"Our first priority has been to make Folkestone a better place to live. Education is at the heart of that. If more tourists come, too, that's a happy byproduct. But this is a long-term commitment. These are 125-year leases at zero rent." His advice to other towns: "It's not that there is a finite capacity for museums and galleries; it doesn't work like that. But you need to trust in local communities to be distinctive. It's not about parachuting stuff in. Nor is it about copying someone else's model."
My experience of living in Italy where the model of the Centro Sociale is prevalent in many towns and cities has shown me that real people and real projects can flourish if they are given the space and a roof over their heads in which to work. Ideas that foster exchange of skills and development of creative ideas have to be in place for anything like a real creative quarter to come into existence. Then living in Hackney for 10 years through its key regeneration phase where vast amounts of money were spent on developing a creative quarter, which I experienced that to really be in name only.
We saw artists that had made Hoxton and Shoreditch an interesting place to live and work then forced out by high rents. Instead of moving to Hackney Central near the Town Hall, the area designated by the Local Authority as the "Cultural Quarter" they ended up populating Dalston and Hackney Wick in an organic process. Again fueled by affordable large available studio space in unused industrial buildings and shops. Whereas in the ten years of living in Hackney Central, despite there being proposals that identified the need for affordable studio space, little were forthcoming. In the end when I looked around the Cultural Quarter, all I saw was The Hackney Empire, which was already there and had had to achieve funding itself. The ill fated Ocean Music venue which cost in excess of £20m and went into administration after 18 months and remains a venue that is under used and limps along. There is a Whethersoons pub. In reality the real regeneration that Hackney underwent was driven by what I would term as real activity by real people. I don't know much about Folkestone, but it seems that finding a way to turn vacant property as an appealing resource to encourage real creatives to move in and function long term is a sensible idea.
It's really great to read that a journalist has great affection for Margate and can see the potential and the past quality of the town. It would be great if Margate can shake off this idea that it is lying in wait for the Turner and show that it is really able to provide a supportive environment for creative industries and people who wish to move and work here.