A £1.3million project to create a new cultural tourist trail and arts ‘treasure hunt’ along the South East coast has been given the green light, it was announced this week.


‘Culture Coasting’ will bring together organisations across the South East to significantly grow the visitor economy for the region, targeting key international markets with a completely reimagined take on a traditional tourist trail. It will combine original artworks created by internationally renowned artists, geocaching technology and bookable itineraries along the South East’s spectacular coastline. Building on the South East’s growing reputation for its world class cultural offer, the project will bring new visitors to the region. 


Visit Kent and Turner Contemporary have been awarded funding from VisitEngland’s coveted Discover England Fund (DEF) and Arts Council England respectively to launch the project, in partnership with several leading arts venues in the region. 


Culture Coasting is one of a number of successful projects to receive funding from the UK Government’s £40 million Discover England Fund. It was announced on Thursday 5th October that Visit Kent had been awarded £350,000 from the Fund for the three-year project, bringing the total value to just over £1.3million including £500,000 from Arts Council England and partner cash and in-kind contributions.


Director of Turner Contemporary Victoria Pomery OBE said: “We’re delighted to have secured Culture Destinations funding to deliver Culture Coasting. By truly putting arts and culture at the core of the project, we aim to create a unique, cohesive visitor offer which celebrates our distinctive coastline and significantly grows the visitor economy for the region.


This ambitious project will create an experiential trail, relevant to key markets, through digital technologies and partnerships across the South East.”


Turner Contemporary will lead on the delivery of the project’s arts content, including the new artwork, while Visit Kent will lead on building and marketing the project’s tourism offer. Other funders include East Sussex County Council, Kent County Council, Southeastern Railway, Visit Essex, Medway Council, Visit Herts, The Historic Dockyard Chatham and the South East Local Enterprise Partnership. Project partners include, De La Warr Pavilion, Whitstable Biennial, Creative Foundation, Jerwood Gallery, Towner Art Gallery and Metal. 


Sandra Matthews-Marsh MBE, Chief Executive of Visit Kent said: “We are thrilled that our bid has been successful, and that we have the chance to work with our partners at Turner Contemporary to bring this exciting cultural project to life. 


“Culture Coasting brings together cultural leaders and tourism professionals to create a unique new visitor product.


“The South East coast is one of the most beautiful in Europe, and we now have an opportunity to celebrate both it and its incredible cultural heritage. 


“More than 44% of visitors to Britain in 2016 stated ‘cultural attractions’ were their main motivator for choosing Britain as a holiday destination, and visits to museums and art galleries accounted for £889m of visitor spend that year alone.


“Our goal is to inspire international visitors who are interested in cultural adventures to go out and explore our coastline, and discover new art installations, stunning galleries and incredible characters and communities on the way.”


Targeted at French and Dutch visitors, the project will create a new digitally marked tourist foot and cycle trail through Essex, Kent and East Sussex, with bookable itineraries taking in world-class art galleries and venues along the coastline of the South East of England.


Along the route, visitors will be able to find geocaches of original artworks created by internationally renowned artists along the route, and book experiences in each of the destinations such as tours and artists talks. The project will also trial a new accommodation offer, allowing visitors to visit and even stay in artists’ homes and studios.


The trail route will include Southend-On-Sea, Whitstable, Margate, Folkestone, Hastings, Bexhill and Eastbourne, showcasing some of the most dramatic coastal scenery and creating an immersive cultural and thought-provoking experience for all.


VisitEngland Chief Executive Sally Balcombe said: “The calibre of submissions to the Discover England Fund reflects the innovation in product development thriving across the country’s tourism landscape. The successful projects will boost international and domestic visitor growth creating a step-change in the industry and spreading the economic benefits of tourism across England.  This project will harness the enthusiasm of art loving visitors with an imaginative offer than will feed their interest in art and encourage them to explore our coast out of season.”


The £40million Discover England Fund was launched in 2016 to ensure that England stays competitive in the rapidly growing tourism industry, with funds spread over three years. The Fund is administered by VisitEngland and involves a programme of activity to ensure that England stays competitive in the rapidly growing global tourism industry, by offering world-class English tourism products to the right customers at the right time. The Fund is a central government funded programme of activity, supported by match funding by partners in the public and private sectors.


Last year, Visit Kent successfully submitted a bid for the Year One (2016/17) funding pot and was awarded £240,000 for its Gardens & Gourmet project, in partnership with four other destinations. 


Further details on the Fund are available via VisitEngland: www.discoverenglandfund.org 

For more information about Kent, please visit www.visitkent.co.uk