History of Ramsgate Festival
Ramsgate Festival has evolved from an arts festival organised every summer since 2010 by Ramsgate Arts, a registered charity launched in 2009, with the aim of using culture to contribute to the regeneration of the town.
The launch event was Love:Hate:Hope:Ramsgate in August 2009. It explored attitudes to this coastal town with a film installation, provoking discussion about the town and people’s views about ‘art’. Situated in an empty shop in the High Street, it attracted a wide range of residents, shoppers and visitors. The focal point was a nine-foot image of a retro TV, onto which the film was projected; the shop window was transformed to create a sharp, impressive entrance. Graphic design, stage design and film production were provided by local artists at little or no cost. Over three days, more than 800 people came inside. The biggest Hate was the dirtiness of the town, the most urgent Hope for a better economy and more for people to do. The main Love was the beach and the harbour.
It was decided that ‘festival’ was the best format for an arts event, something that could be outdoors and inside, showing a range of artforms, a chance for many different people to be enthused and entertained. A Summer Squall launched the next year, running until 2014. Each year it drew crowds of up to 20,000 people to theatre, dance, film, exhibitions and workshops. It launched Thanet Open Studios. Artists have included OperaUpClose, Wendy Cope, The Caravan Gallery and the Vintage Mobile Cinema, performing alongside many of East Kent’s best professional practitioners. For the 2014 Summer Squall we were particularly excited to mount our first artist-in-residence project, for which Theresa Smith of Mooch created Crowning Glory. This 4.5 mtr crown was a complex commentary on King George IV, who made Ramsgate’s harbour Royal — it was made out of discarded plastic bottles retrieved from the beach.
In 2015, we became the ‘Ramsgate Festival’. The programme continued to expand and diversify, always trying new ideas and working alongside the seafront traders who brought a fair, fireworks and a music stage to the August Bank Holiday weekend.
2016 saw the festival moving to July for the first time, working alongside the Royal Temple Yacht Club and their annual Ramsgate Week sailing regatta. The move opened up a second week in the vital summer holiday period, encouraging new visitors and providing high quality, sometimes surprising, cultural activities for our local people.
2017 became one of our most ambitious festivals, themed around ‘Dream Marine’ and produced by Teresa Askew for the second year. Russian artists Cardboardia and the Handmade Parade company from Hebden Bridge spend two weeks in town, giving workshops and creating huge parade creatures, a whole community of characters in cardboard with a Rubbish Monster fight on the beach and the best parade Ramsgate has seen for years, to close the festival. We were badly let down by the company engaged to make and operate the Ramsgate Slide, which is currently the subject of court action to reclaim the money lost by the charity due to non-delivery of the Slide.