Turner Prize "bounce" is all good for Eastbourne

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Towner Eastbourne and the town as a whole are still enjoying the knock-on effects of hosting the Turner Prize over the winter.

Joe Hill, director of Towner Eastbourne, is delighted at the way the venue and the wider community have maintained the momentum, particularly as the gallery moves into its summer programme.

Emma Stibbon: Melting Ice | Rising Tides runs from May 9-September 15; Maria Amidu: in the perpetual back and forth runs from May 4-September 8; and Florence Peake FACTUAL ACTUAL: Ensemble runs from May 9-June 16. All will benefit from the profile both town and gallery have gained over the autumn and winter.

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Joe said: “The Turner Prize has been an incredible experience for the gallery and for Eastbourne as a whole. We had the Eastbourne Live programme running alongside it and we were able to do a lot of work out in the community. We are still finishing off the evaluation but we know that 130,000 people visited the Turner Prize during its run and that gave us a record year of more than 200,000 visitors to the gallery. The best year we had pre-pandemic was around 170,000 which was a really good year, our tenth anniversary year but we have absolutely smashed that. And post-pandemic really this couldn't be better. And we know that the Turner Prize economically contributed around £16,000,000 to the local economy which was off-season during the winter months at the time so really was a boost. There’s a formula that they use, knowing where people are coming from and finding out how much they spend and they put it together and work out the figure.”

Joe Hill, Towner Eastbourne Director  © Rosie PowellJoe Hill, Towner Eastbourne Director  © Rosie Powell
Joe Hill, Towner Eastbourne Director © Rosie Powell

Another key thing is simply the profile, again not just of the gallery but of Eastbourne as a whole: “You can feel now every half-term that Eastbourne is booming. It is still bouncing off the success of the Turner Prize. We've had new audiences, and you find people saying that they came here just for the Turner Prize and that they loved it and that they will be coming back. We've absolutely broadened our audience base and in some ways we're still learning to do things differently. We thought about how we market things and how we build up to exhibitions and our thinking there has changed. We did a lot of work making sure that we got the Turner Prize right and that has filtered into our thinking for other exhibitions now. And we like to think that we have contributed to the Turner Prize brand post-pandemic. It seems to be going really well at the moment. It's going back into London for this year and hopefully there will be some good mentions of Eastbourne along the way. It really feels that we delivered it well and that we're seeing the benefits now in terms of our profile.”

It was crucial to keep the momentum going and that's what they're doing with a strong summer programme: “But one of the big other things was that we also led a lot of work around youth voice and getting young people to have a say in shaping Eastbourne. We even had the council putting a motion that youth voice should be prioritised. We had an ambition that we wanted to work with every year nine student in the coastal area and give them exclusive access to the Turner Prize exhibition. We ended up working with about 2,000 year nine students and giving them an incredible experience and I think that's very much part of the lasting legacy that we will have from the Turner Prize.

“There was pressure around the big events that we had. The opening was big and the big awards evening was quite stressful but for the show itself it was just a question of enjoying the larger footfall and it was great to see the place filling up and people queuing to get into spaces. All the events were brilliant and we had a lot of people travel here from around the world. It was great, and now it’s just a question of onwards and upwards.”

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