Docking Station: A New Cultural Heart for Kent's Creative Renaissance

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DOCKING STATION The Docking Station is the new venue for culture, creativity and digital innovation in Kent and Medway, creating a much-needed home for artistic, intellectual and educational inspiration and achievement. Bringing together the University of Kent’s Institute of Cultural and Creative Industries (iCCi), the Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust and Medway Council in partnership, Docking Station combines heritage with innovation to deliver a flagship venue that will drive much-needed economic development for the whole of Kent and beyond. The venue will house an immersive digital studio space in a state-of-theart new building, which will bring students, recent graduates, university researchers, creative freelancers and the creative industries together under one roof to collaborate and develop new work and ideas using cutting-edge technologies. This important cultural centre will be available for use by schools, colleges, business, artists and the general public, creating a home of transformative inspiration where ideas can be shared and partnerships forged. The landmark building provides both a focal point and a live exemplar for Medway’s transformation into a cultural and creative hub as it repositions itself as an attractive place to study, work, live and play through a wide programme of place making and cultural regeneration. It will act as a beacon for the creative community of Medway and Kent, drive prosperity and contribute to the delivery of the Thames Estuary Production Corridor.

“The use of a nationally significant but at-risk heritage building to become a young person and community creative hub, driven by such clear evidence of need, is exactly the kind of model that we want to encourage. Placing culture at the heart of placemaking, that is user inspired and clearly needed is a great example of why I think Medway has such huge potential to be a cultural beacon for the South East in the future. Delivering projects like the Docking Station designed to inspire creativity and develop local creative skills is critical to long-term success because they demonstrate real commitment and the momentum generated can lead to far greater benefits in the long term.” Nicholas Serota – Chair of Arts Council England

THE PLAN When the Docking Station is completed, the building will: 1.

house flexible co-working spaces and incubator/accelerator labs for young graduates, creatives and start-up digital and artistic businesses.


be the site of a world-class immersive digital gallery, featuring established digital artists and designers alongside work from emerging local artists and students.


address the digital skills gaps focusing on gaming and immersive technologies including artificial intelligence, mixed reality and virtual worlds and recognising the wide application of these skills across the creative sector.


embed a network of leaders from business and industry and experts from Kent Business School, providing support and opportunities for the creative businesses of the future.


offer a visually striking destination within the public realm to encourage social and creative interaction, forging new creative partnerships across a social setting.


provide an important and attractive social space for the whole community in the modern café-bar, catering for all tastes and diets, as well as showcasing local produce and culinary skills.


be a place of creative stimulation and career aspiration for schools, FE colleges, industry and local people.


provide a new venue for performance, exhibitions, immersive experiences and workshops allowing artists, creatives, start-ups and local people the opportunity to explore the potential of digital arts and immersive technology.

This creative centre will embrace and inspire its local community and the wider creative community across Kent and the UK.

Support the project by making a donation. Scan the QR code or visit:

THE SITE This historic building, formally the Police Section House for the Royal Dockyard at Chatham, is grade II listed and designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument. It commands an imposing position with views of the River Medway and Upnor Castle. Originally dormitory accommodation for unmarried police officers serving at the Royal Dockyard at Chatham, the Police Section House was designed to be functional, with a simple classic design but its scale, elegance and elevated position signifies its status. The Police Section House will be sympathetically renovated, in consultation with Historic England, and enhanced by the addition of a new signature building to the rear which will house the immersive digital gallery. The refurbishment will sensitively enhance the areas of historic significance and provide the following spaces: • • • • •

a modern café/bar and social space a variety of co-working spaces creative/artist studio spaces flexible teaching spaces for education, skills development and training office space for teaching staff

The building will continue to celebrate its natural materials, exposing the stone lintels and cills, the timber structure and the brickwork where appropriate. An enlarged central lobby proposed on the 2nd floor will be flooded with light by exposing the cupola overhead. The new digital immersive studio constructed behind the historic house and connected via a covered walkway will become a symbol of the Docking Station, complementing the Scheduled Ancient Monument and emphasising their individual and combined qualities. It will be a beacon along Dock Road, visible to the wider public, but proposed as a simple elegant timber structure and cladding. It is reminiscent of and evokes connections with the shipbuilding history of Chatham Dockyard: logical, subtle and emotive. A small single-storey artist’s studio is proposed in the garden, visible when crossing the garden to the gallery or relaxing and socialising. The external spaces will be landscaped to create a series of green, leafy and seasonal spaces which improve environmental resilience and biodiversity. They will provide a rich variety of garden experience and atmospheres, with choreographed planting, views and seating points creating the optimal environment to encourage creativity. The refurbishment will be eco-friendly and environmentally sustainable with a commitment to net zero carbon, which will be given a clear sense of design priority. All spaces will be fully equipped with state-of-the-art technology.

