I read with interest Jo Phillips’ article on Turner Contemporary and its effect on Margate (‘A petri dish for innovation’: how 10 years of Turner Contemporary have impacted Margate, 16 April). As someone who grew up in Margate, not more than half a mile from the Turner site and who regularly returns to visit family and friends, I’d like to add my perspective.
Turner Contemporary has had a positive effect on Margate, true enough, but it’s a limited effect that is accessible to an elite group of creatives and their appreciative followers. You can measure this limited effect in hundreds of metres, as it’s no more than a few hundred metres away before you exit the Turner bubble and see the real Margate.
Has the unemployment rate in Margate improved? No. Has the drug problem improved? No. Has the poverty improved? No. Has the physical environment improved? Yes, in the Turner bubble, but it continues to deteriorate outside of it.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Turner Contemporary and everything it does; I’m proud that it is there in my home town, but let’s not overblow its influence. I want it to stay and carry on its important work, and I will regularly visit it. But until regular well-paid and meaningful employment returns to east Kent, it will always be stuck towards the bottom of any metric on poverty and outlook, and Turner Contemporary alone is not going to change that.
Although the art gallery has improved the impoverished cultural landscape of Margate, it has not made an improvement in the daily lives of those who live there, bar for an elite few whose livelihoods are tied into the creation and enjoyment of culture.