Sugar Rush/Stage Door Arts announce takeover of former WH Smith store in Ramsgate

WHSmith in Ramsgate (Image PrimeLocation)

Ramsgate’s former WH Smith store in the High Street is to become the new home of  Sugar Rush coffee shop and community venue and Stage Door Arts Academy.

The performing arts school and community café in the High Street is moving due to its current site being earmarked for demolition and redevelopment.

SDA and Sugar Rush, owned by Ramsgate mum Heidi Moran, initially launched a fundraiser to help with the costs of taking on the former HSBC site in the town but this became unviable after it received a Grade II listing.

Stage Door Theatre Company youngsters

Sugar Rush provides performance, rehearsal, meeting space, music and office rooms, hot desks, baby and children classes, community social groups and more.

The business and performance school has now got the green light to move into the former WH Smith’s building which closed last month.

Genevieve Pepper, from Sugar Rush, said: “We are so excited, it’s a great space. We are putting a theatre space in, more studios for classes and spaces for community events and performances.”

An update from Heidi and Genevieve (pictured) says: “We now have the go ahead to take over the former WHSmith building in Ramsgate High Street. This is great news and it will be a full community arts space- performing arts studios, workshop rooms, a community theatre/performance space, a coffee shop with performance space, meeting rooms, workspaces, a speakeasy/bar/ performance space with screening facilities for films and presentations, community room and much more.

“We had great success with all the fundraising up to now and we cannot thank everybody enough. We are now down to the last little bit of fundraising for the initial costs to get in and anything made in addition to this will go towards the refurbishment.

“We will be hosting some fundraising events and also selling off lots of the stock/furniture  in the current building.”

WH Smith has moved out Photo Mark Stanford

WH Smith shut the Ramsgate branch after saying it had been “unable to trade viably” in the town.

Sugar Rush/Stage Door Arts is looking to raise around £1,500 to help with costs and the refurb to get the new premises open to the public.

Find the fundraising page here


    • It is already in the High Street but needs to move location because the current site is going to be demolished

    • No it’s a dance school that offers a coffee shop on top as well being an LBGTQ+ and neurodivergent friendly venue

        • As usual, Ms Punk comments upon what she thinks is happening, instead of what is indeed happening.

          Life is not about either/or.

        • Of course they will more than likely, but Sugar Rush provides an absolute safe space for the community they have events that support lgbtq community. Maybe you should read into it more

          • Ms Punk, well you’ll LOVE Sugar Rush then. Come in for a coffee and be sure you’re very welcome, like everyone in the community x

          • This constant need to provide ”safe space” is very worrying.

            It makes it sound as if the rest of Ramsgate is like the Wild West.

            How does one get to and from said ”safe space” without the risk of being shot by the bandits or scalped by the savages ?

          • If any “safe spaces” are needed, it’s for Jewish people. I saw them being openly harassed in broad daylight by pro-palestine protesters in Canterbury a couple of weeks back.

        • I think you not being able to tell the difference between transvestites and transgender people makes it clear you’re not qualified to make whatever comment you think you’re making. Google is a wonderful resource and it’s totally free.

  1. Rooke’s gone, Wilco gone, most banks gone, WH Smith gone, not much reason for me to go into the town centre now, where I used to use them all, Smith’s just before Christmas.
    Good luck to Sugar Rush, better than an empty building of course, not that it will have any attraction for me what-so-ever.

    • Why not, they host comedy nights they also host the film festival events. You’ll be welcome if you’re not anti lgbtq

        • In answer to your question, no we don’t make people swear an oath that they are not homophobic. That would be weird. However if you came into our premises and were being discriminatory or abusive towards anyone, we would ask you to leave. As in most business premises. Hope this clears it up for you!

          • Yes, thank you. I didn’t think people would be going along to hurl insults-which regardless of your views is totally unacceptable.

  2. fair comment ton , i was thinking exactly the same . the towns kaput so they might as well do something with the derelict shops no commercial business will want them

  3. Well done Heidi and Gen for making this happen. A community space to compliment the fabulous community of Ramsgate. We need more grassroots venues like Sugar Rush and SDA to promote arts opportunities for young people, otherwise they become the preserve of those privileged enough to afford them. Well done!!

  4. +1 for the move create new UK generations of high maintenance all singin’ and dancin’ fickle minded and meek fools with no life experience outside of social media and what their friends think of them.

    The UK is doomed if we ever need to fight for our sovereignty.

  5. Thanks to everyone who’s being so supportive! 🥰

    We are a long-established dance school and community arts space and will be continuing and expanding on doing what we do – providing accessible and affordable activities and entertainment for the town. Think comedy nights, gigs, pantos, music, cabaret, karaoke, kids clubs… all affordable and fun and welcoming for local people and families. Plus excellent performing arts classes for kids and adults, a café and a venue for local groups and events.