“The Docking Station at The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, is a project with the potential to make an enormous and catalytic contribution to the development of the emerging cultural quarter, and we are excited to contribute our skills and experience to the effort. In doing so, we aim to exceed your expectations, enhance your facilities, deliver value for money and improve the quality of life for all who use the Docking Station.” John Southall, Partner Fielden Clegg Bradley Studios Architects




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Fielden Clegg Bradley Studios (FCBS), multi award-winning architects specialising in sustainability, heritage architecture and placemaking, were appointed in 2021 following a RIBA Design Competition. They have a track record of sympathetically transforming historic buildings into modern, vibrant and welcoming places.





1. Outdoor seating 2. Kitchen/catering facilities 3. Café and bar/Ideas Lounge 4. Entrance area and social space 5. Admin/back of house area

All images Copyright © FCB Studios 2022

Concept designs - subject to statutory consents

6. Landscaped gardens 7. Artist’s studio 8. Loading bay 9. Immersive digital studio and support spaces

All images Copyright © FCB Studios 2022

Concept designs - subject to statutory consents


A state-of-the-art new creative and cultural heart for Kent, which addresses the digital skills gap and prepares individuals and businesses for the future in a hub of innovation that is as inspiring as it is beautiful.

A social and commercial hub within the Historic Dockyard, bringing artists, students, academics, and industry together in one location. Incubator, co-working and development spaces encourage collaboration, innovation and exploration. Cuttingedge tech gives creative young people the best platform for their development and their launch into industry.

A local beacon for education and skills development, with the ability to study gaming and immersive technology attracting young people to study in Medway and live and work here afterwards. It creates a smooth transition from education to employment or business for the creatively-minded and tech-savvy.

The immersive digital studio will provide a range of cutting-edge technologies, such as artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, virtual production, generative art work, biomechanics, motion capture, animation, immersive audio and 3D holographics. The Docking Station will put Medway at the forefront of research and innovation into digital immersive experiences.

It will provide space for creative cross-disciplinary work, university research and teaching and encourage the development of new knowledge and ways of thinking for the digital age.

Through working with the School of Architecture, FCB Studios and Medway Planning Department on place-making and public realm we will regenerate this undeveloped part of the Historic Dockyard site and link it to the Chatham Dockyard, today a place of innovation, learning and a hub for the creative industries.

It will play a strategic role in the post-COVID recovery of Medway, providing local residents with new skills and opportunities and encourage the retention of local creative practitioners. The venue will support activity to attract new resources to the region, encourage growth and cement long term sustainability and improved quality of life in Kent.

It will create international links with digital developers, artists and performers from across the globe, bringing new cultures and inspiration to Medway and raising the horizons and aspirations of local people.

More information can be found at:

PROJECT SUPPORT The Docking Station is supported by Cultural Development Fund investment from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, through Creative Estuary, a four-year, multi-partner programme led by the University of Kent, which aims to transform 60 miles of the Thames Estuary across Essex and Kent into one of the most exciting cultural hubs in the world. Creative Estuary funding has kick-started project development by enabling the completion of feasibility studies, paving the way for further investment. Medway Council have recently secured a £5.6 million share of the Government’s Levelling Up Fund for the Docking Station Project.

THE COSTS The full project cost is approximately £11,000,000. This includes the capital costs of building the new immersive gallery, refurbishment of the historic building, professional and design fees, fixtures and fittings and technology. The remaining cost of this project is sought from external funding, with the support of Medway Council and the Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust, in order to develop a truly unique building of the future that goes beyond traditional university ways of working to embed learning within local communities and drive economic growth in Medway.

