Roger De Haan

The Prince of Wales Medal for Arts Philanthropy - 2008 Honouree

Most philanthropists will content themselves with supporting a handful of carefully selected institutions. Roger De Haan is a bit different: he is attempting to regenerate an entire town. The town in question is Folkestone. Once a favourite holiday destination for Edward VII and turn-of- the-century high society; this East Kent seaport has slipped into an economic decline.

Roger is a lifelong resident of the town. He is the son of the late Sydney De Haan, who in the 1950s created the Saga group. Best known for offering holidays to the over fifties (although it also provides insurance and financial services), Saga is Folkestone's largest employer. Roger took over the business in 1984, upon his father's retirement.

He sold the company twenty years later to concentrate on an incredibly ambitious programme of renewal and regeneration for Folkestone, focussing on the power of culture and the arts to breathe new life into the ailing town. He cares deeply that the historic centre is given the best kind of development.

One of Roger's first moves was to establish the Creative Foundation in 2002, building from what was then the Metropole Arts Centre Trust. Creative Foundation's strategy is to bring together the arts, education, economic growth and improvements to the built environment. Its work focuses on the centre of Folkestone, freshly christened the Creative Quarter, and on the seafront. In the centre, dozens of dilapidated buildings have been bought up and repurposed as artists' studios, galleries and other creative businesses. Out on the sea-front, there are plans for a massive regeneration of the port, designed by renowned architects Foster and Partners. As one of his nominees, Alan Davey, said "We all theorise about cultural regeneration - Roger has just got on and done it. He's a hero really."