Margate House

It used to be Burtons, then it was something called Artoptikon, and now it's looking fancy in black and white and about to open its doors...but what on earth is this building on the High Street and what's been going on? 

So a few years ago, Margate waved goodbye to yet another shop on its High Street as men's clothing retailer Burtons closed down. Eventually, the building was bought and builders got to work on the huge site, which occupies four floors. The word 'Artoptikon' appeared on the window outside and despite not really grasping what it meant it included 'art' so, naturally, I breathed a sigh of relief. In recent weeks, the building has been transformed. Freshly painted and looking super chic, the newly named Margate House is about to launch.

I caught up with the building's owner, Lana Vanzetta, so that she could enlighten me on what's happening on the High Street. 

What is Margate House?

Margate House is a space dedicated to performance, moving image, technology and photography for the local community. The name Artoptikon was really just a play on words - the exchange and shaping of ideas for the building; a way of seeing, of understanding the local community, and how together, we can create a space that feels open and friendly like being invited into someone's house, which is how we settled on the name. Margate House is being developed to provide facilities for arts education, training, workshops and other arts-based projects in the interest of community well being. We aim to improve the quality of life for people who due to reasons of youth, disability, financial hardship or other social circumstances have been prevented from such access.

  How has the community responded so far?

People have been really supportive. As work on the building has unfolded, the builders and I have constantly been asked "what are you doing?" and "whats happening here?". We have loved chatting with everyone and people have been full of compliments which made the builders really proud of their work. They've always been having to come inside to tell me that someone wants to talk to me; every day someone would regale us with stories of the 'Regal Snooker Hall', 'Burtons' or of the High Street. Everyone has had something to say to us!

 What can we expect from Margate House and what role do you see it as having in the local community? 

 It's definitely early days for Margate House but this has been three years in the making. I began the search for a building in Thanet in June 2011. Whether it's exhibitions, events, community groups, workshops, etc, you'll see all sorts of things happening here. I hope it acts as a catalyst for creativity and togetherness in Margate and the surrounding area. We will be hosting Kent Creative Live on every 3rd Tuesday of the month which is a support group for artists, art organisations and creative professionals in Kent, offering them opportunities to network, develop relationships, collaborate, learn skills, promote and exhibit artwork, and get work opportunities between themselves and also with the wider business community. 

In October we're hosting a powerful one night performance about Human Trafficking by the playwright Sam Hall for Rah Rah Theatre called 'My Mind is Free'. There's a creative writing workshop in late September. We are also working on a project with Turning Point, a national health and social care provider. To kick it all off, we are really excited to be part of the Margate Festival 'Tribes'. We are joining forces with Lombard Street Gallery and Vortigern to bring together a 'tribe' of photographers for FotoFest Margate, which runs from September 4th-6th. We have some great talks, events and workshops taking place. I would love to tell you everything about the building's future but then there would be no surprises!

 ♥ ♥ ♥

 It sounds like Margate House has so much in store for Margate. I love where Lana's coming from; she's working with the community and the arts in order to make things better. It's inspiring that the site of a business which played a part in signalling the death of the High Street has been revived and in such an exciting and rewarding way. Margate High Street is doing well and this place is going to contribute to its ongoing regeneration. It's a place for anyone to have access to creativity and I can just tell there's going to be lots to look forward to!

For more info on the events mentioned please visit margatehouse.org


1 comment :

  1. Margate House is a facility and venue that should be the envy of many towns and communities. Not just its' physical scale but the scope of philosophy and ethos that under-pin it.