Famous for providing the inspirational backdrop for J.M.W. Turner and being the hometown of Tracey Emin, Margate has become a beacon for creative Londoners. Whether it’s cracking open a magazine and finding yet another article on it (hello, easyJet Traveller magazine last month) or Topman models walking down the catwalk with it emblazoned across their T-shirts, Margate seems to be on everyone’s lips at the moment. Long known as a bit of a dishevelled seaside town, the slice of Kent coast is bouncing back, thanks to the reopening of amusement park Dreamland (although this has since been embroiled in controversy) and the birth of an interesting mix of businesses such as Margate Arts Club, natural food store The Grain Grocer, and pop-up restaurant Xiringuito, run by a former Bistrotheque chef. Not only a popular weekend destination for city dwellers, the seaside town is attracting a wave of Londoners bringing more than just their holdalls. Frustrated by rising rents and yearning for a better quality of life, many Londoners – myself included – are waving goodbye to London and buying homes and establishing businesses in Margate. “Now is an interesting time for young people as most of us start to realise we will never be able to afford to live in big cities,” says Amy Redmond, the founder of club night Sink The Pink, who moved to Margate two years ago after 15 years in London. “So where do we go next? The nature of artist-led regeneration is that we find places we can practice our art, be creative, put on parties and be ourselves, and Margate provides such a welcoming platform to do this. It has a stunning coastline, fresh air, culture, art, history; the town is filled with magic.” Many are spurred to move to Margate by the opportunity to finally get on the property ladder – something that’s become just a distant dream for many Londoners. “Last year, we received an email from our letting agency telling us the rent would be going up again,” recalls blogger and freelance content creator Kirsty Merrett of Fashion For Lunch. “That same week, a friend of mine mentioned that everyone was moving to Margate. I laughed it off and told her she was crazy.” But Merrett kept hearing continuous references to Margate. “It felt like a sign,” she says. “I spoke to my boyfriend, he told me I was crazy and then he met up with his friend, who lives in Broadstairs [also on the Kent coast]. He also mentioned how much he loved Margate and my boyfriend told me we should drive down there that weekend and see what's going on.” Intrigued, they booked some house viewings and headed down for the day. “That afternoon we made an offer on a house,” laughs Merrett, who is in the process of refurbishing their 1860s house just off the seafront, which they paid a fraction of the cost of what it would have been in London.
Cecily Mullins is in the process of buying a one-bedroom flat in Margate’s Old Town. “I came down to visit and thought I'd rather buy a home somewhere that I enjoy living, with a proper sense of community rather than on the outskirts of London, where I'd be able to afford,” says the corporate music agent. “It's far enough away from London to feel like you've escaped the smoke but still connected to allow a commute if need be.” Incidentally a train from the seaside town to London's King's Cross station will take you an hour-and-a-half. In the past year, the seaside town has witnessed the rise of a number of eclectic new businesses, many of them started by ex-Londoners. “It’s wonderful,” says Redmond. “DIY business owners are finally able to afford to start the community-focused businesses they've always dreamed of.” With Londoners forking out an average of £1280 in rent every month, according to Metro, it’s difficult for people to pursue their dreams while living in the capital. In Margate you can rent an entire two bedroom property for £600. To buy a one bedroom flat with a garden and sea view will set you back about £160,000. Moving to the seaside helped freelance copywriter Clare Freeman fulfil her dreams of starting her own magazine, Margate Mercury, and buying her own place. “I used to live on my own in Berlin and after returning back to the UK, I knew I didn’t want to flatshare; I wanted my own place again.” Freeman looked into locations just outside of London and felt drawn to Margate. “It was by far the most friendly and welcoming, and there’s the opportunity here to do things and there’s a nice community.” Freeman bought a one bedroom flat – something she’d never have been able to do in London – and set up a magazine for the community. “There’s really the opportunity and freedom to achieve things here. It’s really tricky to launch your own thing in London. In Margate, rent and house prices are lower, and there’s support from everyone.”
As for myself, as a huge fan of outdoor swimming, I’m massively excited by the prospect of having Margate’s tidal pool on my doorstep. When I call Freeman, she’s on her way there. “Me and my friends go everyday at 6pm. It’s a nice way to end the day. I love it here – it’s easily the best place I’ve ever lived. Just the quality of life, and everything is within 10 to 15 minutes walk. I didn’t know anyone here before but there’s a really strong community and I’ve made friends.” Redmond says her life has been transformed since she made Margate her home. Not only has she bought a home with her husband, the artist Luke Vandenberg, but they’ve established a new business, Margate Arts Club. “In terms of fresh air, friends, time, and space, moving has changed my life,” she says. “It’s about prioritising your happiness and Margate has allowed me to do that in a way London no longer could.” For those wishing to follow the crowds, Redmond shares this piece of advice: “Bring an open heart and mind and add to the town. Anyone coming to buy property to rent and not add to the town is not adding anything to this ethos.” Catch you at the tidal pool.