Commissions offered to paint controversial Newgate Gap ‘art box’

Thanet artist Jemima Sara has painted the controversial art box

The controversial ‘art box’ at Newgate Gap has had another makeover, this time by Thanet artist Jemima Sara.

Due to previous attempts resulting in poster art being ripped down, this time the box has been painted.

Stretch Arts Charity took over the site from Thanet council in an asset transfer in 2019, The 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.

Jemima Sara’s painted makeover will stay in place until June 30 when artist Vicki Salmi (pictured) takes over.

Stretch curator Dean Stalham is now offering commissions for five additional Margate artists to paint the box. The offer is £25 for materials with £75 pounds for the artist.

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. 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.

But in February this year Thanet council said it would carry out an assessment of the Newgate Gap sea shelter after complaints were raised about its dilapidated state due to graffiti at the site and the cast iron column bases being in planters with wet soil, causing damage to the structure plus rust and a general air of neglect.

A letter to Thanet council from Matt Shoul on behalf of himself and other residents said: “(There are) extremely serious concerns over the ongoing neglect and inevitable deteriorating state of the Newgate Gap Sea Shelter, of which the asset transfer holders appear remorselessly oblivious.

“This significant coastal architectural heritage asset needs to be protected from yet further neglect, so it doesn’t quite literally rust into oblivion… so it can be resurrected as a viable community and heritage asset, by an organisation that’s actually in a legitimate position to deliver.”

The letter  said action needed to be taken before the Edwardian shelter was lost forever.

In response Stretch revamped the box with the new wallpaper style works by Matthew Meadows but these too were ripped down. The plan is now for painted works only that will be alternated monthly.

Jemima Sara says of her paint work on the shelter: “I was delighted to be invited to work with Dean Stalham to create a piece of public art for Margate. The artwork itself focuses on dreams..

“Due to the nature of the Box the mural is exposed to the elements and also vandalism. I am obsessed with  freedom of expression and mixing text, slogans, everyday life / the mundane existence together. Therefore, in many ways the piece is in a transformative cycle with the social and physical landscape it resides within.”

Anyone interested in the art box commission can send ideas/samples of their work to [email protected]



  1. Why is this pathetic vanity project allowed to continue?
    Remove them and hand over the structure to an organisation that will return it to its former glory.
    The iron work needs immediate attention and why is there still no roof.
    Beyond parody, because it’s virging on criminal

  2. Here’s a novel and unique idea, one that I have just come up with. How about with the use of modern materials and the use of skilled locals, we devise a cunning roof like covering to afford protection from the elements. Then, create some form of seating to afford weary travellers a place to rest…

    • Because they want the metal to corrode away so the structure is then deemed unsafe and is then demolished!

  3. How can they even say it was ripped down when they put wallpaper up using wallpaper paste just before a deluge of rain ? They are determined to blame anyone and everyone for their terrible management of this iconic shelter. It is rotting away under this strange art group who promised to fix it up but have done nothing but moan and blame everyone else.

  4. Take it away and clear the site, artist are skilled people how demoralising for them to produce a work of art just so uneducated yobs who have some kind of isom can do graffiti over the artist work.

  5. £75 for the artest and £25 for materials. That’s less than the minimum wage to work on something this size and £25 is’t even going to cover the cheapest contract emulsion. This asset needs to be handed back to the council before it’s gone forever, such mismanagement by the custodians and those that handed the shelter over in the first place, without due diligence.

  6. The problem I have is that I dont know what is graffiti and what is art. Looks like graffiti to me, so this art only encourages more graffiti as it looks like graffiti !

  7. The ‘skeleton’ of the shelter itself is not ugly, just a little sad. Fact is, whether vandalised or not, this box makes it both ugly and sadder. By trying to detract from the damage and decay of the structure the box actually draws attention to it. Which of course might be okay if remedial works were in the pipeline … but they’re not.

  8. How much is coming from grants from national/ local government, AND,how much do the “artist’s” getting paid ,how anyone can call this art is wrong ,primary school children could do better

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