Margate’s Creative Renaissance: Nurturing a Thriving Artistic Ecosystem Amid Challenges

Margate has always been a town brimming with potential, a place where the salty air seems to spark creativity and innovation. At Margate Creative Land Trust, we’re aware of this potential, but our latest survey, conducted from late April to mid-June 2023, has given us an even deeper insight into our creative community. As we pored over the 176 responses, it became clear that Margate is more than just a home for artists; it’s a thriving ecosystem of creativity despite the precariousness many of our creatives face. This survey has painted a vivid picture of our town, highlighting our strengths and the challenges we must address.

A Melting Pot of Creativity

One of the most striking findings from our recent survey is the sheer diversity of creative disciplines represented in Margate today. Margate has evolved into a vibrant tapestry of creative practices.

Visual artists still hold a significant presence in Margate, their studios and galleries dotting the landscape, inviting residents and visitors alike to engage with their work. However, the creative pulse of Margate now beats through a multitude of disciplines. Film and TV production companies have found a home here, bringing the magic of screen storytelling to life against the backdrop of our scenic coastal views. This influx of media production enriches our cultural landscape and creates new opportunities for collaboration and innovation.


Craftspeople, too, have carved out a niche in Margate, transforming everyday materials into extraordinary pieces of art. From bookbinding and furniture making to ceramics and jewellery, these artisans bring a tangible, tactile quality to our town’s creative scene. Their work is a testament to the beauty of handmade, bespoke craftsmanship in an age of mass production.

Music and performance art are also thriving. Musicians and performers infuse Margate with rhythm and drama, their sounds and stories echoing through our streets and venues. Whether it’s an intimate gig at a local pub or a full-scale theatrical production, these artists contribute to a dynamic, ever-evolving cultural milieu. Digital design and technology have also taken root in Margate, attracting a new generation of creatives.  Graphic designers, web developers, and software engineers are redefining what it means to be a creative professional in the 21st century. Their work enhances our digital experiences and intersects with other artistic disciplines, fostering a cross-pollination of ideas and skills.


This variety of creative practices is more than just a collection of individual endeavours; it’s a testament to Margate’s evolving identity as a hub for all kinds of creativity. The town has become a place where traditional and contemporary arts coexist and enrich each other, creating a unique cultural ecosystem that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Interestingly, the majority of our respondents are not newcomers to their fields. A remarkable 67% have been honing their craft for a decade or more. This longevity speaks volumes about the depth of experience and expertise that enriches our community. These seasoned professionals bring a wealth of knowledge and skill, mentoring the next generation of artists and contributing to a culture of excellence. Their presence also highlights Margate as a place where creatives can establish long-term careers. It’s a town that supports sustained artistic growth, providing an environment where artists can develop their practice over many years.

The Financial Tightrope

While Margate’s creative community is a vibrant and dynamic force, the financial reality for many of these talented individuals is fraught with challenges. The dream of living solely off one’s creative work is lofty, yet the path to achieving it is challenging, a tightrope many must walk with caution and ingenuity.

Income levels among Margate’s creatives vary dramatically, with a significant disparity between different disciplines. Those in the visual arts and crafts often find themselves at the lower end of the financial spectrum. It’s disheartening to see that 25% of these artists earn less than £1,000 annually from their primary creative practice. This figure is a stark reminder of the economic instability that shadows their artistic endeavours. The joy of creation is often tempered by the harsh realities of making a living.


In contrast, individuals working in digital design and office-based professions such as marketing and PR tend to fare better financially. Approximately 24% of these professionals report earnings of £50,000 or more, a figure that reflects the higher market value placed on these skills in today’s economy. This disparity highlights the varying degrees of financial stability within the creative sector and underscores the challenge of achieving a sustainable income solely through artistic pursuits.

Despite these financial hurdles, the aspiration to derive all income from creative work remains a strong and persistent desire among Margate’s creatives. The survey reveals that while 64% of respondents aspire to live entirely off their creative practice, only 37% manage to achieve this goal. The rest are compelled to supplement their income through other means, a necessity that often involves juggling multiple roles and responsibilities.


