Folkestone Triennial

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Things to do


Date of travel

October, 2017

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Creative Folkestone was set up in 2002 with the help of the Roger De Haan Charitable Trust and other sponsors and looks after five projects, all of which have been established to make Folkestone a better place to live or work in, or to visit.

The CREATIVE QUARTER is a group of studios, galleries, offices and shops in restored buildings in The Old High Street and Tontine Street area for artists of all kinds, musicians, filmmakers etc., the QUARTERHOUSE is a performing arts venue for the community, the BOOK FESTIVAL is self-explanatory, and FOLKESTONE ARTWORKS is the largest urban exhibition of contemporary art in the UK, but as I understand it, the artworks are those that are still in situ from previous Triennials that can be seen around Folkestone or online (If you look at Creative Folkestone’s website you can see a video of drone footage of the whole exhibition, along with wonderful views of Folkestone – it’s well worth seeing.)

I’m writing about the TRIENNIALS because I went to Folkestone in 2017 to see that year’s event.

The first Triennial was held in 2008 so this year’s will be the fifth, it was cancelled last year because of the pandemic. It will run from Thursday, 22 July to Tuesday, 2 November and is entitled ‘The Plot’ and apparently uses three historic Folkestone narratives as a point of departure: St Eanswythe’s watercourse; the physician William Harvey’s discovery of the circulation of blood; and Folkestone’s industrial road ‘The Milky Way’. There’s a lot more artspeak, but I soon lost the plot, or perhaps those who wrote it did! However, I do understand that there will be artworks in public spaces across the town along the various routes associated with these stories. These artworks will be by internationally acclaimed artists but the only ones I’ve heard of are Gilbert and George and Bob and Roberta Smith, but that tells you more about me than the calibre of the other artists.

We went to Folkestone towards the end of October 2017 and saw many of the works of art/installations around the town. Some of them are still in place and some of those we saw had been there since 2008, having become part of Folkestone Artworks. The idea for each Triennial is to get a map showing the position of that year’s artworks and then walk round a route to visit them. However, we didn’t find a map until we’d been round most of the town, but I was quite happy to just come across them by chance. We took our usual route round Folkestone, starting on The Leas, outside The Grand Hotel, where we’d managed to find a free parking space. We walked down the zig-zag path to the seafront then along the lower promenade for a while and saw some brightly painted beach huts, although I’m not sure if these were necessarily part of any Triennial. Our next find was a strange sculpture by Pablo Bronstein’s for the 2014 Triennial, then some other beach huts entitled ’18 holes’ by Richard Wilson which had been there since the 2008 Triennial. We then went to look at the last part of the Lower Coastal Park as we like walking through the gardens. Then it was back to the promenade and across the winding boardwalk over the shingle beach to see ‘Jelly Mould’ by Lubaina Himid. We then heard the unmistakable voice of Alun Armstrong coming from a speaker and discovered it was the recording of a poem about the loss of the lorry park near the harbour; it was being closed down to make way for the redevelopment. I don’t know if it was part of the Triennial or not, but it was rather moving and all the better for being read by Alun Armstrong, then across to the Harbour Arm and down some steps to the loading bay to see Antony Gormley’s Another Time XVIII. After lunch – some very good Greek food from the Big Greek Bus on the Harbour Arm – we walked along the newly converted railway bridge across the water to the arches and entrance to the Fish Market. There were eye slits in the wall of the arches, so people could see another installation, but I’ve forgotten what it was about as I was more interested in taking a photo of the people, including my husband, watching it as I thought it looked funny. Richard Wood’s ‘Holiday Home’ consisted of six small (one third size) holiday chalets painted in different colours; these were in various places around the town and I rather liked them so took a few photos. Michael Craig’s ‘Lightbulb’ at the junction of Tontine Street and the Old High Street marked the start of the Creative Quarter and our climb up the hill past the really interesting vintage shops and art galleries. Further up the hill we turned left into Church Street to The Bayle because I like that area and my husband pointed out a sign someone had put on the front of their house which said ‘RUMPLE OF THE BAYLE’ (only people of a certain age will understand that). Walking along a footpath past the house that Charles Dickens rented for a while, led us to the top of Remembrance Road and the Memorial Arch. A right turn took us to the main shopping street where we came across the 2008 Seagull, a mobile unit in the shape of a seagull, and it was here that the literature about the Triennial was being given out – typical of us to go the wrong way round! We walked back to the car past Mark Wallinger’s poignant 2008 work – Folk Stones – a large square of pebbles collected, set into concrete and numbered to depict the 19,240 British soldiers who were killed on 1 July 1916, which was the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

I think this is a brilliant way to attract more visitors to the town and ensure they walk round and discover things and see places they wouldn’t normally find. No doubt the galleries and shops in The Old High Street sell more paintings, ceramics, photos etc., than usual and visitors buy refreshments along the way, so I suppose it does help with the regeneration.

(I should have made clear in my previous review on Folkestone that the photos I used were taken in 2017, and not this year. I did take some in April on my smartphone but I am not very smart and deleted them by mistake.)


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