Published: Monday, 20th March 2023

Plans for a new digital creative innovation hub at The Historic Dockyard Chatham have been given a major boost with a multi-million pound grant from the DCMS Cultural Development Fund.

The Docking Station will house the University of Kent’s Institute of Cultural and Creative Industries, establishing a high-quality creative centre which brings together state-of-the-art commercial digital production studios, support for local businesses, new education and training opportunities and a public programme of events and activities on the same site.

Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries Lord Parkinson announced the funding on Monday 20 March on a visit to the site, with the grant following the £5.6m already received from the Government as part of Medway Council’s successful Round 1 Levelling Up Fund bid.

The project will involve the conversion of the Police Section House – a Grade II listed Scheduled Ancient Monument owned by Homes England at The Historic Dockyard Chatham – into a flagship building designed to support the development of the digital creative sector in Medway and the Southeast.

The facility will open in 2025 and is intended to become a focal point for creative activity in Medway, with an immersive digital studio space, café, gallery and exhibition spaces, plus teaching areas and facilities to support start-up enterprises. It will also house a suite of commercial digital production studios for industry use.

Multi-award winning architects Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios are leading the design of the ambitious space, which is the central part of a wider commitment from the University, Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust and Medway Council to boost Medway’s regional economy through creative initiatives. The University’s Institute of Cultural and Creative Industries is intended to be a catalyst for culture and creativity, working closely with industry, regional communities and national bodies.

Investment from Creative Estuary supported the initial Docking Station feasibility study and it is a key pilot project within the four-year programme to transform 60 miles of the Thames Estuary into one of the most exciting cultural hubs in the world.

Supporting Medway's fantastic cultural and heritage infrastructure

Leader of Medway Council, Cllr Alan Jarrett, said: "We are delighted that this exciting project has received additional government funding. The Docking Station will support Medway's fantastic cultural and heritage infrastructure and create further opportunities, including state-of-the-art digital technology for this flourishing sector. The innovative project also supports Medway's cultural strategy, delivered by Creative Medway, and aim for the area to be internationally recognised for its creativity and culture by 2030."

Creative industries are so important

Professor Catherine Richardson, Director of the Institute for Cultural and Creative Industries, said: "Creative Industries are so important for our region – this sector is outgrowing others and generating large numbers of jobs, and it has such a strong impact on educational attainment, health and wellbeing. We also know how significant creative work is to the pride we feel in our communities, and for all these reasons it’s at the centre of the University of Kent’s commitment to its civic mission. The Docking Station is a vital piece of that work – we're delighted to be able to take it to the next stage.”

Generate significant economic return 

Richard Morsley from Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust said: "We are a charity that champions a strategy of preservation through re-use, The Docking Station will see the Grade II listed, Scheduled Ancient Monument Police Section House brought back into active re-use in an incredibly exciting project. Investment in the creative industries is vitally important to the growth of Medway. Once complete, The Docking Station will generate significant economic return for the area. The growing cluster of creative businesses in and around the Historic Dockyard makes for a very exciting future and one that we’re very proud to be part of."

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