Explore Folkestone Triennial 2021The contemporary art is open to all 24/7
In recent years the coastal town of Folkestone has welcomed its vibrant makeover with open arms.
Like so many British seaside towns, the heyday of a bucket and spade holiday seemed to slip away from the UK shorelines. It was left a little forlorn to the basking Mediterranean beaches.
However, with time, dedication, and the vision to regain the delights of a clifftop promenade, a stroll around the lively bustling harbour and the retracing of footsteps through the cobbled Old High Street. Folkestone’s rough edges have truly started to smooth out, and a gem longing to glisten again is beginning to shimmer.
Folkestone is now attracting people from all walks of life, young and old, to come and discover the astonishing pieces of contemporary art emerging with each of Folkestone’s Triennial open-air exhibitions.
Where is Folkestone?
How to get to Folkestone
- By Train
You can catch a High-Speed direct train from London St Pancras International to Folkestone Central, which takes around 55 minutes.
- By Car
Folkestone is at the far eastern end of the M20 Motorway 73miles/115km from London.
Folkestone Triennial returns for 2021Explore the streets of Creative Folkestone
The seaside town of Folkestone in Kent has once again put on an exceptional display of urban art for its fifth Folkestone Triennial; the theme for 2021 is ‘The Plot’.
The first Folkestone Triennial took place in 2008 with the theme of Tales of Time and Space. As the name would suggest, every three years, Folkestone seafront, its quaint lanes and pebbly beaches have become an exhibition of talent and flair, with each piece of work having a tale to tell.
The latest exposition was due to take place in 2020; however, not to be defeated, the colourful sculptures and imaginative artworks waited patiently until 2021.
Many of the creations from previous triennials remain, and Folkestone can continue to boast that it has the UK’s largest urban exhibition of contemporary art.
Without further ado, download your maps and walks from the Creative Folkestone website, and let’s discover the magnificent contributions from some famous and renowned artists to up and coming newbies.
When you arrive at Folkestone, my advice is to pop into Quarterhouse on the corner of Mill Bay and Tontine Street. Here you can additionally pick up a hard copy of the exhibition and routes. I found that it made it easier to flick between new and old exhibits from previous triennials.
Let’s explore Folkestone’s urban artFrom the minute to the immense
To be perfectly honest with you, it doesn’t really matter where you start as there are so many great works to be discovered; they are around every turn and where you would least expect it.
Keep looking up and down ‘The Plot’ is everywhere.
Our adventure started at the east cliffs of Folkestone along Wear Bay Road, here we visited the ‘Siren’ by Marc Schmitz and Dolgor Ser-Od. This huge siren sits high above the cliffs and overlooks Folkestone town and harbour. The inspiration behind this piece was the acoustic sound mirrors along the coast at Dungeness.
It reminds me of a seashell, which you may discover on Warren Beach below.
Strolling west towards the town, you’ll stumble upon Janus Fortress: Folkestone by Pilar Quinteros. However, you’ll have to be quick as the two faces of the Roman god are made of chalk and are slowly disintegrating throughout the 2021 exhibition. Unfortunately, the local youths have given it a helping hand along the way.
The sculpture of Janus, the god of beginnings and transitions, faces towards both mainland Europe and England.
Along The Stade at FolkestoneThe mermaid at Sunny Sands Beach
Okay, well, it’s Folkestone’s mermaid. This beautiful bronze sculpture was an addition to Sunny Sands golden beach in the 2011 Folkestone Triennial.
Created by Cornelia Parker, the Folkestone Mermaid was an inspiration from Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid. However, this lovely figure was made from a life-cast of the Folkestone resident Georgina Baker, a monument of the people and for the people of the town.
Ambling along The Stade by the harbourside is ‘Steve’, designed for the 2014 triennial by Sarah Staton. This large rustic (male) sculptural pavilion includes aesthetic references to 1950s surrounding architecture and to the sculpture Henry Moore and Richard Serra.
Take a seat and watch the world float by.
Where to stay in and around Folkestone
Strolling into Folkestone townThe contemporary art surrounding us
As we continue along The Stade and under the old railway arches, we arrive at the bottom of the vibrant Old High Street and Tontine St, the gateway to the Creative Quarter.
Immediately you are face to face with the Folkestone Lightbulb created in 2017 by Michael Craig-Martin. The lightbulb suggests energy, ideas, and the notion of creativeness.
