Throughout Tracey Emin's career she has been famed for her outspoken views and controversial artwork. And when asked by KentOnline what she thinks about Margate, she was as candid as ever.
In an exclusive interview with reporter Millie Bowles, the artist tells of her traumatic past in her hometown - and reveals her views on its regeneration and iconic landmarks...
Tracey Emin was just 13 years old when she was raped in Margate.
The traumatic experience left her bearing deep emotional scars.
Ten years later, in the 1980s, she left Thanet for London - before finally returning to the coast in 2017.
Tracey admits she feared the streets of her hometown would be filled with the "ghosts" of that fateful night.
"I was raped. I could have got pregnant - what if I had got pregnant then? People would say I was stupid - but I'm not," she says.
"I thought when I came back to Margate that I'd have a ghost or be depressed.
"But what I found was the complete opposite - it felt like a triumph coming back.
"Things can change and move on and get better."
Despite those initial concerns, Tracey, now 59, continues to reside in Margate, having become the town's most famous person.
She lives in an old converted stable block, which also houses her studio.
"I've still got such a strong Margate accent as well. I swear like a trooper..."
It's a once-derelict building she bought and transformed with close friend Carl Freedman. Kate Moss and Vivienne Westwood were among hundreds of people to attend a recent exhibition of her artwork there.
She may have friends among the rich and famous - but Margate has become a safe haven for Tracey, helping her heal from the traumas of the past.
"I just love it here - it's so relaxing," she raves.
"I love the people, I love the weather, I love the waves - it will be raining everywhere but not in Margate.
"I've still got such a strong Margate accent as well. I swear like a trooper."
The artist, who was propelled into the limelight after her piece My Bed was exhibited 24 years ago, is speaking to me over the phone from her studio.
She's full of energy - despite recently suffering from septicaemia and a punishing cold - as she prepares to fly to New York the following day.
However, the interview began with her apologising.
"Hi, it's Tracey," she said when I answered her call. "Sorry I'm 10 minutes late, I completely forgot."
During lockdown medics feared she could die after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of bladder cancer.
"What if I'm on the harbour arm and I have to use that disgusting toilet? We need some loos..."
Within about three-and-a-half weeks, Tracey went under the knife for life-altering surgery.
She now lives with a urostomy bag and the "debilitating" after-effects of the disease, which act as a reminder of her scrape with death.
Tracey speaks of how her regular swims in the Margate sea have helped rejuvenate her. But this brings her to what she regards as one of the town's shortcomings - its public toilets.
"Every single thing in life you have to think about and calculate with a urostomy bag," she says.
"I have to go to the loo every half an hour now, and there tend not to be any around or if there are some, they are disgustingly dirty.
"What if I'm on the harbour arm and I have to use that disgusting toilet? We need some loos."
In her eyes, though, the town is on the up.
Tracey loves Arlington House, the high-rise tower block that dominates Margate's skyline.
"Everything is Georgian and beautiful and then bam!" she exclaims.
"You know what would be good? A swimming pool on the top."
She describes the grey monolith as an "amazing piece of brutalist architecture" that "should definitely be kept", despite calls from many locals to knock it down.
“The bigger problem than Arlington House is the Premier Inn - there’s supposed to be a sea garden outside but no one looks after it," Tracey adds.
"There's all rubbish collecting there and it’s got a horrible car park. It should have weather boarding on it and look more seaside-like.”
The artist also credits the Turner Contemporary gallery - in which she has exhibited work - for "changing the whole place as at weekends - even in winter - the place is packed".
There's no doubt the town's reputation is changing. Cliftonville, an area of Margate, was earlier this month rated the eighth coolest neighbourhood in the world by Time Out magazine.
"What do people want? Do they want it covered in dog s*** and boarded up?"
It sparked fears among residents that the area's ranking was "glamorising poverty" - claims the artist dismisses.
"Margate has been a dumping ground for poverty, but it's going to be better for everyone if its regenerated," Tracey muses.
"Whether your rich or poor it's better to walk through a nice area.
"What do people want? Do they want it covered in dog s*** and boarded up?
"It has the potential to be the European town of culture - that's what I'm aiming for."
Tracey has become a hands-on member of the area's artistic community.
She donated a piece, which fetched more than £9,000, to music venue Elsewhere in The Centre in a bid to save it from closure as it struggled keep pace with soaring energy bills.
Plans for an Olympic-standard skate park in Ethelbert Terrace, Cliftonville, have also received her support.
"People say it's a waste of money, but I say it's not. We will have an Olympic sport here."
Despite her clear affection for Margate, there are many things she would change.
She wants Cecil Square to be made "really cool" and thinks more hotels need to be built.
"I'd get rid of all the rusty old satellite dishes on the houses," she adds.
"They drip rust down the properties and make Margate look like it's in the Dark Ages.
"We need to regenerate the seafront and bring the lights back too."
The lights were strings of vibrant bulbs put in place for the filming of Hollywood film Empire of Light, starring Olivia Colman, which were gifted to the town.
Despite this, they were taken down by Thanet District Council, which cited potential cost and safety issues.
In the days before our chat, Tracey's work Like a Cloud of Blood sold at auction for £2.3 million.
The proceeds will be ploughed into TKE Studios, her new art school and artists’ centre in Margate.
The pioneering complex will provide 12 subsidised professional art studios, a rigorous exhibition cycle and two-year residencies for up to 20 students, with free workspace, tutorials and lectures.
But the sum the piece demanded has left some raising their eyebrows and others decrying the "silly" amount of money spent.
"For a living artist to make that sort of price is pretty amazing, and I'm investing it all in Margate..."
When I mention these criticisms, she hits back: "Do they know I've been doing what I do for 40 years? Do they understand the level that I'm at?
"For a living artist to make that sort of price is pretty amazing, and I'm investing it all in Margate."
The studio - which is in an old morgue and bathhouse - will launch in January 2023.
Perched on the corner of Dane Road and Victoria Road, it will initially host 12 aspiring artists, who will receive in-person training from Tracey, as well as a number of other artists and art historians.
"We have had applications from all over the world, from Zimbabwe to New York," she enthuses.
"Those people will go home and say how cool Margate is, and they will bring something international into the town as well.
"The bigger the creative community is here the better it is for everybody, because wherever that goes, commerce follows."
As she wraps up our conversation in order to attend an 11am meeting, she ends by saying: "Margate's a complete different place now.
"The old Margate has gone, but a new one has come.
"It's very exciting to be here now. I'm also very different - it's like a whole new beginning."