Turner Contemporary has been awarded significant funding from Arts Council England to create a series of new artworks to showcase the South East’s extraordinary cultural offer and increase the number of international and domestic tourists visiting the region.

The award-winning gallery has received £500,000 from Arts Council England’s £3.28 million Cultural Destinations programme for a pioneering new cultural tourism project.

Building on the Creative Coast’s world-class cultural offer, the South East’s outstanding art galleries will come together with leading artists and tourism businesses to create a unique new cultural ‘treasure hunt’ trail to tempt visitors to the region. The trail combines original new artwork commissions by internationally renowned artists, geocaching GPS technology, new bookable itineraries and an artist-led accommodation offer.

Turner Contemporary will lead the project with Visit Kent (Go To Places), who have been awarded £350,000 for the project from the UK Government’s £40 million Discover England Fund, administered by VisitEngland.

This is the first time the gallery will commission leading UK and international artists to create artworks across the whole of the South East region, with the aim to mobilise visitors across the Creative Coast. Turner Contemporary will work with partners Creative Foundation, De La Warr Pavilion, Jerwood Gallery, Metal, Towner Art Gallery and Whitstable Biennale on the project.

Director of Turner Contemporary Victoria Pomery OBE said:

“We’re delighted to have secured Culture Destinations funding. By truly putting arts and culture at the core of the project, we aim to create a unique, cohesive visitor offer which celebrates our distinctive coastline and significantly grows the visitor economy for the region. This ambitious project will create an experiential trail, relevant to key markets, through digital technologies and partnerships across the South East.”

Targeted at French and Dutch tourists and UK visitors, the project will create a new digital foot, cycle and train trail through Essex, Kent and East Sussex. Along the route, visitors will be able to find the new original artworks and log treasure containers – ‘geocaches’. They will be able to book experiences in each of the destinations such as tours and artists talks, and the project will trial a new accommodation offer, allowing visitors to visit and stay in artists’ homes and studios.

The investment follows the successful Cultural Destinations programme 1 project Culture Kent. This three-year project brought cultural and tourism organisations together to reposition Kent as the UK’s creative county, through a series of pilot events and artworks. In-depth research undertaken as part of the project has revealed that cultural tourists to Kent have a higher propensity to visit for longer than ‘regular’ tourists, generating more spend for the local economy.

Sarah Dance, Project Director said:

“The Culture Kent project was just the starting point for our cultural tourism ambitions to increase visitors to the South East. We know that in order to become a really successful ‘cultural destination’ we need to be a networked area, delivering a total experience to visitors that helps them understand a location and its people, through history and contemporary culture. So this investment gives us the opportunity to really create something special, giving visitors a completely new, connected experience, and presenting the South East as a truly unmissable cultural destination.”

The trail route will include the Thames Estuary, Whitstable, Margate, Folkestone, Hastings, Bexhill and Eastbourne, showcasing some of the most dramatic coastal scenery and creating a unique and immersive cultural experience for all, and building on the Coastal Culture Trail that invites visitors to travel along the East Sussex coast between Towner Art Gallery Eastbourne, De La Warr Pavilion Bexhill and Jerwood Gallery Hastings.

Sandra Matthews-Marsh MBE, Chief Executive Visit Kent (Go to Places) said:

“We are thrilled that we have the chance to work with our partners at Turner Contemporary to bring this exciting cultural project to life. More than 44% of visitors to Britain in 2016 stated ‘cultural attractions’ were their main motivator for choosing Britain as a holiday destination, and visits to museums and art galleries accounted for £889m of visitor spend that year alone. Our goal is to inspire international visitors who are interested in cultural adventures to go out and explore our coastline, and discover new art installations, stunning galleries and incredible characters and communities on the way.”

Turner Contemporary will lead on the delivery of the project’s arts content, including the new artworks, while Visit Kent (Go to Places) will lead on building and marketing the project’s tourism offer.

The project has also secured significant investment from the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP), East Sussex County Council and Kent County Council.

The three-year project will grow the visitor economy by 2020, showing how new initiatives and a networked cultural destination can increase tourism across the South East.

Hedley Swain, Area Director, South East, Arts Council England, said:

“Some of our country’s most exciting and innovative arts and cultural organisations are located along the south east’s coastline, each playing an important role in the future success of their local towns. This project will strengthen this even further, enabling these organisations to forge new partnerships and create a more compelling and joined-up offer that increases tourism in the region. I am excited for what this project means for our coastal areas, not just in terms of reaching new audiences, but also for how it will contribute to the region’s economy, reputation and sense of pride.”

Visit England Chief Executive Sally Balcombe said:

“The calibre of submissions to the Discover England Fund reflects the innovation in product development thriving across the country’s tourism landscape. The successful projects will boost international and domestic visitor growth creating a step-change in the industry and spreading the economic benefits of tourism across England. This project will harness the enthusiasm of art loving visitors with an imaginative offer than will feed their interest in art and encourage them to explore our coast out of season.”

Adam Bryan, Managing Director, SELEP said:

“The creative and cultural industries are a critical part of the South East economy. This has been acknowledged by SELEP in previous and new strategic plans and we expect to play our part in creating the conditions for the sector to thrive. To that end, we are delighted to support this programme and look forward to seeing its successes.”

East Sussex Council said:

“East Sussex has a thriving visitor economy and we know that the main reason people visit us is because of our outstanding cultural offer. This new project will help us to showcase our offer further afield and attract more visitors to the county, growing the customer base for a range of businesses from accommodation, food and drink to the cultural organisations themselves. We are delighted to be part of this ambitious programme.”

Mr Michael Hill, Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Services, Kent County Council said:

“Kent County Council continues to invest in culture and the creative industries, appreciating the benefits this brings to our local economy and our communities. Culture is now a driving force in attracting visitors to Kent, generating significant economic growth. Over the last ten years we have enabled the production of pioneering and visionary creative activity and supported outstanding art. This new cultural tourism project builds on this solid foundation. Working with partners in East Sussex and Essex, the innovative art trail will add richness to our cultural offer, positioning our fantastic coastline as the UK’s Creative Coast.”

Posted by Tara Neville on Monday 12 February 2018