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29 August 2013, 13:09
The Turner Contemporary Art Gallery has welcomed its millionth visitor in just over two years to give a boost to a resort labelled one of the most deprived in England.
Sue Lewis, 69, was presented with 20 bottles of Chapel Down English sparkling wine during her milestone visit to the gallery in Margate.
Mrs Lewis, from Hythe, said: "It was a complete surprise. We had been joking about it as we walked in and saw the banners, and had seen something about it on the internet the night before our visit.
"As I walked forward with my husband and our friend, they pushed me forward so that I was the millionth visitor, which was nice.''
Before the Turner opened, it was predicted that around 300,000 people would walk through its doors in just over two years, but that figure has been eclipsed.
Turner Contemporary director Victoria Pomery said: "A million visitors is a tremendous landmark for Turner Contemporary and it is brilliant to see the town buzzing once more.
"The gallery has made a real difference to the local economy and has helped to change perceptions about Margate.''
Officials said the Turner has generated more than £21 million for Margate, which was ranked fifth in an official study of deprived English towns by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in 2010.
Some 28,000 visitors to the Turner had never been to an art gallery before, and more than 40,000 have come through schools, family and community programmes.
Mike Hill, Kent County Council's cabinet member for community services, said: "It has created jobs, encouraged new businesses to the town and will go on to be a lasting legacy to driving the development of the county and the south east.''
Caroline Collier, director of Tate National, said: "The gallery has been a huge success from the moment it opened its doors and has had a great impact in a short space of time both on Margate and in the art world.''