Approval of Neon Workshop, gallery and community space at former Caprice nightclub – The Isle Of Thanet News

The Neon Ballroom website

Proposals to turn the former Caprice nightclub in Cliftonville into a neon-making workshop and multi-generational live-work unit have now been approved by Thanet council.

Owner Kerry Ryan, who bought the site in 2019, aims to create a flexible-use site with an art gallery, arts education space, community space, wedding venue for rent, temporary residential accommodation and a use by artists in residence. There would also be a 24-hour security guard presence at high-value art exhibits.

The combination of uses will create a new cultural space in Cliftonville, providing opportunities for educational and vocational training.

Neon specialist Kerry Ryan at former Caprice Club Photo Dave Stillman

Kerry, who hails from the Isle of Dogs in east London, creates neon installations for a host of clients and artists including Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst, Peter Saville and Cerith Wyn Evans.

The boss of Neon Specialists, who has bases in London and Miami, creates the gallery and his studio in the original ballroom (later nightclub, pool table and arcade spaces) as well as the ‘living space.

Kerry, who has five daughters, has been creating neon for over 35 years and working for himself since he was 18.

Kerry’s neon works

He started as an apprentice at the age of 15. Speaking to The Isle of Thanet News when he first bought the venue, Kerry said: ‘It was with Truman at Brick Lane. I was an apprentice in screen printing but they also had a neon department.

“I taught myself and went to the London School of Print at Elephant and Castle. I set up on my own at 18 and then the kids came so I had to work even harder!

“I’ve always rented a studio in London, but now that I’ve bought (Club Caprice) I don’t need to.

Kerry’s family on the site

“I used to come to Margate as a kid and always remember the donut stand at Bem Boms. From ten years ago to now, there has been a transformation in Margate, it has become a New York City from a downtown core.

“I have friends here and I meet more and more people here all the time.

“The main reason I bought it is for the view and the sea. I’ll have a studio directly overlooking that and I can just walk out of my house and go swimming in the sea.”

Turner Contemporary’s first neon sign was also made by Kerry for artist Sir Michael Craig-Martin.

Neon installation at the old ArtGame

In November 2019, Kerry exhibited a stunning neon display and video installation at the former Artgame gallery on Margate’s Marine Drive as part of a six-month residency.

Planning documents lodged with Thanet Council earlier this year state: “The architectural vision is to retain, repair and reveal the beautiful historic architecture, retaining the exposed brick walls and floors. The ceilings, the ribs (mouldings on the beams) and the cornices of the main building will be faithfully restored.

Image vPPR Architects

“Slight minor alterations will complement the historic architectural design with a simple palette of traditional materials. The proposed development retains the open character and form of the building’s historic plan, and does not subdivide the front space. »

The plans were submitted in March/April of this year, then new proposals with some modifications for materials and layout were tabled in July. Approval was granted this month.

The neon workshop will be used to make neon works and hold education workshops and provide a training facility. The public will be able to come and watch the neon lights being made.

Kerry Ryan

The modular space between ground floor, lower ground floor and upper ground floor will constitute the living-work unit with three types of spaces:

A large open space on the ground floor.

Shared by all spaces including a basement kitchen and associated stairs

Spaces for residential purposes where Kerry, her daughters and grandchildren will stay. This area will be closely interconnected with the more public parts of the flexible site.

What the vPPR Architects Image space could look like

The most public areas of the two middle bays will have stunning sea views over the old Lido. This will serve as an art gallery, educational space, conferences, community events and/or wedding venue for rent. Disabled toilets will be installed.

A stud wall will be introduced between the two north bays, creating part of the multi-generational living space in the north bay and providing a wall to hang artwork for exhibits.

Outdoor plantings and sculptures are also planned.

Between 2 and 4 people will be hired at the neon workshop, which will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. The living/working space should accommodate between four and six residents and have a capacity of around 220 visitors per day with the same opening hours as the workshop.

In an assessment by the council’s planning officer, it said: ‘Overall the proposed work would help retain and restore the character and appearance of the listed building with limited alteration to the historic fabric.

“Where additional features such as new stairs and windows to the rear of the property are to be fitted, these should be constructed of metal, providing a clear modern contrast to the older sections of the building.”

Once completed, the venue will be available for party hire and there are plans to involve schools in the neon workshops.

The Grade II listed building forms part of the Margate Conservation Area.

File photo

Paragon Court, a listed four-storey Georgian terrace, was built around 1830 and is located on Fort Paragon and the site is part of this list and the building in the basement.

Historical maps show that there has been a building at the location of the club dating to historical maps from 1891 and 1904. The building is believed to have been used as an entrance to Paragon Court and as a dining and entertainment area. Paragon Court consists of a number of converted apartments.

The app site operated like the old nightclub, 1960s Club Caprice. Later dubbed Jurassic Park by some regulars – due to its “more mature” clientele – the club operated until March 2016, when which it was known as New Club Caprice.

The club site then stood empty until it was taken over by Kerry in June 2019. Work had started that year but was hampered by the covid pandemic for the next two years.

Remembering Club Caprice

Memories of sticky carpets, “catch a grandma” jokes and a 6am closing time make Margate’s Club Caprice a part of Thanet history.

The Cliff Terrace venue was the perfect place for late-night drinks as early as the 1960s. Later named Jurassic Park by some regulars – due to its “more mature” clientele – the club operated until March 2016 , at which time it was known as New Club Caprice.

Logging off on facebook for the last time, the club posted “End of error. Thank you for all the great times we had at the club, now turned into apartments.

Whether this is truly the end of a mistake or an era depends on your perspective, but the days of dancing at the Nolans are now over.

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The Thanet Hidden History page unearthed these photos of the club’s sad end – and we found a few snaps of revelers enjoying themselves before Club Caprice was finally closed.

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