The ‘art box’ at Newgate sea shelter has had another makeover with work by textile and wallpaper design artist Matthew Meadows as owner Stretch arts charity says it will try one last fundraising push this year and if that fails the structure will be handed back to Thanet council.

Last month Thanet council said it would carry out an assessment of the Newgate Gap sea shelter after concerns were raised about its dilapidated state.

In 2018 the structure had been earmarked for demolition but Thanet council reversed that decision following a Save the Newgate Gap Shelter campaign.

The shelter was then subject to a building control notice and in October 2019 the roof and seating were removed. The same month it was listed for asset disposal by Thanet council.

Stretch, which delivers arts projects to marginalised groups, was one of four groups to put in an expression of interest for the shelter and the charity’s founder Carlotta Allum said proposals were for a sensitive rebuild costing approximately £500,000 and an outsider arts trail, workshops and exhibitions.

Stretch was the successful bidder with the asset transfer taking place in 2019, Thanet council then granted permission for a temporary ‘floating’ wooden art box inside the shelter in June 2021. The ‘art box’  was planned to be in place for up to two years.

The box was installed by December 2021 and the first exhibition of portrait photos of Thanet based artists/residents was put in place in February 2022. This was vandalised almost immediately.

The same month Broadstairs College students made planters and trellises for the site. A further exhibition by artist Catherine Chinatree was put on the box in June 2022.

But at the beginning of this year the remnants of these displays were covered in graffiti and concerns were raised about the cast iron column bases being in planters with wet soil, causing damage to the structure with rust and a general air of neglect.

Cliftonville West ward councillors said they contacted Stretch for an update on future plans for the shelter and Thanet council to see if there are conditions or requirements as part of the asset transfer.

In response Stretch has revamped the box with the new wallpaper style works by Matthew Meadows. The artist has worked teaching art in various prisons and also been the project co-ordinator at the London Print Studio. He studied Fine Art at Chelsea College of Art and went on to do postgraduate print-making at Central St Martins. After taking an art teacher’s training course in the UK, he moved into a career in social and community arts, working with art and mental health projects and in the criminal justice system in prisons. He is chairman at Stretch and recently bequeathed a collection of outsider art to the charity.

Stretch director Carlotta Alum is now asking for people to come forward if they would like to collaborate on future art projects but also says if fundraising is not successful this year the charity will return the shelter to Thanet council.

She added that continued vandalism of art displays at the site was ‘disheartening.’

She said: “I know there’s has been little going on at the Newgate Gap Shelter, and people are rightly wondering what is going on. Stretch has maintained many times that Thanet council did not want to spend any money on the site, they wanted to give it away, they have no interest in restoring it as a shelter.

“We had an idea to do something artistic with it and we continue to try. Last year when we had carpentry students erect protective and decorative planters around the columns they were vandalised.

“We have partnered with local arts charities and artists to cover the box, and we have plans for the spring. Over the pandemic we waited for council paperwork – the whole thing has been a nightmare. No-one is interested in investing any money.

“We spent £3k on legal fees, not sure it was worth it. We are doing our best and we will, with renewed motivation, this year.

“It’s been incredibly hard to do anything and please anyone, the winter was hard,  artists couldn’t do anything. The vandals are out in force whenever we try, it is disheartening.

“Stretch is going to try this year to gain some traction in fundraising but if it doesn’t work we will return the asset transfer – so it will be up for grabs again.

“We had plans for something more robust, a kiosk and display space – but while we fundraise all we can afford is the box, I hope we can have a few months sunshine out of it in 2023.”

Last month a letter from residents was sent to Thanet council saying action must be taken before the Edwardian shelter  is lost forever.

Thanet council said: ““Our priority is to ensure that the shelter is maintained and that all agreements made during the lease agreement are being adhered to.”

Stretch says the charity has received no contact from Thanet council.

To get in touch or find updates go to Stretch Outsider Art Gallery on facebook.

Thanet council to assess Newgate Gap shelter following concerns over damage and ‘neglect’


  1. Just to add, I never saw that story about the council, no one from the council has contacted Stretch. I know nothing of the letter from residents or anything like that

  2. So how much has been spent by stretch of their own money not handouts from TDC on this shelter,and how much more do they want

  3. Thanet excels at these Golgafrincham style projects. Of no use to anyone, save keeping a few people busy achieving nothing whatsoever in between gin n tonics and bathtime.

    • How rude are you.. Talking out your baby mouth.. At least they are doing something positive than tdc.. Who have no money.. Bankrupt even. I am not a, lover of art at all. Let me see your plans mate

  4. Come on stretch ,how much of your own money has been spent on this, I think the public needs to know ,as ,to ,how much money is being spent on projects like this ,or are you deliberately being quiet on the subject,are you embarrassed by the amount of not

    • Stretch is a registered charity. Its accounts are publically available on the Charity Commission website. Have you tried looking?

