FOLKESTONE TRIENNIAL

 

WEBSITE: www.creativefoundation.org.uk
LOCATION: Folkestone, Kent
NEAREST AIRPORTS: Gatwick or Heathrow, 1hour by train from London.
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Folkestone is a resurrected town. The high street leading to the beach and sea was branded a no-go-zone unless you were looking to score or for trouble. Enter Roger De Haan who bought no less than 90 buildings in the area and started a regeneration masterplan which would not just create a destination to visit, but change the fundamental make up of Folkestone. Now, not only do people want to visit there, they want to live there.

I recently saw a talk with Alistair Upton, the Director of Creative Foundation, the foundation that runs the regeneration programme that was started over a decade ago. Can Art save a city? “No”, he says. Folkestone still has many problems associated with a small town “Art won’t get you an appointment with a GP – a service we desperately need improved in Folkestone”.

That might be the case, but Creative Folkestone have injected a new lease of life, with independent design and craft shops lining the bunting decorated high street, the type where you actually want to buy things to take home. Whats more, you can meet the creatives working in the shops as they are reserved to rent to only creative practitioners at a peppercorn price. What De Haan and Creative Folkestone did was give artists the space and funding to work and create. And with this, the artists improved the surrounding, making it the best part of town. Now, there are also independent coffee shops and restaurants (not a Starbucks in sight), an excellent theatre and performing arts space, as well as permanent art installations dotted around the town and neighbouring cliffs.

When to go? As the title suggests, go during the Folkestone Triennial: a sculpture exhibition which will take you on a route around the town with works by up-and-coming and blockbuster names in contemporary art. You will spend the day in treasure-hunt mode following a route, map-in hand, blasted by fresh sea air. 2017 artists such as Antony Gormley, Michael Craig Martin, Bob and Roberta Smith and Sarah Peasgood were a few to be featured on the trail. There are many lovely places to have lunch. As Fish and Chips isn’t really my thing, I recommend The Rocksalt, which might set you back £40 a head, but has unbeatable views in a wonderfully elegant Kentish designed restaurant. And don’t forget to have an ice cream on the seaside!