Role of heritage and culture in levelling up

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“Forgotten” heritage sites and cultural organisations recognised for role played in ‘Levelling Up’ local towns and cities

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Cultural regeneration projects at disused heritage sites across East Kent have been recognised for their role in ‘Levelling Up’ local towns and cities at an event at the Palace of Westminster.

Sponsored by MP for Folkestone and Hythe, Damian Collins, the event celebrated the successes of Pioneering Places East Kent in empowering communities, children and young people to develop future visions for forgotten sites in ‘left behind’ places, in partnership with local historians, artists and planners.

Pioneering Places is the joint-largest of the nation’s Great Place Schemes, a joint initiative between Arts Council England and National Lottery Heritage Fund. The project was delivered by lead partner, Creative Folkestone, working in partnership with The Land Trust, The Marlowe and Turner Contemporary.

Levelling up in practice

With all four projects based in local authorities identified as priorities in the Government’s Levelling Up Prospectus, Pioneering Places has demonstrated how disused sites can be transformed through culture for the wider social and economic benefits of their communities. It serves as an early indicator of what ‘Levelling Up’ can look like in practice.

Sector leaders applauded Pioneering Places for becoming a catalyst for cultural and heritage-led ‘Levelling Up’, unlocking disused sites for use as new commercial venues, creative spaces, visitor sites and community spaces, with an estimated development value in excess of £39 million across four projects in Kent.

These included:

  • Canterbury: an under-used 12th century heritage building was revitalised by The Marlowe, with a new vision for the site developed as The Marlowe Kit – a new learning centre for the city’s young people;
  • Dover: Fort Burgoyne, a magnificent Scheduled Ancient Monument set across 42 hectares, opened to the local community for the first time by The Land Trust, with proof-of-concept demonstrating the site’s potential as a vibrant place for learning, events, local and visitor communities;
  • Folkestone: The brownfield site of a former gasworks, abandoned for 18 years, was reclaimed by the local community, activated by Creative Folkestone through public artworks and purchased by the local council for development
  • Ramsgate: Primary schoolchildren, empowered by Turner Contemporary to develop leadership skills, commissioned a major new public artwork by leading British artist, Conrad Shawcross, acting as a beacon for civic pride and attracting new footfall and visitors.

Ramsgate has since been confirmed by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities as one of the first round beneficiaries of the Levelling Up Fund, with planned investment including regeneration of the town’s heritage assets and cultural infrastructure. Future bids are expected from each of the three other priority places, including a Canterbury bid with The Marlowe Kit identified as a key element of the bid.

Keynote contributions

Keynote contributions were made by Ros Kerslake CBE, Chief Executive, National Heritage Fund; Duncan Wilson OBE, Chief Executive, Historic England; Dr Darren Henley OBE, Chief Executive, Arts Council England; and Alastair Upton, Chief Executive of project lead organisation, Creative Folkestone. 

Damian Collins, MP for Folkestone and Hythe, said: “I am delighted to sponsor this event celebrating the important work of Pioneering Places East Kent. It has been my privilege to see this work develop and to see the difference it has made to the communities, not just in terms of strengthening the fantastic cultural and creative offer, but also the very real impact it has made in regeneration.”
Watch Damian Collins’ speech at

Alastair Upton, Chief Executive, Creative Folkestone (project lead partner), said: “It has been truly inspiring to be a part of these projects, which have not only unlocked social and economic potential, but also the creativity of those living and working in the areas where the sites are located.”
Watch Alastair Upton’s speech at

Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive, National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “All of the Pioneering Places projects and sites show the potential for a great range of opportunities for young people to engage with heritage. Not only in taking part in managing and volunteering but in shaping decisions about where they live. The schemes show how heritage and culture can amplify young people’s voices in planning and placemaking and create better places to live, work and visit”
Watch Ros Kerslake’s speech at

Darren Henley, Chief Executive, Arts Council England, said: “Partnerships and collaboration have been at the centre of Pioneering Places. When the cultural sector works closely with community partners, as the scheme has demonstrated, solutions to local challenges are richer and more relevant, resources go further, and greater social and economic benefits are delivered.” 
Watch Darren Henley’s speech at

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive, Historic England, said:It has become quite apparent that we have got across the significance of heritage as something that’s really fundamental to turning around places, which is absolutely at the heart of big government programs like the Towns Fund and Levelling Up Fund.”
Watch Duncan Wilson’s speech at

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