    Before you decide against us, mock us and decide that another huge derelict space in the centre of town would be preferable to what we do – please come and meet us, have a look round, meet our team and have a coffee! We are local people, trying to provide something really nice in the heart of town – it’s actually going to be lovely!

    Better still, get involved, hang out, donate your time, sponsor us or grab a paintbrush and help us spruce the old WHS up! Everyone welcome 😁

    • Hurrah for people like Heidi and Gen.
      Hurrah for providing spaces for creativity to flourish – whatever your background.

      There is a phrase – if you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all. Some people making comments on here should try to remember that phrase next time they feel like posting.

      Ramsgate needs wonderful spaces like this one. Heidi and Gen have made a success of Sugar Rush in the tiny venue they have been in. I can’t wait to see what they do with this place

  6. I seem to remember studying GCSE music with Heidi. She was a talented singer from what I recall. That’s obviously lead to helping the next generation of performers, and I wish you luck. I’ll pop in for a coffee one day when I’m back on the “island”.
    On a SEPARATE note, it is a shame what is happening to the high streets, but there is a spider web of factors to blame.
    Let’s not see differences, no matter what they are. No one deserves better than the next, or worse. Let’s just be human to each other and live and let live.

  7. I agree, the negative and cynical comments are tedious and boring.

    Actually I find Sugar Rush quite the opposite of many ‘art/community’ projects, some of which can be bound up with class anxiety and feel somewhat elitist and inaccessible to ordinary folks. In contrast, I’ve found Sugar Rush friendly and welcoming of everyone, and they managed their audiences brilliantly. I’ve not been to many of their events but the ones I did go to I have enjoyed. They also crowd funded modestly, making every penny count towards something tangible, with clear goals and aims and realistic targets, rather than absurdly ambitious targets with little hope of tangible delivery.

    This is a group well worth getting behind, and supporting.

    • Thanks for your support! That’s exactly what we try to achieve at our place – we are not elitist, we are single working parents with a passion for giving everyone access to arts activities plus fun performances and community engagement. There is so much we want to continue doing and expand on – not just a community theatre and arts space but also practical support for local people and a place to meet where there’s always something going on, outreaching to schools, older people, lonely people, access and information about support services – the possibilities are huge and this venue gives us a great location!

  8. This is great news people making a. Difference. Let’s stop taking about what the town was and focus on what it could be .

  9. Another thing for lgbtq and the other 600 made up genders Jesus isn’t there enough of that crap already pushed in peoples faces

    • Lgbtq+ people existing isn’t ‘shoving it in people’s face’ lmao. The majority of TV, film, and literature is all straight oriented – heaven forbid we do a lil something for ourselves in a while

    • You’re very welcome to come in for a coffee, or get involved in some fun activities – whatever your gender. Or sexuality. Everybody is!

  10. Yeah, why should we care about anyone that isn’t a straight, white male? They should just shut up and accept the natural order of things!
    Don’t get your knickers in a twist, Thanet ‘Lad’, it’s not a threat to your masculinity, it’s a dance school.
    Or maybe dance is too hardcore for you???? 😉

    • What is wrong with being straight, white, and male? Why does straightness, whiteness and maleness scare you so much?

  11. The cynical/boring comments are always made by people who don’t use any local resources anyway. I imagine their lives are pretty hollow so all they have is being negative on a local news website.

    Best of luck with the move.. can only be a good thing having a locally owned business that encourages inclusion and the arts!

    • Again, aren’t pretty much ALL local businesses “inclusive”? Or are there signs everywhere that says “No blacks, Gays or Disabled”? As for Art in town centres being a good thing, that is highly debatable. Have you seen how many people actually shop in Margate’s lower High Street these days? Even the charity shops are giving up. Get a grip, boy!

      • What exactly are you arguing against, Pinky? Where’s the negative here? As is your right in this capitalist society, if you don’t like a business, you don’t have to give it your custom. Which means you can completely ignore Sugar Rush and go about your life completely unencumbered by its inclusivity and support of people that don’t feel the same support that you do. As it brings its already established customer base of kids and parents, who love the work it does, to the high street, they’ll also use more of the other businesses there too. The thing with arty people is they love a charity shop. Your issue seems to be insecurity in yourself, because you feel the need to insert yourself into situations that don’t affect or need you. Maybe you need some art to learn to express yourself and your emotions? If only there were an open and friendly community arts venue you could use?

          • I just try and try to ignore his comments as they are so negative and frankly I think he needs to get a life!

        • The “negative” is the assumption that Lettuce, Gherkin, Tomato, Bacon, Quinoa+ people aren’t welcome everywhere else. When I go in an eatery, I really couldn’t give a monkey’s what people have in their underwear or what they do with it. I just accept people as people.

          • Funny though, because you’re doing your absolute best to make them feel uncomfortable by calling them names here. I wonder why they’d want their own spaces? I trust their knowledge of their lives over your bigoted opinion. If an old geeza like me can get his head round it, you can too pinky. Leave it out.

