Independent postgraduate liberal arts institution The Margate School is at risk of closing after several failed attempts to raise funds.
Although the school was founded by founder and director Uwe Derkson in 2018, he first established it in 2015 as a not-for-profit company, supported by course fees and private and public investments. Courses on offer include a two-year European MA in Fine Arts – accredited by the French art school L’Ecole Supérieure d’Art & Design Le Havre/Rouen (ESADHaR), based in Normandy – and two one-year creative courses at postgraduate level in Visual Communication and sound art. The school also conducts technical workshops ranging from sustainable photography to screen printing and laser cutting.
To set up the school and its technical facilities in 2018, The Margate School received seed funding from the Coastal Community Fund. The money was also intended to support students, studio owners and the community over a two-year period. Thereafter, 50% of the budget was generated independently, while the other 50% was accumulated through additional public funds.
Derkson explains that the reason for the current threat of closure is that public funding didn’t materialize, coupled with the fact that the school’s independent income “has suffered from COVID-19 and the cost of living crisis.” He adds that the nonprofit school operates on “an extremely tight budget” and profits are used to invest in the community.
Margate School is the only higher education provider on the Isle of Thanet and offers the only creative apprenticeship in Margate. Its creative community consists of nine staff, 25 students, 17 tutors, 12 grantees, 42 studio owners and a number of volunteers.
In order to stabilize its operations, the school is seeking at least £50,000 via a crowdfunder, plus a further £100,000 to continue current teaching and make plans for the future.
Derksen says over 200 messages of support were sent out within two days of the appeal, showing “the importance of [it] to them”. Thanet District Council Councillor, Rob Yates, commented on the possible closure of the school, saying: “Margate School is a brilliant local creative space, hosting a wide variety of events and catering to a diverse segment of society. The sense of community loss is devastating.”
Located in the heart of Margate in an old Woolworth building which had previously fallen into disrepair eleven years ago, the school has contributed to the upgrading of High Street, attracting over 16,000 visitors a year for exhibitions, lectures and events.
If the school gets the funding it needs to stay open, Derksen said it will seek to triple the size of its community over the next decade by establishing additional courses and increasing student enrollments in existing courses. The business model will continue to be “steadily increasing self-employed income” and thereby “reducing dependence on public funds”, while at the same time supporting creative people who cannot afford the fees or training.
Although this is very similar to the school’s old business model, Derksen says there will be a “focus on increased marketing” as well as the creation of a scholarship fund for the academic year, which the school already “has a significant commitment to.” Margate School also has plans to increase membership and develop more online offerings.
Margate has seen a revival of investment in recent years through the Government’s £22m Town Fund and £7m Leveling Up Fund. Some of the recent interest in Margate can be attributed to its creative arts scene, as it is now home to national events such as the UK Creative Festival. It also houses the Turner Contemporary Gallery and artist Tracey Emin is in the process of establishing artist studios, an art school and a gallery.