A fundraiser for Cliftonville Cultural Space – based at the former Margate synagogue in Albion Road – aims to improve the building so that it can host exhibitions, performances, music, workshops, classes and larger events.
Built in 1929, the synagogue served a large Jewish community for almost a century. By 2017, it was no longer viable as a place of worship and the building fell into disrepair.
In October 2020, Margate Synagogue was put up for auction. Residents, Francesca Ter- Berg, Kate Gillespie, Lucy Lyons and Jan Ryan, passionate to preserve this last reminder of Cliftonville’s Jewish past, set out to save the building from demolition or commercial development.
The building was rescued following a campaign to raise £300,000 and Cliftonville Cultural Space was founded.
Since then the team behind the project has held numerous events. In September 2021, more than 500 people visited the Sunken Gardens to experience an afternoon of Roma, Klezmer and West African music, and workshops to celebrate the Jewish Festival of Sukkot, marking the opening of Margate NOW.
Between April and December 2022, the team interviewed some 40 local residents for Cliftonville Voices – an oral history project celebrating the diversity of Cliftonville. The exhibition, which was visited by 300 people, can be viewed online at www.cliftonvillevoices.com and at Margate Museum.
In December 2022, they presented Cliftonville Lights, a celebration of light and community involving six local primary schools and community groups. Animated drawings were projected on to the building in the evenings leading up to the Winter Solstice, where the projections were accompanied by the Margate Social Singing Choir.
Since April 2023 the space has hosted art workshops, International Roma Day celebrations, the Mothertrees Protect the Forest project, a six week community scheme involving migrant women from Margate and Dover and held events, exhibitions, workshops and talks for Refugee Week.
In January 2022, Cliftonville Cultural Space became a Charitable Incorporated Organisation and there is currently a small team of six trustees, two part-time staff and a number of volunteers.
Now the aim is to reopen in September as ARK. Before this there needs to be work carried out on the physical structure of the building and the outdated electrical system.
The fundraiser page says: “Our most urgent needs are to install an accessible WC and heating so that the building can welcome everyone throughout the entire year. Once we have achieved this, we want to install sound, lighting and staging so that we can maximise the range of events and activities we are able to host.
Despite the arts-led regeneration Margate is currently experiencing, many in Cliftonville are struggling. It is in the top one per cent of the most deprived areas in England, and it is the fourth poorest neighbourhood in the country.
“In spite of these challenges, our community is diverse, dynamic, entrepreneurial, and creative. We want to celebrate and showcase these remarkable assets.
“We still have some way to go before we are fully operational and can contribute to the local economy by creating employment and training opportunities for young people and Cliftonville residents. But by opening the building in the short term for everyone, all the time, we can sustain and grow our range of activities, and respond better to local need.”
Work will include three phase electricity will to support an air source heat pump, negating the need for gas heating – and heavy curtains will be bought to help reduce heating bills. Existing light bulbs will be replaced with LED ones.
The ambition is to eventually raise £3.8m to transform the synagogue into a well-equipped cultural venue for Cliftonville.
The fundraiser page says: “The renovations we are seeking to fund represent the next step on our journey.
“While we have been fortunate to receive funding and support from a range of donors, trusts and foundations to work with the local community, these additional funds will make our building usable, comfortable and safe for everyone.
“Our ultimate target is to raise £3.8m to transform the synagogue into a well-equipped and fit-for-purpose cultural venue for Cliftonville. In the meantime, your support will enable us to open and operate the building more fully and inclusively, whilst we secure the funds for the larger capital works.”
Find Cliftonville Cultural Space on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cliftonvilleculturalspace