Dover’s Maison Dieu restoration project is inspiring the next generation of artists and heritage craftspeople with young people exploring careers in the arts and heritage crafts thanks to the restoration of the historic building.

Young people from the Dover district and across East Kent were given the opportunity to explore fascinating career opportunities in the arts and heritage crafts at a special Creative Careers Café event at EKC Dover College on Friday 26 January, organised as part of the £10.5m Lottery-funded restoration of the Maison Dieu (Dover Town Hall).

Creative Craeers Cafe

Almost 150 participants, aged 14-25, including local secondary schools and East Kent College students took part in the event, which included hands-on workshops with top creatives from the world of fashion and music.

The Creative Careers Café was a partnership event involving the Reawakening the Maison Dieu project team, Artswork, and EKC Dover College. The aim of the day was to raise the aspirations of young people in Dover and across East Kent by introducing them to some exciting career opportunities they may never have heard of, let alone considered.

These included learning about eco-fashion and making a tote bag with fashion designer Eirinn Hayhow, who has recently appeared in Vogue magazine; creating music on a modular synth inspired by the sounds of the Maison Dieu building site, with producer and DJ Cherif Hashizume; and picking up a mallet and chisel with Sandwich based stonemason Carrie Horwood of Cat’s Eye Carving.

Students created make-up designs inspired by Maison Dieu designs, created collaborative graffiti walls with cartoonist, tattoo artist and coffee aficionado Tim Smithen of Rebels Coffee, and designed food packaging for a new café in the Maison Dieu’s Victorian prison cells with marketing agency, Oak Creative.

Sgraffito tile-making with Freyja Crow, Children’s book illustration with Hannah Bryan and typography with Anita Luckett also featured, together with a photography workshop with the Positive View Foundation.

Hard-hat tours of the Grade I Listed Maison Dieu (Dover Town Hall) led by Haverstock architects and Coniston Ltd were also included to see conservation work in progress on Victorian art architect William Burges’ decorative scheme and its impressive stained-glass windows.

The day was part of Artswork’s cultural development programme, Activate Young Cultural Changemakers, a place-based approach for, and by children and young people aged 25 and under in the District of Dover, supported using public funding from Arts Council England.

Feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with participants commenting that the day had made them aware of exciting creative career opportunities they didn’t know existed, that Dover was a good place to get involved in a creative career, and that they felt much more confident about making career choices having taken part. Most hadn’t visited the Maison Dieu before, but now knew much more about it.

Further Creative Careers Café events are planned for schools and colleges and hosted at the Maison Dieu when it re-opens in 2025.

By Ed

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