Cliftonville Cultural Space - a place for everyone

by Jan Ryan in Margate, England, United Kingdom

We did it
On 11th August 2023 we successfully raised £10,050 ( + est. £853.75 Gift Aid ) with 81 supporters in 42 days

This summer, we are upgrading our building so that we can stay open throughout the year & welcome residents to an inclusive creative space.

by Jan Ryan in Margate, England, United Kingdom

 New stretch target

Additional support will enable us to purchase lights, sound equipment and moveable staging, so that we can host every type of event. 

Cliftonville Cultural Space is a charity based in the former Margate Synagogue in the heart of Cliftonville West. Our ambition is to provide a welcoming, accessible, inclusive, cultural and social resource, which brings together Cliftonville’s diverse communities - a space where people can experience live performance and exhibitions; thought-provoking film screenings; food events and workshops that are open to everyone. 

Above all, this space will reflect the diverse roots and identities of all those who call Cliftonville home – both now and when the synagogue was built. 

The detail:

In order to make our space accessible and suitable for public use, we need to do some immediate work on the physical structure of the building. Aside for the need to cater for people with additional needs, the outdated electrical system poses risks, while the absence of heating renders it unusable during the winter months. 

Part-funded by the government’s Community Ownership Fund, we are able to address some of our most immediate needs. But in order to complete the work during summer 2023, and open for a full programme of events in September, we need your support too.

Our most urgent needs are to install an accessible WC and heating so that the building can welcome everyone throughout the entire year. Once we have achieved this, we want to install sound, lighting and staging  so that we can maximise the range of events and activities we are able to host.

What are the benefits of the project?

Located in Cliftonville West, just a short stroll from central Margate in Kent, the former synagogue presents a positive opportunity to make Cliftonville a better place to live and work. 

Despite the arts-led regeneration Margate is currently experiencing, many in Cliftonville are struggling. It is in the top one per cent of the most deprived areas in England, and it is the fourth poorest neighbourhood in the country. 

In spite of these challenges, our community is diverse, dynamic, entrepreneurial, and creative. We want to celebrate and showcase these remarkable assets.

We have already engaged with over 1500 members of the local community, including around 400 children, through hosting dance workshops and rap classes for local children and young people; exhibitions and performances as part of our Winter Festival, International Roma Day celebrations, and Refugee Week events - and through our extensive oral history project, Cliftonville Voices. 

We still have some way to go before we are fully operational and can contribute to the local economy by creating employment and training opportunities for young people and Cliftonville residents. But by opening the building in the short term for everyone, all the time, we can sustain and grow our range of activities, and respond better to local need.

Cliftonville Cultural Space is also committed to implementing environmentally sustainable solutions in every aspect of our operation, reducing our carbon footprint wherever possible. Three phase electricity will support an air source heat pump, negating the need for gas heating – and heavy curtains will help keep the building snug and reduce heating bills. We are also replacing all our existing light bulbs with LED ones, again reducing our use of electricity. 

The story so far

Built in 1929, the synagogue served a large Jewish community for almost a century. By 2017, it was no longer viable as a place of worship and the building fell into disrepair. 

In October 2020, Margate Synagogue was put up for auction. Four local residents, Francesca Ter- Berg, Kate Gillespie, Lucy Lyons and Jan Ryan, passionate to preserve this last reminder of Cliftonville’s Jewish past, set out to save the building from demolition or commercial development.

Thanks to huge support from local residents and well-wishers from around the world, the building was rescued and Cliftonville Cultural Space was founded. By subsequently working with the local community and with the support of our neighbours, we have been able to deliver a number of successful projects.

September 2021 - Over 500 people visited the Sunken Gardens to experience an afternoon of Roma, Klezmer and West African music, and workshops to celebrate the Jewish Festival of Sukkot, marking the opening of Margate NOW.

 Between April and December 2022, we interviewed over 40 local residents for Cliftonville Voices -  an oral history project celebrating the diversity of Cliftonville. The exhibition, which was visited by over 300 people, can also be viewed online at and at Margate Museum.

  In December 2022, we presented Cliftonville Lights, a celebration of light and community involving six local primary schools and community groups.  Animated drawings  were projected on to the building in the evenings leading up to  the Winter Solstice, where the projections were accompanied by the Margate Social Singing Choir.

 Since April 2023 we have:

·      Hosted International Roma Day celebrations in partnership with Nelson College, attracting over 250 attendees for an afternoon of Roma music, food and dance.

·      Hosted an arts workshop with local children led by Turner Contemporary artist Beatriz Milhazes.

·      Embarked on Mothertrees Protect the Forest, a six week community project involving migrant women from Margate and Dover, working in partnership with United Mothers and Samphire.

·      Hosted a diverse programme of events, exhibitions, workshops and talks for Refugee Week, a nationwide festival celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary. 

More about Cliftonville Cultural Space

In January 2022, Cliftonville Cultural Space became a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (charity number 1197525). Although we are a small team of six trustees, two part-time staff and an array of volunteers, we have big ambitions - and the skills, knowledge and experience to achieve them: 

  • Jan, one of the original co-founders is now our CEO. She is a creative producer and festival director with more than 40 years’ experience of presenting work that is diverse, inclusive and socially engaged. She was previously Director of POW! Thanet (Power Of Women Festival) and founding Director of UK Arts International.
  • Elinor, our Partnership and Engagement Manager, leads our community engagement work. She has more than 20 years’ experience of delivering community arts projects, and previously co-founded Art4Space in Stockwell, London. 
  • Stephen, our Chair has worked in management and leadership roles across the third sector for the past 15 years, specialising in community development and social enterprise. He is currently Director of Delivery and Impact at Power to Change.
  • Adam, our Secretary has a 20 year career in the third sector, primarily in management roles in membership organisations and trade associations. He is currently Sales Director for the Recruitment and Employment Federation.
  • Aram (trustee), is a former councillor, frequent volunteer and campaigner for refugee rights, having arrived in the UK as a refugee himself. 
  • Joanna (trustee) brings a rich background in global business development for creative technology companies. She is currently Chief Commercial Officer at Bild Studios.
  • Maurice (trustee) managed the historic Bevis Marks Synagogue in the City of London for 20 years. He has extensive knowledge of how to run and maintain a historic building and is also involved with the Montefiore Synagogue in Ramsgate.
  • Olivia (trustee) has a professional background in business development and community engagement in charities and the public sector. She is currently Head of Consultation and Participation at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Our dream

The renovations we are seeking to fund represent the next step on our journey.

While we have been fortunate to receive funding and support from a range of donors, trusts and foundations to work with the local community, these additional funds will make our building usable, comfortable and safe for everyone. 

Our ultimate target is to raise £3.8m to transform the synagogue into a well-equipped and fit-for-purpose cultural venue for Cliftonville. In the meantime, your support will enable us to open and operate the building more fully and inclusively, whilst we secure the funds for the larger capital works.

Your support will help us create a space that celebrates Cliftonville's past and present - a space where everyone is welcome.

Together, we can make Cliftonville Cultural Space a testament to the power of collaboration, inclusivity, and the boundless potential of our community. Donate now and be part of something truly extraordinary.


This project offers rewards in return for your donation.

£20 or more

£20 Reward

One ticket for an event of your choice up until the end of March 2024

£30 or more

£30 Reward

Two tickets for an event of your choice up until the end of March 2024

£100 or more

£100 Reward

A season ticket for one person to attend all our events through to the end of March 2024

£250 or more

£250 Reward

Priority booking and a season ticket for two people to attend all our events until the end of March 2024

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