The supplementary jobs that sustain many of Margate’s creatives are varied but tend to gravitate towards education and technical support roles within the creative industries. These roles, while essential for financial stability, also reflect the interconnected nature of the creative ecosystem. Educators and technical support professionals play crucial roles in nurturing the next generation of artists and maintaining the infrastructure that supports creative work. However, the necessity of these supplementary jobs can also detract from the time and energy that artists can dedicate to their primary creative pursuits.


The financial tightrope that many Margate creatives walk is not just a personal challenge but a broader societal issue. It raises important questions about how we value creative work and what support structures are needed to sustain a thriving artistic community. The perilous financial conditions faced by many artists are symptomatic of a more extensive system that often undervalues the arts and fails to provide adequate economic support for creative professionals.

Our Home, Our Work

A significant 68% of respondents both live and work in Margate. This blend of personal and professional life is a hallmark of our creative community. However, the reality of their working conditions varies. While 38% use separate studios or offices, 30% work from home or adopt a nomadic lifestyle, moving between coffee shops and co-working spaces.

The draw of Margate is undeniable. Our survey reveals that 82% of respondents moved here, many from London. They come for the quality of life, a shift from the past when affordability was the main attraction. This influx enriches our community and highlights the pressing need for suitable workspaces.

The Space Conundrum

Navigating the labyrinth of securing adequate workspace in Margate is a challenge that many of our creatives face daily. It’s a puzzle where the pieces don’t always fit together neatly, a conundrum that underscores the broader issues of affordability and availability within our community.

While it’s heartening to know that 63% of our respondents are content with their current workspace arrangements, a significant number of them still struggle with the limitations of their spaces. The refrain of “not enough room” is all too familiar. These creatives, brimming with ideas and ambition, often find themselves stifled by the physical confines of their environments.


The demand for occasional project spaces, private studios for messy work, and regular co-working spaces is particularly high. Each type of space serves a distinct purpose, reflecting the diverse needs of our creative community. Project spaces are vital for those undertaking specific, often large-scale, endeavours that require focused time and room to breathe. Private studios, especially for those working with materials that can be noisy or require ventilation, are essential for safety and efficiency. Regular co-working spaces, on the other hand, provide a dynamic environment that fosters collaboration and inspiration, offering a sense of community that many creatives crave.

Yet, despite this clear need, over 90% of those seeking new spaces cite cost as the primary barrier. This stark statistic reveals a painful truth: while the demand for creative spaces is high, the financial accessibility of these spaces remains woefully inadequate. Ideal rental costs, according to our survey, range from less than £50 to a maximum of £499 per month, inclusive of service charges. This range reflects what our community can realistically afford, yet the reality of the market often diverges sharply from these figures.


Securing these ideal spaces is a journey fraught with obstacles. The cost of renting, coupled with the availability of suitable spaces, creates a perfect storm that leaves many creatives struggling to find their footing. The market in Margate, much like in other burgeoning creative hubs, is becoming increasingly competitive. As more creatives flock to our town, drawn by its vibrant cultural scene and quality of life, the pressure on available spaces intensifies. This influx, while beneficial in many ways, also drives up costs and reduces availability, creating a challenging environment for those trying to establish or expand their practice.

Our community’s need for affordable, secure workspaces is unmistakably clear. The current landscape, with its high costs and limited availability, does not cater adequately to the diverse needs of Margate’s creatives. This gap between need and reality is not just a logistical issue but a barrier to the growth and sustainability of our creative economy.


At MCLT, we recognise that addressing the space dilemma is critical to nurturing our creative community. This involves advocating for more affordable rental options and exploring innovative solutions to expand available spaces. It also means working closely with local authorities, property owners, and developers to create a more supportive infrastructure for the arts.

