My vision for Kent’s Creative Coast

The launch of  ’21st Century Kent – A Blueprint For The County’s Future’ is the vision for Kent, commissioned by Kent County Council and produced by architect and urban designer Sir Terry Farrell and his team.

The document is useful and important, in terms of setting a context and goal to aim for but, as Sir Terry himself says ‘this vision will only be realised if people support it, feel ownership of it and engage with it.’

This is the real challenge.

With the growth in social networking comes the increasing realisation that we, as individuals, have a responsibility and the power to make things happen more than at any time in history – well in my history at any rate!

My vision for Kent’s Creative Coast

So, I have been prompted to write about my vision for Kent’s Creative Coast and how it would support many of the ambitions outlined in the Farrell blueprint, particularly the one that aims to use culture as one of the ways to position the Kent coast as the ‘the UK’s most distinctive and thriving coast by 2030.’

I want Kent’s coast to become known as the place in the UK where people can be creative, engage with creative people, and enjoy creative places and events. (I deliberately use the term creative rather than cultural as I believe it has much wider appeal.)

I want this to happen because I am passionate about Kent’s coast and want others to discover the creativity that exists here alongside the beautiful beaches, working harbours and stunning sunsets.  I also believe it will be good for the economy and bring much needed work to the coastal towns.

Many exciting creative places and events can already be found on or close to Kent’s Coast

But how many people know about what’s happening on Kent’s Creative Coast?

We should not get carried away thinking that everyone knows what’s happening.  Most people are concerned with a very small part of their world. Outside of Kent few people know about the exciting creative communities of artists that exist in every Kentish coastal town. Many graduated from the University of Creative Arts (which has 3 campuses in Kent) or others have been drawn to the coast by the opportunity to live by the sea, to live amongst like minded people in interesting distinctive towns, whilst still being close to London.

What is also less well known is that many of these visual and performing artists do not make a living from their creative practice. Also, with the likely reduction in public funding for the arts, this is a situation that is not going to improve in the short term.

It’s wonderful that you can already find interesting independent shops selling local arts and crafts, wonderful galleries and vibrant music, art  and theatrical venues on the Kent coast. The new Turner Gallery and the arts led regeneration of our coastal towns will also add to the creative buzz but we must not overestimate how many new visitors to Kent they will attract.  Kent faces stiff competition, not only from London but also from other parts of the country and the rest of the world.

Successful destinations provide differentiation and local distinctiveness and I believe Kent’s coast can provide just that if we encourage and support all those talented creative people living and working here to pass on their skills if they wish to.

I want to see more opportunities where people can meet and learn from local artists and take home not only a wonderful memory but also a unique souvenir, by developing creative tourism along the coast.  Creative workshops also provide something for people to actively participate in.  This is particularly good if visiting the coast on a wet day in February.

Who wants to participate in creative activities?

I know that there is a market of people who want to learn what these creative people could teach.  They are called creative tourists or visitors.  They don’t want to sign up for an evening class or lengthy course but they do want to be taken away from their daily routines, even if only for a short time. They want to learn in a setting that is welcoming and distinctive, that possibly will combine the learning with an overnight stay and they need to be able to book easily.

They might be people who have brought up a family and now have more time to indulge their creative side. They could be creative professionals looking to add another dimension to their practice. They could be a group of girlfriends who want a short break and something to do as well as shopping eating and drinking.

Creative pursuits appeal to local peple too

There are many people living in the coastal towns who would not be motivated to attend any event if it had the word culture attached to it. However, I believe they would want to participate in creative activities if they are organised in distinctive venues and settings and provide them with a new skill in an enjoyable and supportive environment and a memento from the day.

My research and experience is that there are many creative people who lack the skills and confidence to develop creative workshops and limited knowledge and means to promote them.  With training they could. My plan is to provide this training for those artists who wish to extend their creative practice, by helping them to develop creative workshops that will appeal to local people and visitors from other parts of Kent and further afield.

I am not proposing replacing qualified teachers of creative subjects who do an excellent job in educational establishments and other settings. I am talking about providing a very different experience to that found in schools and adult education classes.  An experience that people will be prepared to pay for and which will complement the existing and planned cultural venues, creative events and activities (as outlined in the KCC/Farrell Vision for Kent).

Visit Kent, the official tourism body, responsible for promoting tourism in Kent has been very supportive in helping me to start communicating with artists and tourism providers who are interested in developing creative tourism products and funded a workshop attended by almost 100 creative and tourism professionals in November 2009.  They are also keen to see creative tourism products developed and if you are  already running creative workshops on Kent’s coast that combine overnight accommodation with a creative pursuit do please send me details for possible inclusion in the Creative Coast area of the Visit Kent website.

