There’s always something to look forward to in Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate on the Isle of Thanet. 2023 brings exciting new exhibitions at Turner Contemporary and the internationally acclaimed Powell-Cotton Museum, as well as new walking trails and the opening of stylish new accommodation.

Three new exhibitions at the Powell-Cotton Museum, Birchington

The Powell-Cotton Museum is an internationally important museum of African and Asian natural history and cultural objects, neighbouring the stunning Quex House and Gardens.

Through their ‘Reimagining’ project, the Museum has made a commitment to foregrounding the communities and individuals who made, used and cared for their collections. They now want to bring that connection between communities and objects into the present day with three new displays. These displays are based around the collecting work of the Powell-Cotton sisters, Diana and Antoinette. Diana and Antoinette grew up at Quex House, Birchington and undertook collecting trips to Africa in the 1930s.

From early 2023, dates to be confirmed

Namibian Narratives (permanent new display)

Namibian Narratives will display work created by six women from Ovamboland (Northern Namibia) who were commissioned to make objects that represent themselves. This is the first time in the museum’s history that they have asked people how they would like to be represented in their displays.

Through a process of co-creation with Dr Napandulwe Shiweda from the University of Namibia, this new permanent display will showcase contemporary culture and experiences from the African continent for the first time in decades. It features skirts, jewellery, beadwork and a unique doll named Kapwanwa or ‘My culture and I cannot be separated.’  

The display also features photographs and a short film of the six women talking about their work and culture.

Creative responses to the collection (temporary exhibition)

A second creative response to artefacts from the Angola/Namibia border comes from students at the University of Namibia. The students have created appliques and a silk screen printed textile in response to photographs of objects collected by Diana and Antoinette Powell-Cotton in the 1930s.

From 2019 to 2022, the museum was part of a project entitled ‘Making African Connections’. This project explored three collections of historically significant, colonial era African material in museums in Kent and Sussex. As part of this project, some of the Powell-Cotton Museum’s 2,500 objects originating from Southwestern Angola and Northern Namibia were photographed and put online.  Students used these images as the starting point for their work, a selection of which will be displayed in the museum.

Living Lineages: Bajuni Island Lives in the Powell-Cotton Archives (temporary exhibition)

This exhibition will feature a selection of photographs taken by Diana Powell-Cotton of the community inhabiting the Bajuni Islands (an archipelago off the coast of Somalia and Northern Kenya) in the 1930s. In 2015, a small selection of photographs were digitised and were circulated through social networks, eventually reaching Faiz Mohammad Shee who was able to identify his great grandmother. 

Kathleen Lawther, freelance curator, received a grant to digitise the rest of the photographs and has been working with Shee and his friends, relatives and wider networks to identify more individuals. This display will highlight these individuals’ images and stories.

Dickens House Museum, Broadstairs – 50th Anniversary / new Dickens Trail

Dickens House was originally a small Tudor building, extended and remodelled in Victorian times. Dickens based the character of Betsey Trotwood in ‘David Copperfield’ on Miss Mary Pearson Strong, who once lived here.

The house was given the name ‘Dickens House’ at the end of the 19th century, and was purchased by the Tattam family in 1919.  When Mrs Dora Tattam died in 1952 she left the house to her friend Gladys Waterer, who, when she died, left instructions for the house to be turned into a Dickens museum, and it subsequently opened on 16 June 1973.

A new walking trail will be launched, to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Dickens House Museum . The trail will start and end at Dickens House Museum, highlighting the author’s connections to Broadstairs, and will be available from April when the museum opens for the season. 

Empire of Light – new map featuring locations from the film

From Academy Award®-winning director and writer Sam Mendes, EMPIRE OF LIGHT is a moving drama about the power of human connection during turbulent times. Set in and around a faded old cinema in an English coastal town in the early 1980s, it follows Hilary (Olivia Colman) a cinema manager struggling with her mental health, and Stephen (Micheal Ward), a new employee who longs to escape this provincial town in which he faces daily adversity. Both Hilary and Stephen find a sense of belonging through their unlikely and tender relationship and come to experience the healing power of music, cinema, and community.

