For nearly twenty years, the arts, heritage and creative industries have been seen as the drivers of a new economy for Margate, a town where employment was split between light industries (like Rediffusion, Hornby, and print firms) and tourism – two sectors that struggled in the late years of the twentieth century. As a result of considerable investment from 2000 onwards, Margate has a significant cultural sector, led by a range of organisations including Turner Contemporary, and Dreamland. There are a number of local studios and coworking spaces, like Marine Studios, and they support an ecology of small creative businesses.
But there is also significant social deprivation, and the split between the new creative class and the poorer communities runs deep. Much work is done by cultural organisations in the area, like Turner Contemporary, Theatre Royal, and 1927 Theatre Company, to engage young people in existing exhibitions, performances, and programmes.
But these activities are an opportunity to try the arts, either by participating in a workshop or as an audience member, and they do not show young people that the arts, music or dance are future careers. The creative industries, the foundation of a new economy for Margate, are
not seen as a source of future employment for young people.
Finding simple ways to show the routes into employment in the creative industries will start to bridge the divides. They will create connections, broaden horizons, and raise aspirations. Creative Work (a Dan Thompson Studio project run from 2019-2020) looks at how that might be possible.
In 2019, I carried out a two month period of action research, which included running different workshop sessions with –
● students from across East Kent completing National Citizenship Service (NCS)
● young people attending the Quarterdeck youth club in Margate
● a small cohort of students from the University of Kent’s Aspire Business School
These workshops showed the range of ways the young people engage with creativity and culture, and looked at the way that they have unprecedented access to a range of creative tools, and use them to make music, take photographs, and film and edit videos.
The findings were used to produce a guide to help start conversations with young people about careers in the creative industries. It is available as a download here.
Creative Work was supported by a Catalyst grant from the Royal Society for the Arts (RSA).