Hollywood stars and New York hipsters flock to our British seaside town…but we’re overpriced – it’s not fair
RESIDENTS of a beach town have told how overpriced they are because Hollywood directors and New York hipsters flock to their town.
And the town’s reputation for sandy beaches and classic architecture has been boosted by Sam Mendes’ new film, Empire of Light, starring Olivia Colman.
The recent buzz around town has attracted artists from all over the world.
The famous Tracey Emin returned to the coastal center in 2016 after growing up there.
Meanwhile, Pete Doherty has spent much of his music career in Margate, even opening a studio and hotel in the town.
Robert Diament, director of the Carl Freedman Gallery alongside actor Russel Tovey, told the Guardian that Margate was going “international”.
He added, “Artists are leaving Brooklyn to be here.”
Some have even gone so far as to dub it ‘Ibiza’ in the UK, according to Tatler.
But now residents are divided over the city’s new “hipster” status.
John Horler, 36, moved to Margate eight years ago from south London and works part-time at the Skatepark skateboard shop in the town.
He said: “Over the years I’ve been here, I’ve really seen things change.
“There are a lot more opportunities now and there is a very strong and thriving community.
“During the winter it can be a bit quiet, but it really picks up in the summer.
“It’s definitely becoming international. I don’t know too many Americans in particular, but a lot of artists are drawn to the city.
“The galleries are amazing and there is so much to do here.
“When the skatepark is built, which is planned for next year, it will bring even more people down.
“I would definitely recommend artists and people around the world who are looking for a place to be more creative to come here.”
Simon Hutchinson is co-owner of the Big Shot cafe located in the old part of town.
He moved to Margate three years ago from nearby Canterbury and is also excited about the development of the town.
The 35-year-old said: “I think it’s an amazing city and there’s been a lot of progress over the last few years.
“When I was younger, Margate had a pretty bad reputation and there was little appeal about it, even for local residents.
“But now there’s so much to do. The food in this city is amazing because it has such a wide range of quality restaurants.
“We’ve been open for just over a year now and seem to be doing well. It’s hard to rate anywhere at the moment, with the economy and the hangover from covid, but Margate definitely seems to be a city on the rise.
“It doesn’t surprise me that more and more people are coming to the city, even Americans.”
But not all local residents have such a positive opinion of the city.
Robyn Evans, who was born and raised in Margate, wasn’t so sure the recent hype was warranted.
The 27-year-old special education assistant said: “We hear all these things about Margate being the booming place, but for locals that’s not the reality.
“Having the shoot here was really cool, and we loved the lights, but nothing permanent stayed here. Not keeping the lights on was a bad decision.
“Rents are getting too expensive and people are being kicked out of town. Most homes are bought up and turned into AirBNBs. It’s not sustainable at all.
“More Londoners and artists are coming here, that’s all well and good, but unless they’re spending their money locally it doesn’t really do us much good.”
Ben Olive, 30, agreed Margate residents rarely see the benefit of artists making it their new home.
The Home Office employee said: “It is true that we have seen an increase in investment in some parts of the old town, but the majority of the town has been actively declining recently – particularly after the pandemic.
“Most of the shops in the center are closed and the money just isn’t staying in town. The locals really don’t get anything out of it.
“It was great having Empire of Light filmed here, but nothing stayed. The council didn’t even keep the lights they were given.”
Ryan Smith, who works at Margate Book Shop, could see both sides of the argument.
The Scottish writer and musician moved from London three years ago after growing tired of the hectic nature of city life.
The 38-year-old said the city has given him and his partner a significantly better standard of living.
But he added that he sympathized with locals who felt the money was not staying in the town.
He said: “I love this place. There is such a sense of community and the city has such a unique character that it is no surprise that international artists are drawn there.
“For people tired of city life, it offers such a different experience. There’s a lot of culture here, with the galleries and the live music scene, and it’s a beautiful area.
“It’s a very attractive place for artists and I understand why more and more people are coming here…although this is happening long before the new Sam Mendes movie.
“I totally understand why locals have a bit of resentment towards some people who move in. A lot of people just buy houses in the city but don’t spend money here, charging regular people.
“But again, when I was running a local pub there were so many regulars saying the town has transformed over the last decade because of the people who have come.
“Really, if you come here, you have to make an effort to get involved in the local community and contribute to the city’s economy.
“I’m hopeful for the future of the city because I think it has a wonderful spirit that should protect it against the effects of gentrification.”