When I visited Folkestone last winter I was very surprised. I knew there would be sea, and walks by the sea, and tea by the sea, and maybe a town by the sea, but I had no idea what else was waiting. I’ll be honest; I expected to be so bored I’d end up wandering in the dead of night, wailing and rendering my garments. Thankfully, it didn’t come to that.
I had arrived in the middle of an enormous art festival completely by chance and discovered Folkestone has an area named ‘The Creative Quarter.’ Although the festival itself is once every three years (next should be 2014) The Creative Quarter is dedicated to the arts all year round. As it says on their website they have “become home to a thriving collection of studios and (creative) businesses.”
I wandered past the extensive market in the town centre, foaming at the mouth with excitement. The Quarter didn’t let me down; the buildings were as colourful as Mr Men books and each held a different adventure.
It’s a well-worn phrase but there really is something for everyone. Some galleries were smooth and shiny as a space-ship containing beautiful landscapes and portraits. Others were dingy buildings with patchy walls and attic smells. They were my favourites; entering into darkness while a man pulled comedy faces on a screen was like falling into a separate universe.
These were mostly run by a group called The Folkestone Arts Collective displaying video art, sculptures, performance, paintings, models and interactive if you count the coal I got on my jumper from one sculpture’s ‘teeth.’ Personally I loved the video art as there were some beautiful and unexpected moments, such as the Lynchian scenes of a pensioner’s tea dance.
Some of the work I saw was playful, some serious, some reflective and one terrifying – for a moment I had thought a man tied to a chair with a sack on his head was real. I’d stumbled across it in a dark corner and had actually felt goose-bumps. To calm down I enjoyed a cup of tea in Googies Art Café – a pleasant and relaxing place with yet more paintings on the walls.
The local students were just as involved as gallery owners and professional artists and, even better, it was all free. If travel isn’t a concern or you live nearby, I really recommend a visit; check the websites to see what events are taking place. It’s better than spending a holiday wailing and rendering garments.