POW!er Profiles : Christina Clark-McQuaid

christina pow thanet

Born and bred in Thanet, Christina Clark-McQuaid starts by taking us on a trip down memory lane: 'I was brought up in Thanet in the 1950’s;  my father, grandparents and great grandparents all had homes in  Hackney and Margate;  my grandfather moved from London to Cliftonville to run his jeweller’s and watchmaker’s shop in Northdown Road.  I guess I’m a 4th generation Margatonian!  In the 60’s  my summers were spent on Broadstairs beaches (usually Joss Bay) listening to Radio Caroline on the “tranny” (transistor radio) and generally being a typical teenager when not working in one of the beach cafes!   I spent my weekly pocket money on “records” (not called albums or vinyl in those days).  

From the mid 60’s things became “interesting” in Margate with Mods and Rockers battling on the beaches,  new boutiques opening up and pop groups like the “Fab Four”  visiting the Winter Gardens and Dreamland.'   As a result, she has seen more changes than most in the Isle. 'Margate was a thriving music hub and holiday destination and friends and I spent many Saturday evenings in summer in coffee bars making one coffee last for hours, playing the juke box and watching the world go by.  

In 1968 I left Thanet and moved to London, where I experienced all that the Swinging Sixties had to offer – fashion, music clubs, parties, and even (some of the time)  attendance at College! I lived in London for twenty years, returning to Kent in the late 80’s,  first to Canterbury, then finally back to Thanet.'   

Despite the area's issues, there is much to love about Thanet. 'The beaches, how surprisingly different from each other the towns in Thanet are; the wonderful architecture, especially in Ramsgate and the small ancient flint cottages in Broadstairs;  the quirkiness;  the emerging vibrant scene in Margate and Ramsgate, the café culture;  the restaurants,  and especially the “can do” attitude of  so many of the newcomers.  When I returned in the late 90’s to work for Thanet Council as their first  Arts Development Officer,  Thanet seemed to be at its most desolate, having been in rapid decline for years since its demise as a holiday destination. Thanet was widely described as “Planet Thanet, the Cultural Desert,  and developing a strategy of regeneration through the arts was an enormous challenge.  I left the Council in 2005 to go freelance for a while but I continued to work on the European funded progamme that I had started while at the council,  including helping new cultural industries to get off the ground, especially around Margate Old Town.  We produced a booklet called “Thanet’s Baker’s Dozen” featuring 13 newly established creative organisations and individuals based in the area at the time. I am still proud of that production!      It has been a long and very slow haul to turn Thanet around and things are by no means all tip top and hunky dory now…but the fabric of the area has improved a lot, there is so much more on offer and I believe that these improvements will continue as long as creative culture is valued in the way it should be.'   

Christina founded POW!Thanet in 2015, but her consciousness was raised a while ago. 'I was first introduced to feminist thought in London in the early 1980’s when I joined a Women’s Group and this opened my eyes to inequalities between men and women, to the  drudgery that women were still facing every day of their lives in the home,  to narrow minded attitudes of  institutions and politicians of all political pursuasions. I visited Greenham Common and learned a lot about how far women are prepared to go to fight for their cause. When I look back to that, I can see there has been some progress but I still see inequalities in the workplace and home and I am sad that one of the most common crimes in Thanet is Domestic Violence.    In 2015, when I first began to think about how International Women’s Day might be observed in Thanet,   I didn’t want  a diatribe;  I wanted us to celebrate the achievements of women and girls, not only in our local area but globally.    Girls and young women need strong female role models that are not necessarily “Celebs” and POW! Thanet aims to showcase the wealth of creativity girls and women can have, as well as challenging existing perceptions.'

As well as celebrating the achievements, POW!Thanet can't ignore the challenges. 'I’ve already touched on the shocking crime statistics for domestic abuse – something that goes on behind closed doors, by perpetrators from all walks of life and creating circles of violence that some women find impossible to escape.    Like many others, I am concerned about the overt and also subliminal messages being received via social media by young men as well as young women.

Depression and anxiety is on the rise for young people and much of this is about self image.   Worldwide, I am concerned about the lack of education available to young women in some countries and lack of choices particularly where there has been an escalation in war.   
As Chair, Christina is involved in every aspect of the festival from funding to evaluation; she explains: 'Following last March’s inaugural festival I have been working fairly intensively on getting POW! 2017 off the ground.  This has entailed submitting funding bids to the Arts Council and Thanet Council, organising and attending open forum meetings, networking, maintaining databases, talking to venues from the Turner Contemporary to smaller gallery spaces,  meeting artists and participants, and generally trying to spin a lot of plates at the same time!   Fortunately I am supported by a fantastic team of 7 professional women all of whom work tirelessly and on a voluntary basis to make POW! happen.'

And as for the future, she adds: 'As the founder of POW! Thanet  I do feel quite a sense of responsibility in trying to maintain sustainability and keep it going for future years.   The amazing responses we have received from locals and visitors has spurred me on to try and ensure that we keep progressing and developing POW!  This will mean setting ourselves up as a proper charitable organization,  acquiring funding so that we can continue to employ paid team members and commission new works, engaging with members from the local community and above all  programming a series   of high quality, challenging, exciting and innovative events to celebrate International Women’s Day!'        

Like everyone involved with POW!Thanet, Christina is always busy! 'At the end of  2012 I was made redundant by Youth Music, my employers for the previous 8 years. This came as a blow. I continued working as a freelance arts manager but work dried up   and we sold our successful B & B business and downsized to a smaller mortgage-free house in 2013. In 2015 I started to develop the POW! idea and by November 2015 POW! had become a reality. I don’t think I have stopped running with it since then!  Although the work has been completely voluntary I have thoroughly enjoyed almost every minute of it and it certainly beats sitting behind an office desk.     

I am also a Trustee of Pie Factory Music in Ramsgate which enables me to keep in touch with their excellent work with young people. When I get a chance I sing with Bigmouth Chorus, a local choir led by the indefatigable Emily Peasgood. I spend as much time as I can with my extended family and  I am always out and about, meeting people, visiting exhibitions, going to see films and participating in the exciting happenings that are going on around Thanet!'