Spotlight on: Folkestone

PUBLISHED: 13:59 23 May 2014 | UPDATED: 13:59 23 May 2014

Folkestone harbour

Folkestone harbour

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).

Ramble around

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 – and see also our feature on page 42 to read more about the town’s important role in The Great War.

The seafront

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.

Folkestone Triennial

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,

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.”

High flier

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.”

Creative dressing

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

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