Want more information?

If you’d like more information about how my vision for Kent’s Creative Coast can be realised please send  brief details about your involvement in creative activities on the Kent coast to catriona@createinkent.co.uk

I’d also like to hear from you if you are an artist interested in developing creative workshops.  The more evidence I can gather that this training is wanted will be really helpful.

In a future of reduced public spending I believe that it is important that some of what is left should be used to help people become more self reliant and this is what my training would facilitate.

If you like and support my ideas please pass them on.

So to KCC and Sir Terry Farrell; I hope you will be pleased that I share your vision and am doing my bit to make it happen!

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7 thoughts on “My vision for Kent’s Creative Coast

  1. Hi Catriona,

    Re: Vision Document

    We can see how much thought and work you have already put into this project and it is good to see VisitKent lending their support.

    So much of our tourism offer is linked to local distinctiveness and our creative industries. The big challenge is to create a coherent and accessible opportunity for locals and visitors alike.

    I feel that many tourism agencies still don’t fully appreciate the real opportunity that can come through creative tourism. They need to open their eyes and ears!

    Best wishes
    Adrian Bevan
    Director
    Adrian Bevan Associates
    Edenbridge
    Kent

  2. Catriona

    It think you are right to highlight the importance of our emerging creative industries both to attracting visitors and jobs to the area.

    From my experience in advertising and marketing I know how important it is that as an area you have a story to tell -something that makes you different, and appealing to a broad group of people.

    The Creative Quarter in Folkestone, Triennial, Literary Festival, the work of groups like the Folkestone Arts Committee and new projects, like the ‘Last of England’ at Dungeness give us a strong offering.

    I would add to that local food as well, which is also a creative offering. We have local businesses which have reached national prominence, like M&M Richardson in Dungeness and Griegs in Hythe. Romney Marsh lamb is world famous and we have excellent sea food from the Channel.

    We have alot to be proud of and alot to shout about.

    Damian

    Damian Collins
    Conservative Parliamentary Candidate
    Folkestone and Hythe

  3. Hi Catriona,
    I think this is a really interesting post. It sets out a very clear vision for how the area can be positioned – and what I like is that the positioning is grounded in reality rather than aspiration.

    The opportunities for creative-based tourism, whether participatory or as an audience, are definitely there – the area’s proximity to other creative centres in the south-east means there must be a market for what you’ve set out.

    I think there might be some challenges in promoting a coast-long (is that the right word?!) offer as arguably the coastal towns aren’t a coherent place in their own right and exist more strongly at the moment as individual entities.

    As for what happens next, I think the “work” falls into two areas – first is encouraging and nurturing what’s already there (which I know you’re heavily involved in) and the second is continuing to push the creative coast concept through the Kent tourism promotion channels – as at the moment other more well-known tourism products in Kent tend to get most promotional attention.

    Will be following this with interest – good luck!
    cheers
    sw

    ps as a Whitstable resident I have a very clear vested interest!

  4. I wholeheartedly share your vision. In response to Simon’s comment above, whilst there may be more people than we know who are aware of Whitstable Biennale … that doesn’t mean it is enough. Far from it.

    We run a real risk of being myopic and thinking everyone realises how beautiful Kent is and the opportunity that it holds. They don’t.

    As many of you will know, I am a huge and loyal fan of Whitstable. I am constantly amazed at how many people have never even heard of this magical place.

    I do my best to change that, but I am only one person. Albeit with a relatively large voice and wide reach.

    Collaboration is the key.

  5. It’s a great vision. The challenge will be defining and celebrating the distinctiveness of Kent creativity and how this specifically relates to our inspiring and diverse coastline. We will need to rise to the challenge of turning visions into experienced realities which can be comunicated and enjoyed by visitors and residents alike. We need to really differentiate our county from every other Coastal county in England. And we must keep striving, however hard it may be, to define and redefine our understandings of “creative” and how these can be comunicated as an attribute of our county, its businesses and its people.

  6. hi Catriona

    You ask “But how many people know about what’s happening on Kent’s Creative Coast?”

    The Whitstable Biennale has a huge reputation throughout the world of contemporary art. We get contacted by people from all over the globe, enquiries come from Europe, the USA, Japan etc etc.

    I think you may be underestimating the number of people who know about us.

    Great pic at the top of your blog by the way.

    Best wishes

    Simon Steven
    Press Office
    Whitstable Biennale 2010

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