Pioneering Places

Cultural and heritage-led placemaking

Pioneering Places is the largest of the national Great Place Schemes, an ambitious project that will make East Kent an even better place to live, work and visit by exploring heritage, developing civic pride and connecting artists and communities.

Four projects in Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone and Ramsgate – all identified as priority one areas in the Levelling Up Fund prospectus – were led by cultural organisations to encourage local people to get involved and shape the place where they live. 

Each project identified different heritage sites that had somehow lost their function or were otherwise, forgotten, derelict or overlooked. Local communities were empowered to reconnect with each site, inspired by artists, informed by historians and supported by architects and planners to explore bold new visions for what each place could be. 

These are our pioneers. And these are their places…


Canterbury – Marlowe Kit

Delivery partner: The Marlowe

The Marlowe Kit project has revitalised a Grade II listed 12th Century building located in a neglected area within Canterbury’s city walls. Previously housing an old-fashioned museum with ever declining visitor numbers, the building has been transformed into a thriving place of creativity and learning for young people.

  • Made possible by Pioneering Places, The Marlowe gave Canterbury City Council a creative solution to the question of what to do with an underused building.
  • Project lead partner, The Marlowe, used an innovative mix of theatre and heritage practice, focusing on young people, to bring the building back to life.
  • Layers of outdated museum exhibition design were stripped away to reveal architectural features of this unique building that had been hidden away for decades.
  • Pilot projects (including an escape room, performances, an interactive exhibition, school workshops and youth theatre) have informed plans for the full redevelopment and restoration of the building, as a permanent legacy.
  • The Kit has seen over 38,000 visitors and participants take part in activity during the course of the project.

Dover – Fort Burgoyne

Delivery partner – The Land Trust

Identified as heritage-at-risk due to the condition of the site and lack of agreed future use, Fort Burgoyne is set across a 43 hectare site in Dover. The Land Trust acquired this scheduled ancient monument in 2014 with a vision to make the site a key part of the community. Options explored through Pioneering Places included:

  • Opening community access, engagement and consultation through walking tours, large scale events and public art commissions
  • Creation of a new public space to support a new community around the Homes England housing development at neighbouring Connaught Barracks
  • Transforming Fort Burgoyne into a financially sustainable, vibrant place for learning, events, business, the arts and local and visitor communities
  • Representation to Dover District Council’s draft Local Plan, recognising potential of the site to support regeneration of Dover

Folkestone – Gasworks

Lead partner: Creative Folkestone

Creative Folkestone worked with local residents, artists, architects, historians and policy makers to re-imagine the abandoned and disused brownfield site of a former gasworks,  connecting Folkestone Central station with its revived Creative Quarter. Pioneering Places empowered people and creatives to form an inspiring and credible proposal for the site and build a stronger community through: 

  • Memory Cafe events, inviting local community to share their recollections of the social history of the site and former gasworks
  • Local primary schools engagement with architects and planners
  • Commissioning award-winning architects, East, to produce a series of proposals for mixed-use development, based on community input
  • Opening and activation of the site through installation of three new public artworks during Folkestone Triennial

Ramsgate: Heritage Action Zone (HAZ)

Delivery partner: Turner Contemporary

Home to the only designated Royal Harbour in the UK, Ramsgate boasts two Heritage Action Zones, supported by Historic England, with a vision to help boost the local economy using the historic environment as catalyst. Pioneering Places empowered 70 primary schoolchildren to become Young Arts and Heritage Leaders, taking the lead in transforming their community through: 

  • Exploring Ramsgate’s rich maritime history and developing civic pride, supported by local historians
  • Developing leadership, team-working and creative skills with local artists and Turner prize winning architects/artists collective, Assemble
  • Installing a major new public artwork by internationally-renowned British artist, Conrad Shawcross, commissioned by the Young Leaders to activate and regenerate Ramsgate’s East Cliff, symbolise civic pride and act as a beacon for local and visitor communities