The Director of a project to transform 60 miles of the Thames Estuary across Essex and Kent into one of the most exciting cultural hubs in the world, has welcomed the Government’s decision to inject millions of pounds into developing creative industries in the South East following the award of more than £35.4 million in grants.
Creative Estuary funding has kick-started the delivery of plans to transform the Police Section House – one of the Historic Dockyard Chatham’s most prominent yet unused buildings – into the Docking Station, an innovative creative hub, paving the way for further investment and a £5.6 million share of the Government’s Levelling Up Fund.
In total, Medway Council received £14.4 mllion from the fund. The investment will enable three related projects in Chatham to support the area’s flourishing creative sector and provide further opportunities for economic growth, including the transformation of the Police Section House, a Grade II listed Scheduled Ancient Monument located to the north of the Historic Dockyard Chatham, into a unique creative facility.
It will deliver approximately 780 sqm space for researchers, artists, creative practitioners and technologists as well as flexible teaching spaces for creative skills development and training, production and performance spaces and an innovative digital, immersive and interactive gallery.
David Sefton, Director of Culture and Creative Projects at the University of Kent, said: “Not only is this a significant investment for the Docking Station project, but an endorsement of all the hard work going on behind the scenes by the Institute of Cultural and Creative Industries at the University of Kent, in collaboration with its partners and Creative Estuary, to support the creative industries sector and the cultural regeneration of Medway.”
Emma Wilcox, Director of the Creative Estuary Project, said: “It is fantastic news that Medway Council’s successful bid for a share of the Government’s Levelling Up Fund will benefit the development of the Docking Station – a state-of-the-art home for cultural and creative industries and skills development.
“We are delighted to see this project, supported by Creative Estuary, receive a seal of approval. This investment will go on to have a huge impact, encouraging further investment in the creative industries across the Thames Estuary Production Corridor.”
Paul Cowell, Head of Culture and Libraries at Medway Council, added: “To be recognised as a recipient of the Government’s Levelling Up Fund is a tremendous boost to all that we are trying to achieve across Medway and our ambitious plans.
“The funding helps to demonstrate the impact Creative Estuary is having in the South East, championing the value of culture and driving prosperity and growth.”
Already regarded as a regionally important creative hub, the funding awarded to Medway Council will also be spent on the refurbishment of the Brook Theatre in Chatham city centre and the Fitted Rigging House (South), a Grade I listed Scheduled Ancient Monument, so that its brought back into effective use providing 1,939 sqm of creative industries focused commercial floorspace.
Other funding injected into the Creative Estuary area includes £6,306,078 awarded to The Margate Digital Project, a specialist industry-focused centre in Margate’s High Street. Thanet District Council, in partnership with the EKC Group and The Margate School, aims to create 2,000 sq m of cutting-edge, industry-relevant training space which will focus on digital technology.
At the edge of the estuary and with excellent connections, Ashford Borough Council has warmly welcomed the Government’s decision to award £14,773,745 of Levelling Up Funding for the Ashford International Studios, Newtown Works project. The developer Quinn Estates is working with the council, alongside The Creative District Improvement Company and Time + Space Studios, as well as with the EKC Group, to bring forward the studio space and new educational facility.
Emma Wilcox added: “Our ambition is to ensure that the estuary becomes the UK’s largest and most significant concentration of creative production. We’re developing the places where creative industries can build a vibrant and prosperous future, enrich communities and strengthen the region. With government investment in cultural and creative infrastructure at this scale, our vision to transform 60 miles of the Thames Estuary across Essex and Kent into one of the most exciting cultural hubs in the world is taking great leaps forward.”
Creative Estuary is supported by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and led by the University of Kent on behalf of a consortium of public sector and cultural organisations. They include the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP), Kent and Essex County Councils, the Greater London Authority, 11 local authority areas represented by Greater North Kent and Opportunity South Essex, South East Creative Economy Network (SECEN), University of Essex, Locate in Kent and cultural organisations Metal and Cement Fields.
It is part of the Government endorsed Thames Estuary Production Corridor (TEPC) project, initiated by the South East Creative Economy Network and Greater London Authority.
Notes to editors