          • And THIS sums you lot up: You are “offended” by slang terms, yet my post stating how Jewish people were intimidated in Canterbury passes without incident. Get your priorities right, mate.

  12. I wish them well, for the most part, with their venture but I hope that the proposed coffee shop will not result in taking trade away from the cafe opposite where they have worked so hard to build up their business.

    • I doubt it will because the Brew offers a lot which Sugar Rush won’t and the opening times won’t be the same, they will happily co exist. Just like when WHsmiths and Woolies were yards from each other 😊

      The two tattoo parlours that are almost opposite each other do well respectively.

      • WH Smiths and Woolworths were very different shops (one was a stationers and newsagents!). It’s a bit like saying Rumbelows and C&A co-existed.

        • Peter I think it is time you gave commenting a break love.

          You come across so spiteful and very selfish!
          Just wish people well and if they are not involving you personally let it go

        • They both sold stationery, both sold confectionery.

          In terms of the Jewish community they would be equally welcome

  13. Iirc there current property is going to be demolished although they had a lease contract or something similar iirc.
    Moving just down the high st to a usually pedestrian area in my opinion is a great idea. Away from a busy road where speed limits and quality of driving are in denial.
    There new premises are adjacent to two new businesses Brew-cafe coffee and plan burrito both worth a visit.

    Well done sugar rush. Thank you for staying local.

  14. Congratulations to Sugar Rush on the imminent relocation to the old WH Smith store, I look forward to you opening there. The last thing our High Street needed was another large empty retail unit- we have enough of those already in Ramsgate. Local and independent businesses and community organisations are the future for high streets as the chains and banks give up on them. What is needed to further help high streets survive and prosper is reform of business rates amongst other things.

  15. Brilliant news! It was exciting seeing builders in the old WH Smith building today where I was expecting to see boarded up windows. What a brilliant little town we live in. Bravo! 👏

  16. I thought these buildings came 10’000s of rent per year plus council Bill’s etc how can they afford this ?

    • Rents differ on various properties. They would pay Business Rates buy also might get a reduction for being a CiC

    • Would you prefer empty spaces and a ghost town? We are arty, it’s true, but rarely farty. I hope that encourages you to come in and see what we’re about, John 😊

  17. What are you doing to promote and regenerate Ramsgate John 558? It’s easy to be a keyboard critic. Unfortunately, so many towns up and down the UK, especially coastal towns long past their hey day need to change to survive, to move with the times, to take opportunities when the retail giants move out of town to other facilities. Folks can’t just moan and moan and moan endlessly that retail developments have killed the town. Any town.

    People and their shopping habits, leisure choices, cheap flights, all of these things change us. And we should change and adapt too. So yes, if all we get is coffee and arty farty then suck it up, and get on the bus. TDC et al can’t simply open the shops up. They can’t force long distant freeholders to perform miracles at a loss. They cannot do any of these things. Alas. What we can do, is help those folks who are taking a chance, who do want to stay local.

    And as for the provocative LGBTQ comments, these are just click bait words that need ignoring. I am straight, and white, and Sugar Rush welcomes me. Folks need to stop the needless gender war toxicity. We don’t need it.

    • Emmeline, I’ve been supporting Manston as an Airport for the past 7 years, to bring employment to Thanet and beyond. This is what the area needs, jobs, so what is wrong with that? Look at all the coffee shops we have in Ramsgate, some are empty or with very few customers.

      • I appreciate your point, John, but although the old whs is very big, we would struggle to fit an airport in there. We will be creating jobs, opportunities and fun for lots of local people, however, so perhaps you might acknowledge this as a positive thing?

  18. John, fair enough, but the Wetherspoons employs treble the headcount Manston ever did.

    The government inspector also confirmed that a cargo hub would kill more jobs than it would create.

    Why are cargo hub jobs OK but creative or tourism jobs not ok? Sugar Rush is creating jobs. If the cargo hub goes ahead most tasks are automated, flight traffic isn’t being run from Manston and roles will be mainly manual, on about the same pay levels as those in tourism or hospitality, although there will be fewer jobs in tourism if the cargo hub goes ahead.

    I’m also not sure what the demise of the high Street has to do with a defunct airport. They are not connected. Just like housing development and the airport are not connected.

    • Emmeline,
      I am no expert on employment but I do find your ‘assumptions’ on the quality of jobs to be offered at an air freight hub compared to that of an arts centre or Wetherspoons a little puzzling.
      Looking after aircraft, which require expert maintenance on their own let alone other air freight jobs, are career jobs that will support families in the long term. Wetherspoons, apart from a few management positions do not and I doubt if an arts centre or cafe will either .
      What are you basing your facts on? Spending a long career in engineering myself I cannot see how you seem to think that jobs at Manston will be no better than the two examples you quote.

  19. Emmeline.
    Nearly forgot to ask….
    How many extra full time jobs will be created by Sugar Rush do you think?
    Six, maybe, do tell as I have not a clue., and will they be long term?

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