Dover Here & Now


The first Dover Cultural Framework event, Dover Here & Now, took place on 13 October 2011 in the Roundhouse Theatre, Dover Discovery Centre, for an invited audience and we were very pleased with the turnout. 75 people registered and 65 attended on the day.

Balancing the long-term and the Here & Now

The aim of the event was to draw out the key principles of Dover’s Cultural Framework and make them tangible by showing how they are already or could be applied to cultural and economic activity in the town. The three guiding principles are Promote Existing Assets, Enrich rather than Bolt on and Purposeful and Playful.

First, DAD Director Clare Smith welcomed the delegates, introduced the speakers, thanked the contributors and set out the agenda. DAD programmed the day so that it would differ in format from the traditional conference – for example scheduling a long lunch break to allow people to talk to speakers and others they particularly wanted to engage with instead of a Q&A session and adopting a creative approach to evaluation by giving people time to provide considered responses and feedback.

Then DAD Director, Joanna Jones, through storytelling and metaphor highlighted the importance of valuing the existing culture and particularity of a place, at the same time as embedding the arts and creative thinking from the beginning of the long-term developments in the Town so that communities and development are enriched in a purposeful and playful way.

The first speaker, Sarah Lang, former programme officer at Dover Pride, talked about how she had come to love the town and about the importance of localism and commitment to the place one lives in. She also talked about the genesis of the Cultural Framework and about projects that had already been delivered in line with the Framework’s principles, such as the Box Gallery project and the Remade in Dover project, both examples of new partnerships and temporary use of empty shops.

DAD then presented a case study in the form of 3 short films about The Table project. The Table was built at the Old Sorting Office, now home to LSBC cic, where DAD also has a studio. Having a studio in the OSO has permitted the creative and unusual proximity of an arts organisation with a variety of other businesses in the same building and has contributed to the vitality and attractiveness of the building. DAD has worked with new partner LSBC to offer opportunities for alternative skills development through flexible work placement opportunities for the long-term unemployed on the now completed New Horizons programme. Ten of the New Horizons beneficiaries worked on The Table, a project which raised aspirations and embedded cultural experience within everyday life.

Dave Robinson, Dover District Council, gave a personal view of the Here & Now.  His film, fusing the personal and the professional, was a pertinent reminder of how Dover is developing, despite the perception of nothing ever happening. Dave underlined the importance of how we are part of both what we do and where we live and work. He referred to the framework’s principle of Dover as a good cultural host making it easy for visiting artists to make effective use of existing assets and temporary use of free spaces; e.g graffiti artists’ work on the hoardings; art projects in the old coach station; former Box gallery.

Sarah Wren, Kent County Council Arts and Regeneration Officer East Kent, then talked about how Dover’s Cultural Framework fits in with the Kent cultural strategy and the important link between art and the creative industries. She referred to the economic contribution the creative industries make nationally, the need to see creative businesses as not inherently more risky than other businesses, and the opportunities Dover now has. She pointed out that the interventions and activity in the market square make the square already a hub for cultural activity, on which to build.

Garbor Stark, Senior Lecturer at the Canterbury School of Architecture, showed some student research work on the Port of Dover and highlighted the Urban Voids debate initiated by one of his students last year and where Dave Robinson joined the podium guests. This led on nicely to a presentation of examples of temporary/medium term art/community projects, which embody the enrich rather than bolt on principle, in Berlin; Dover is not alone with its urban voids. He finished by presenting the six designs chosen for phase 2 of the Canterbury School of Architecture postgraduate student competition for the new Fountain cover in Dover’s Market Square.

After lunch, provided by Il Rustico, we screened the DAD feature documentary production, Watermark, about Buckland Paper Mill in Dover which closed in 2000. In the film the mill is brought back to life by the men and women who worked there. The projection facilities were not the best but the qualities of the film came over nonetheless The first preview of Watermark for friends and family of Buckland Mill workers is on 6 March 2012 at 10am as part of the Dover Film Festival at Maison Dieu, Dover Town Hall, when there will be a presentation of a collection of watermarks by former Buckland Mill employee David Langley to Jon Iveson for Dover Museum.

To finish, DAD, Marianne Kapfer, Watermark director, and Dominic de Vere, co-editor, presented a hard disc of the full-length interviews recorded for Watermark to Jon Iveson for the Dover Museum and to Dr Tim Strangleman for the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research at the University of Kent. Jon Iveson expressed his pleasure in seeing so much of the museum’s photographic and film material included in the film, while for Tim Strangleman:

Watermark is a filmic paean to work and working class culture. Richly evocative, thought provoking and profoundly moving this wonderful collaborative project should be watched by anyone who cares about work, community and place.

If you would like to watch 7 short videos with extracts from the presentations please click on the following links:

Clare Smith
Joanna Jones
Sarah Lang
Case study 
Dave Robinson
Sarah Wren
Gabor Stark