  5. Stop knocking attempts by DFL’s to retain Margate’s hístory – Responsibility for Newgate Gap shelter lays firmly with TDC who charge massive amounts in Council Tax to fund a bloated workforce and their gold plated pensions.

    Take charge TDC and make sweeping middle and top management redundancies and the area could afford to refurbish all the shelters throughout Thanet.

    • It should hardly come as a surprise to TDC that removing the roof of the shelter and leaving the metal structure exposed to the elements on a cliff top has caused it to deteriorate.

      Money should have been spent on preserving it in the first instance, but of course TDC has followed its usual practise of allowing assets to deteriorate to a stage that it is beyond economic repair.

  6. £500,000 to rebuild a shelter? How can that amount be justified by whoever has given that price for the work? I am all in favour for maintaining our heritage when it is of historical or architectural importance but not for something like this. Pull it down.

    • You’ll be looking at nigh on 100k in professional fees by the architects / comservators. The price of custom cast iron work is eyewatering and any tender will have to be from suitably qualified companies with all the attendant back office staff and cost add ons. In reality done to replicate its original design i’d be surprised if you could do it for 500k.

  7. I think they have had long enough to do something positive with it. They just complain about everyone, the weather and TDC who gave them it over a few other groups ready to get it back what it is historically meant to be, which is a shelter for the public.
    For an art group to say that graffiti is vandalism, it made me smile. What do they really expect in Cliftonville when hanging up pictures of faces, now wallpaper ? It is like a red rag to a bull for goodness sake. It looks like they have only done the very minimum over the past couple of years to keep TDC of their backs.
    So, did TDC contact them or not? The truth has not been very forthcoming from those responsible for this box.
    Give it back and allow other groups a chance to bid again and bring it back to it’s former glory. If you rely on donations for everything you shouldn’t have really put your bid in. We are years down the road with nothing to show for it.

  8. Sadly to say this is just a revenue avenue for Stretch!

    Art for monies sake!

    Gives substance to the art-haters complaints.

    An embarrassment to many artist who do not want to be linked to this ‘charity’ or its founders.

    • My thoughts too, hardly an approach that is going to make any sponsor considering help them view them favourably. Optimistic delusional chancers ( all be it with their heart in the right place) who should have been more carefully vetted before tdc chose them.

  9. Thanks Carlotta and Stretch for being pro active to concerns over the future of the Newgate Shelter, Cliftonville West Councillors appreciate how difficult it is to secure funding and this has been a common theme with the shelter going back many years. Myself and Cllr Harry Scobie were part of the Community group ABC (A Better Cliftonville) which tried hard to secure grants to restore the shelter many years ago but was eventually unsuccessful despite the hard work of some of the ABC members. Estimated costs to restore the shelter have always been high and it would not surprise me to hear that a full restoration today would be £50,000. I wish Stretch the best of luck for this coming summer, however I agree that if things do not pan out then the return of the shelter to TDC would be the best way forward and maybe a new effort to raise money to restore the shelter can be looked into or another project that would sit comfortably with the new children’s playground and soon to be constructed skate park nearby.

    • TDC could have applied for funding for Thanet’s heritage assets like it has done for other projects with the millions of pounds handed on to private business that has no show for residents.
      Why must Thanet continue to suffer under the inept administration from the local authority when other near and far admins can manage adequately?
      Why must Thanet continue to suffer with it’s poor rotting and derelict heritage when funding could be sought like other authorities do?
      How are we going to attract tourism to Thanet when all tourists see is rubbish, flytipping, rotting buildings, derelict Godden building sites, missing and derelict promenade shelters?
      Answer these questions if you can instead of thanking Stretch for wallpapering the derelict shelter which we see has already fell off because of the recent rain. I don’t suppose you can, can you?

  10. Not sure that I’m qualified to really comment. My only Art schooling was done by Mr Alexander & he assured me that any materials used by me in an attempt to produce art would be a waste. He tried to raise my artistic ability by regularly trying to raise me off the floor by my ear (different times). But when did wallpapering become art? & when did art become seasonal? Who knew yon couldn’t do art in the winter? Oh wait, it’s still winter now. Told you I wasn’t qualified enough to comment.

  11. The narcissists are back at it. They must have been so disappointed that banksy didn’t do some graffiti on their glorious box; now that would have made them famous and rich..

  12. Well, it’s all come down again already as it rained. You can’t put wallpaper up outside and expect it to stay up in the rain.
    This is absolutely pathetic and just silly to say the least.

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