Much of Empire of Light was filmed at locations across Margate, while a few key scenes were filmed on Broadstairs seafront  

The new film map will highlight the venues and locations that were used during filming and the scenes in which they featured, alongside key areas of interest in each town.

Royal Harbour, Ramsgate – Harbour Highlights Audio Tour

Mischievous Theatre CIC joined up with Stephen Frost and Tracy Russell to produce Harbour Highlights, the first of a series of audio trails for Ramsgate and beyond. Harbour Highlights is an audio tour of Ramsgate’s historic Royal Harbour, starting at the lighthouse and finishing at the Royal Harbour Brasserie.

Listen to Lady Emma Hamilton, Billy Biscuit, King George IV, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and other engaging and charming characters from Ramsgate’s colourful past.

The trail is free to download onto a smartphone (iOS or Android) on the Useeum App – search for Ramsgate and click on the Harbour Highlights tour. The audio tour can be paused at any point, giving plenty of opportunity to make the most of the food and drink outlets on the waterfront.

Turner Contemporary Exhibitions

Sonia Boyce: Feeling Her Way – 5 February to 8 May 2023

Sonia Boyce (OBE, RA) represented the UK at the 59th International Art Exhibition of La

Biennale di Venezia in 2022 with an exhibition for the British Pavilion that builds on her

pioneering reputation. 

Boyce came to prominence in the early 1980s as a key figure in the burgeoning Black-British art scene, actively participating in critical discussions and exhibitions for racial equality. 

Turner Contemporary will be the first UK venue for Sonia Boyce’s exhibition, organised by the British Council. Boyce’s ambitious installation will immerse visitors in the sound of acapella singing by five pioneering black female singers. The vocalisations will use wordless, emotionally expressive and playfully improvised sonic forms. These are played across nine high-definition video screens, located on intriguing geometric structures, alongside wallpaper designs produced by Boyce devoted to hundreds of black British female singers. The videos explore each of the five performers individually, separated by unconventional fixed structures that provoke visitors to physically move around the space to experience multiple perspectives as they discover the owner of each outstanding voice.

Elev8 Bounce and Activity Park, Broadstairs 

Elev8 is an immersive multi-activity zone of bouncing, jumping, and climbing and the latest interactive experiences. There are two parks, one for under fours with less challenging features and the main arena suitable for over fours.

Party nights with music and atmospheric lighting are held on Friday and Saturday nights.  There are also toddler mornings and after school sessions.

The bounce park is the first phase of the project with plans for new features to be added.

Prices from £9.50 for a one hour Open Bounce session (4 or over). Toddler one hour Open Bounce session (age four and under, toddler park only) £5.95. Party nights, Friday and Saturday 6pm to 8pm, £9.95. Reusable safety socks must be purchased from Elev8 for £2 . 

Open Monday to Thursday, 10am to 6pm; Friday and Saturday, 10am to 8pm; Sunday, 10am to 4pm. Booking is advised.

Entry is free for the on-site cafe only.

Margate Leisure Centre

A new, multi-purpose activity and events space hosting Black Axe Throwing and Klak (boule/pétanque).

Black Axe Throwing is available on three lanes. Over 18s only, £24 per person. Each session lasts one hour. Booking required.

Klak is named after the noise the pétanque balls make on meeting. The Klak boule bar offers the largest indoor petanque facility in the UK. Perfect for all ages, the friendly instructors guide you through the addictive game of petanque. There are four pistes, each one available for up to six people.

Monthly on Monday is ‘Roller Disco Night’. Every Wednesday, amazing makers run creative workshops for anyone to join.

There are two Hammerschlagen logs for you to pit your skills against your friends. Drive a four inch nail into the log before anyone else, but there’s always a twist!

Also features, Slice Pizzeria, music and a bar.

Open Wednesday to Sunday, 10am to 10:30pm 

New Accommodation

No.42 by GuestHouse, Margate – opening June 2023

Continuing their mission to bring happy hotels to historic buildings on some of Britain’s most desirable streets, boutique hospitality group Guesthouse, will open the doors to the third property in their portfolio in a Victorian beach-front building overlooking Margate Main Sands in June 2023.