“The Docking Station is a beacon for collaboration, creativity, and a catalyst for the future economy of the South East. It is fantastic to see this new Creative Hub take shape in the Historic Dockyard - in the heart of the Thames Estuary Production Corridor, which is a world-class centre for creative and cultural production. It is vitally important that we invest in and create these buildings which will support future industries, where business can learn from each other and grow and young people can develop skills and be inspired for their future careers. We are excited for the future opportunities this offers to Medway, the Thames Estuary, the wider South East and beyond.” Chris Brodie, Chair, South East LEP

ECONOMIC BENEFITS An important outcome of the project is job creation in high-value creative and digital sectors which will be unlocked through the development of new workspace, technologies and training opportunities. A full model detailing the employment benefit impacts has been developed in accordance with HM Treasury’s Green Books and its associated guidance which indicates that the Docking Station project will create 26 net direct FTE jobs and 57 gross direct FTE jobs. The Gross Value Added (GVA) effect of new direct jobs created at the Docking Station, calculated over a 10-year period is £10,162,830.

Image (detail): WHIST by AΦE, Photo by Paul Plews / Andre Moura from Pexels

THE TIMETABLE The project was launched on 8 March 2021, with a comprehensive feasibility study funded by Medway Council and Creative Estuary.

KEY DATES: April 21 – June 21

RIBA design competition

Jan 2021 to Mar 2023

Fundraising campaign

Feb 22 - June 22

Development of full business plan and definition of brief

April – Aug 2022

RIBA stage 2 Concept Design

Sept 22 - Sept 23

RIBA Stage 3 and 4 Detailed and Technical design

Oct 23- Mar 25


April - Jun 25

Handover and operation

2025: The Docking Station will be complete and opened with a full programme of celebratory events.

THE INSTITUTE OF CULTURAL AND CREATIVE INDUSTRIES iCCi works with strategic bodies such as Creative UK and Arts Council England, to equip students with the necessary skills to support the development of the creative and cultural industries in the region. It celebrates creativity, promotes creative courses, supports students, alumni, regional business and creative industries and highlights the brilliant, creative research taking place at the University. At iCCi, we deliver a high-quality arts programme to our community through events on campus at our Gulbenkian Arts Centre, a National Portfolio Organisation with Arts Council England, and Colyer-Fergusson Concert Hall, as well as off-campus events across the whole of Kent. We bring together the wealth of creative knowledge and expertise that exists at the University of Kent, inspiring our future thinkers and offering leadership in the development of exciting and innovative creative industries in our region. This is the approach we will bring to Medway, with the Docking Station at the heart of a new programme of digital arts development.

BECOME A BENEFACTOR You can donate directly via:


We welcome enquiries from Charitable Trusts and Foundations who are interested in supporting the Docking Station Project. Please contact David Sefton, Director of Culture and Creative Projects, ( or Jenny Grant, Philanthropy Manager ( if you would like to arrange a meeting to discuss the plans.


The University of Kent in America (UKA) is a US registered charity (501(c)(3) which raises funds for exciting student-focused initiatives. We welcome enquiries from new supporters from America who choose to join the project. International links are crucial to ensure the project achieves its ambitions to raise the horizons and aspirations of our region.


All benefactors will be acknowledged on a benefactor board to be displayed on-line during the campaign, and prominently at The Docking Station after completion.


Over the last fifty years, we have been fortunate to have benefitted from some very generous legacies and bequests left by people who want to commemorate their time at the University. Many aspects of university life have benefited from gifts in the wills of alumni, friends and supporters. For more information about leaving a legacy to the Docking Station please contact Jenny Grant.

“The University of Kent has been committed to the regeneration of Medway for almost twenty years through our establishment of the Universities at Medway partnership and wide-ranging support for education and the cultural life of the community. As we look to the future, investing in ideas, people and partnerships, the creation of the Docking Station marks a turning point by establishing an iconic, cultural landmark for Medway and the South East. The University owes much to its partners in enabling us to get this far and we look forward to continuing to work together. As the partnership grows and develops it will create and sustain new links between public and private sectors and between the arts and the sciences. It will accelerate the transformation of Medway into the leading creative city in the South East. I hope you will join our journey.”

Site photgraphy: Carlos Dominguez


Karen Cox – Vice Chancellor & President, University of Kent

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