Online House Hunter: Cultural centres

Alan Cleaver
wave 200x300 Online House Hunter: Cultural centres

The Wave and Crows Nest art works on Whitehaven's harbour

THE use of art to regenerate urban areas comes under the spotlight in an article by Oliver Bennett in today’s Independent. He looks at the likes of Folkestone’s Triennial art festival, Margate’s Turner Contemporary Centre and the Public Arts Centre in West Bromwich.

The Creative Foundation which administers the Triennial at Folkestone has invested £40m in a Creative Quarter in the historic centre of Folkestone, offering 80 refurbished properties on 125-year leases, aiming rent prices at start-ups and creative businesses.

The Foundation’s Peter Bettley explains that they believe regeneration has to be embedded in the community not ‘imposed from above’.

More controversially Professor Loretta Lees of King’s College, London suggests that arts-led rgeneation only works in areas which ahve a critical middle to high income population and worreis taht Margate doesn’t have that demographic to make it work.

A creative quarter has been tried in many other towns. My home town of Whitehaven has seen astonishing investment in the town centre over the last three decades including the Beacon musuem beside the cleaned-up harbour area. The suggestion of a creative quarter and other ideas from guru Wayne Hemmingway are yet to come to fruition. Whitehaven also has an annual festival which brings a huge boost to the local economy.

The success or otherwise of arts-led generation will always be a matter of debate but even ‘controversial’ art is usually welcomed by residents if the alternative is derelict buildings.

Looking at Halifax Price Index, Folkestone has fared better than most over the last ten years. The average price of a house for sale in Folkestone in 2001 was £70,963. It reached £165,551 in 2006, topped £178,000 in 2010, and now stands at £141,470.

Margate can boast an average today of £161,773 – just slightly higher than its 2006 figure of £160,948.

Whitehaven’s regeneration has seen a 2001 average price of just £55,710 jump to an impressive £133,286 on today’s Halifax index. You can type in your own postcode to see how your area has grown or shrunk over the years.

While festivals bring a welcome boost to a town’s economy – this year’s Whitehaven festival is thought to have brought £2.5m into the area – it’s sustained development through ‘creative quarters’ that are likely to have the most beneficial effects.


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