From Summer 2023, guests stepping inside the elegant, seafront property will find 21 bedrooms, a restaurant, a rooftop bar, a beachfront café serving healthy and organic food throughout the day, a lounge space and a spa. All these spaces have been designed by GuestHouse’s in-house interior design team, drawing inspiration from the colourful and unfading seaside character of the town.

In addition to all furniture being British-made, the interiors celebrate local talent, artists and highly skilled makers from Margate’s abundant creative community, showcasing their work and giving a sense of place to the interior design.

Reservations will open soon for Summer 2023, with rates from £155. 

Selena Margate

Due to fully open towards the end of 2023, the 40-room Selina Margate hotel marks the sixth UK opening for the rapidly growing hospitality and experiential brand targeting millennial and Gen Z travellers.

As with Selina’s flagship hotel in London, and its properties in Brighton, Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester, Margate combines eclectic accommodation across a variety of room types plus coworking, recreation, wellness and experiences.

Selina prides itself on designing properties by using artwork and advice from local artists, creators and tastemakers, breathing new life into existing buildings in interesting locations. Set in an elegant Victorian property close to the famous Grade II listed Walpole Bay Tidal Pool, Margate exemplifies this premise.

A large cowork space and meeting rooms present guests, residents and locals alike with an inviting and calming space to work, for a day, a week, a month or longer.

In addition, from spring 2023, a large beer garden will become the place to grab lunch or dinner and a cocktail as the sun goes down.

The overall aesthetic is vibrant and warm, with a mix of new, vintage and recycled elements and a colour palette of blues and terracottas. Works by local artists including Catherine Chinatree, Rebecca Strickson, LoLo and Michael Goodson will adorn the walls of both the social spaces and the bedrooms.

Chapel House Estate, Minster, near Ramsgate

Chapel House Estate is a destination wedding venue in Minster, near Ramsgate. The estate includes the recently converted Chapel House, with three en-suite bedrooms, a honeymoon suite with private terrace and an Arts and Crafts-style garden. 

Chapel House Estate has added a beauty, treatment and massage lodge to their top-quality offering, as well as nine luxury hideaway lodges that sleep up to 18 adults (plus children).

As well as hosting weddings of up to 150 (seated), the Walled Courtyard provides the perfect backdrop for intimate and private midweek weddings. With a private bar and No9 restaurant seating up to thirty guests, this secret space is a sun trap with an Italian vibe.

West Bay House, Westgate-on-Sea

West Bay House is a vast and opulent home with unbeatable views across the stunning West Bay. Located in Westgate-on-Sea, the house sleeps up to 18 in nine en suite bedrooms. It features a large family dining room, kitchen, two sitting rooms and a cardroom-come-library. It is available for private hire all year round.

The house was originally designed in the Queen Anne Revival style by renowned Victorian architect Sir Ernest George and his partner Harold Ainsworth Peto. In 1882 it was awarded the title of ‘House of the Year’. It would go on to become a school and hotel before returning to residential use. It has now been brought back to a contemporary version of its original grandeur.

The house’s west facing position makes for the most memorable sunsets. It is a unique offering for overnight stays, corporate retreats, events and away days, the perfect getaway for groups and large families. 

Fort Road Hotel, Margate 

Fort Road Hotel was purchased at auction four years ago. The building has now been rebuilt and reimagined by partners Matthew Slotover, Gabriel Chipperfield and Tom Gidley, with Fleet Architects.  It re-opened on 1 September 2022.

An additional top floor and terrace has been added to create a 14-room hotel with distinctive colour schemes, carefully selected artworks and period furniture. The roof terrace, open to hotel guests, offers 360° panoramic views of the vast Margate seascape and skyline, the perfect place to experience Margate’s famous ‘Turner sunsets’.

Art plays a key role in the hotel’s interior design. The basement bar features artworks by contemporary artists with close connections to Margate, including Tracey Emin and Hannah Lees. A specially commissioned mural by Sophie Von Hellermann fills the stairway between the 35-cover restaurant and the two-storey basement bar.  20th century abstract and figurative works decorate the rooms, and the corridors are lined with vintage Margate-themed photographs, postcards, memorabilia and antique maps.

The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, tea and cake and dinner. Head Chef Daisy Cecil  creates a menu inspired by late 19th and 20th-century female food writers including Isabella Beeton, Elizabeth David and Jane Grigson.