Lying 20 miles from both Dover and Canterbury is Broadstairs, a picturesque coastal town on the fringes of the Isle of Thanet. Compared to other decaying British seaside resorts, Broadstairs is thriving, and not just in the summer months. The town hosts events year round from the Blues Bash in February, Broadstairs Folk Week in August and Broadstairs Food Festival, held the first week in October. But more of that later – Broadstairs has something else up its sleeve.

Broadstairs Adult Education Centre has a 40 year history of delivering a wide range of courses and being a community venue used for arts and theatre. Located on St Peters Road not far from the station, the centre has a strong tradition of delivering creative courses in the heart of Broadstairs, with the provision including pottery, drawing and painting.

Perhaps the most distinctive feature of Broadstairs AEC is in its facilities. The centre plays host to the Sarah Thorne Theatre, in which up to 100 theatre-goers can enjoy the delights of a small and intimate theatrical venue in Broadstairs. Created in memory of Sarah Thorne, Victorian actress, theatre manager of the Theatre Royal Margate and originator of the country’s first drama schools. The venue has a modest curtained stage with a professional lighting system, and the seating can be rearranged depending on the nature of the performance.

Since 2007 this has been run in collaboration with the Sarah Thorne Theatre Company, which was formed to present good-quality professional plays, music and theatre to East Kent, with the aim to restore the memorial theatre to full local community use. Its patrons include Judi Dench DBE, David Suchet CBE and creator of Downton Abbey Julian Fellowes DL. Ancient documentation means that the community has priority of this venue, but when it’s not being used for a performance, KAE uses it to host its many dance and fitness classes.

Offering learners the chance to be creative in inspired spaces.

Another distinctive feature of Broadstairs AEC is the pottery studios. Known locally as ‘Hilderstone Stable Pottery’ or ‘The Stables’ the single-story out-building is full of character and hosts state-of-the-art pottery facilities including several potter’s wheels and a kiln. There is also a distinctive art room with full height ceiling and a dazzling glass window all down one side. This offers learners the chance to be creative in inspired spaces.

All users of KAE facilities enjoy using the canteen, which is part of Hilderstone College. Here you can refresh between classes and catch up with friends with a hot beverage, or some of their famous soup – made from home grown, organic vegetables. The centre also boasts the quad – an outdoor eating area which is great in the summer months.

The best of Kent’s food and drink producers visit the town for the hugely popular Broadstairs Food Festival, held annually in the first weekend in October. The seaside bandstand is home to many music performances throughout the summer with top-notch bands appearing on a Sunday afternoon. The famous Morelli’s ice-cream parlour proudly resides over the beautiful Viking Bay, and when it opened in 1932, became the first ever to serve over 20 flavours of ice cream and was featured in Mary Berry’s latest television show.

For all you creative literary types Broadstairs plays a fairly significant part in our literary heritage, and this is celebrated annually when Dickensian costumed characters turn out for Dickens Week in June and the Victorian Weekend in July each year. A regular visitor to Broadstairs in his day, Charles Dickens immortalised the town as “Our English Watering Place”. Follow in Dickens’ footsteps by visiting us at Broadstairs, a celebrated centre for creative writing students to develop their talents.

So next time you think of Broadstairs don’t just think of ice cream, beach huts and Viking bay. Think culture, history and creative arts. Think KAE.

Courses at Broadstairs

Back to the Magazine

Add a comment?