One potential solution lies in the adaptive reuse of existing buildings. Margate has no shortage of underutilised spaces that could be transformed into vibrant creative hubs. By repurposing these buildings, we can provide affordable and secure workspaces that meet the diverse needs of our artists. This approach not only addresses the immediate space issue but also contributes to the revitalisation of our urban landscape, breathing new life into neglected areas.

Another avenue is fostering a culture of shared spaces and resources. Co-working environments, communal studios, and shared project spaces can offer cost-effective solutions that benefit multiple creatives simultaneously. These shared spaces also encourage collaboration and the exchange of ideas, fostering a more interconnected and resilient creative community.

Barriers and Support

Affordability, security, and specialised facilities—these are not mere luxuries but essential elements that our creatives need to thrive.

Our survey has illuminated a stark reality: the quest for affordable studios is unending. Creatives are not asking for opulence; they seek spaces where they can work without the constant worry of exorbitant rents. Affordable studios are the bedrock upon which artistic dreams are built, and yet, they remain elusive for many. The cry for these spaces is loud and persistent, echoing through the old warehouses and repurposed buildings of Margate.


Specialised rehearsal spaces also top the list of needs. Musicians, dancers, and performers require environments where they can hone their craft without constraints. These spaces must be acoustically and spatially suitable, flexible, and, importantly, available at a cost that does not stifle the creative process. The absence of such spaces hampers the growth of performing arts in our town, creating a void that is keenly felt by many.


Long-term stability is another critical concern. The spectre of eviction or sudden rent hikes can stifle creativity, replacing the joy of creation with anxiety and uncertainty. Margate’s creatives need assurances that their work environments will remain stable, allowing them to focus on their art rather than their lease agreements. This stability is not just about physical space; it’s about creating a nurturing environment where creativity can flourish without the constant threat of displacement.

Beyond physical spaces, there is a palpable hunger for support in business skills. Many artists and creatives, while brilliant in their craft, find the business side of their work challenging. They need guidance in areas like finance, marketing, human resources, and digital business planning. This knowledge can empower them to not only sustain but also grow their practices, turning artistic talent into viable, thriving enterprises.


Opportunities to share costs and access to space are also high on the wish list. Shared studios, co-working spaces, and collaborative workshops can reduce individual financial burdens and foster a sense of community. These shared environments can be crucibles of innovation, where ideas are exchanged and collaborations are born. The benefits of such arrangements extend beyond mere cost savings; they create networks of support and mutual growth.

Sector knowledge is another vital area where support is needed. Navigating the complexities of property use permissions, licenses, and permits can be daunting. Creatives need access to expertise and resources that can help them understand and comply with these requirements. This support can demystify bureaucratic processes, allowing artists to focus on their work rather than getting bogged down in paperwork.


We are acutely aware of the delicate balance that sustains our vibrant creative scene. While Margate is alive with artistic energy, it is also a community on the brink, constantly threatened by rising costs and insufficient infrastructure. Our role is to be the bulwark against these threats and provide the support and stability that our creatives need.

We are committed to advocating for affordable workspaces, lobbying for policies that support creative industries, and working with property owners to secure long-term leases for our creative practitioners. We also aim to provide training and resources in business skills, helping creatives navigate the often challenging terrain of running a business. By fostering a culture of shared resources and collaborative spaces, we can alleviate some of the financial pressures that burden our community.

In addressing the need for sector knowledge, we plan to offer workshops and access to experts who can guide our creatives through the maze of legal and regulatory requirements. This support is crucial for ensuring that our artists can operate with confidence and legitimacy.

Ultimately, our goal at MCLT is to create an environment where Margate’s creatives can not only survive but thrive. We envision a town where artists have the stability and support they need to focus on their craft, where affordable and specialised spaces are readily available, and where a culture of collaboration and mutual support flourishes. By addressing these barriers head-on, we can help ensure that Margate remains a beacon of creativity and innovation, a place where the arts are not just seen and heard but truly celebrated and sustained.

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