Spotlight on: Folkestone
PUBLISHED: 13:59 23 May 2014 | UPDATED: 13:59 23 May 2014
Manu Palomeque 07977074797
Summer 2014 is a busy time in Folkestone, with the Airshow in June, the huge War & Peace Revival in July and the Triennial opening in August
Since the end of the 20th century Folkestone has emerged from being a somewhat unremarkable seaside town to become a thriving and vibrant centre for the arts.
The influx of talented trendsetters has catalysed a snowball effect, meaning that in the last five years alone the town has been transformed, that metamorphosis aided by the High Speed Rail Link to London and the continent.
The Creative Quarter, a sizeable chunk of town, is packed with lively businesses and quirky independents and there’s a massive regeneration master plan for the seafront and harbour area.
And 2014 is the year for the latest Folkestone Triennial art exhibition, attracting world-class artists; there’s also an annual Fly Folkestone Weekend to look forward to, in addition to a host of other events (details on page 48).
The scenic harbour, with its grand views and lovely bridge, is at the eastern edge of town. Not far from the centre are the terraced Georgian houses of Marine Parade and the Lower Sandgate Road, which leads to the Lower Leas Coastal park (the largest children’s play area in the south east, with abundant wildlife and horticulture).
From here you can see The Grand Hotel, high up on the cliff top, and the splendid Victorian Leas Lift (above). This capsule that transports people up the cliff face (call 01303 210047 first to check when it’s operational) can take you up to the Leas, an excellent mile-long clifftop walk, where perches the Leas Cliff Hall, a renowned entertainment venue.
The town itself lies behind and above the harbour, and a pedestrian precinct adds to the welcoming feel. The Creative Quarter to the east encompasses the Old High Street, Tontine Street and part of Rendezvous Street; here you’ll find the Quarterhouse, a fine performance venue for music, theatre, dance and comedy.
If you’re a First World War enthusiast, historian Peter Anderson is happy to give free walking tours around Folkestone on that period; contact him on pp.aanderson @btinternet.com – and see also our feature on page 42 to read more about the town’s important role in The Great War.
An interactive fountain has been built in the harbour, part of the huge redevelopment masterplan that was approved last year, and at the time of writing a developer is still being sought to move things forward.
Architect Sir Terry Farrell’s vision includes 1,000 homes, shops and restaurants, a sea sports centre, a new public square (Leas Square), an extended beach, improved access to the seafront, new public gardens, plus shops, bars and restaurants at South Quay.
Public spaces are to be used by artists
to display work that reflects issues affecting both the town and wider world.
This year there are 19 notable artists taking part, including Yoko Ono, Andy Golworthy and Pablo Bronstein.
Sixteen artworks from previous triennials are now permanent installations, under the umbrella of Folkestone Artworks.
Don’t miss The Folkestone Mermaid, a sculpture by Cornelia Parker modelled on local resident Georgina Baker, which was created for the 2011 Folkestone Triennial.
The statue is installed in Folkestone harbour, looking out over the sea. It has been bought for the people of Folkestone with money from the Art Fund and the Roger De Haan Charitable Trust.
See August Kent Life for art writer Diana Crampton’s Folkestone Triennial preview.
Mr Discover Folkestone
Chris Kirkham, who lives locally, is the multi-talented manager of Discover Folkestone, Hythe and Romney Marsh (01303 258594, www.discoverfolkestone.co.uk).
This is a not-for-profit organisation set up to provide information and marketing services for the district of Shepway, tailored to publicising current and forthcoming events and town facilities.
“Increasingly, we are now seen as one of the new breed of destinations,” says Chris. “The creativity of Folkestone has really gained pace within the last five years. So many people have pooled their expertise, time and money into making the town what it is today and we’re still on the upward slope to a better future.
“Basically, we help people to find out how to enjoy themselves in Folkestone, publicising all the great things about the town. Our key attractions include the Leas, the lovely mile-long cliff-top walk, the beautiful buildings, such as The Grand Hotel and The Metropole.
“And we’ve got a very interesting town centre, with not only the big chain stores, but also many excellent independents, and of course all the many fabulous traders in the Creative Quarter.
“I recommend the Lower Leas Coastal Park, with its huge children’s play park, plus the wonderful Warren County Park on the East cliff, which stretches down along the coast towards Dover. It’s an absolute gift, lovely beaches, a haven for wildlife, and it has country park status too.”
Maddison Broom is PR and marketing manager for Open Air Promotions, which is organising Fly Folkestone (see above).
“Our tagline is ‘Turn a memorable day out into a wonderful weekend’,” she says. “There’ll be huge entertainment zones and something for everyone, even if they’re not especially interested in aircraft. There’ll be community stages, a classic car show, huge food villages, outdoor shopping and much more. We’re aiming to highlight all the amazing things Folkestone has to offer.”
Maddison adds: “My favourite parts of Folkestone are the Warren, the Old High Street and the excellent viewpoint from The Leas, ideal for watching the flying.”
Abigail Besom runs Abigail’s Wardrobe (11-15, The Old High Street, CT20 1RL), describing her business as “a bespoke dressmaking service that focuses on giving women the confidence to wiggle.”
“From an early age I would dress up in my nan’s clothes, parading around in her 1940’s dresses and drawing ideal outfits,” says Abigail, who went on to study fashion and textiles at Kent University and took part in the first Mermaids and Seagulls exhibition at the Creative Quarter.
“I’m inspired by the 1940s, 50s and 60s and work with a made-to-measure ethos, so my customers get truly bespoke clothes.
“I love Folkestone’s history, architecture and that the beach is only a few minutes away, plus the excellent transport links.” nw