The delightful Bayle quarter of FolkestoneSt Eanswythe and Bayle Pond
If you're intrigued by Kent's weird and wonderful history, or all unusual stories around the county, then take a peek at "Kent's Strangest Tales".
You won't be able to put it down, you can pick it up for your Kindle or in good old paperback.
Clifftop promenade along The LeasBreath-taking views across the English Channel
Strolling further along The Leas, is another very significant work of art, remembering losses in the First World War and a very touching piece.
‘Folk Stones’ by Mark Wallinger is an artwork also inspired by the millions of soldiers leaving the shores at Folkestone. The 19,240 poignant pebbles are all individually hand-numbered and signify the number of British soldiers killed on one day, 1st July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
Escape for a few days
Are you looking for that ‘perfick’ holiday hideaway to relax in while you discover the Garden of England?
After a day exploring the Kent coast and its many historic castles enjoy one of the handpicked properties and unique retreats at Holiday Cottages.
Remembering William HarveyAnd a nod to the streets of Ghana
Keeping to The Leas we’re looking out for the William Harvey memorial. William Harvey was born in Folkestone in 1578 and became a physician renowned for his knowledge and understating of the circulation properties of blood in the body.
In front of the memorial is an incredible contemporary sculpture by Jason Wilsher-Mills named ‘I Am Argonaut’. The very personal work of art expresses the world as experienced by Jason, whose disabilities were caused by a disease of the blood cells.
The detail and storyline on the sculpture are captivating; I just couldn’t stop looking at it; it was one of my favourite pieces.
Adjacent to ‘I Am Argonaut’ are two pictures by Gilbert & George ‘BLOOD CITY 1998 and BLOOD ROADS 1998’. These represent the mapping of city streets and housing through veins and arteries.
A little further along to Castle Hill Avenue is a garden displaying a group of sculptures named Dusiadu (Everytown) by the Ghanaian artist Atta Kwami.
The Zig Zag path awaitsTime waits for no man
Just before we stroll down the Zig-Zag path to the seafront, we discover a piece of art by Ruth Ewan from the 2008 triennial, named ‘We could have been anything that we wanted to be’.
This clock is unique as it is a 10-hour clock that faces France and represents that in 1793 the Republic adopted the Republican calendar. Also known as the French Revolution calendar, as opposed to the Gregorian calendar.
This calendar was accepted for around 13 years, with each day made up of 10 hours, ten days to the week, ten months to the year and so on.
At the bottom of the scenic winding path, we discover artwork by Sam Belinfante, ‘On the Circulation of Blood’. In the amphitheatre along the Lower Leas Coastal Park.
The piece is a performed sculpture and best experienced in the evening when the netting and lights take on the importance of the blood system studied by the physician William Harvey.
Hiking the Kent Countryside
Folkestone is located in Kent nearby the beautiful White Cliffs of Dover. This region of Kent is ideal for hikes along the stunning coastline and the North Downs (AONB), an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. To explore the trails in this region of Kent, the Ordnance Survey maps that will help you along the route is no. 138, ‘Dover, Folkestone & Hythe’.
Alternatively, why not purchase and download the OS Maps App, which covers all of Great Britain.
Exploring Folkestone’s coastal pathBeach huts, a jelly mould and an Inuit
You could while away hours along the coastal path in Folkestone; it’s such a delightful part of the seafront, especially with all the gorgeous beach huts to admire.
The old beach huts that lined the shoreline between Sandgate and Folkestone have been reinvigorated and given a new splash of colour and design. The facelift was designed by Rana Begum and named No. 1054 Arpeggio.
Arpeggio is a musical term reflected in the colour scheme's graduated palette flowing through the quaint, welcoming beach huts.
The beach hut that Gary especially admired was the ‘Beach hut in the style of Nicholas Hawksmoor’ by Pablo Bronstein in 2014. This imaginative beach hut undoubtedly stands out in the crowd, and the striking architectural design truly makes a statement.
We stroll along the wooden snaking boardwalk to the charming ‘Jelly Mould Pavilion’ by Lubaina Himid. This enchanting pavilion is modelled on a Victorian ceramic jelly mould which the artist collects.
The positioning of the pavilion looking out to sea is a tribute to the Black community by Lubaina. Remembering the slave trade and the sugar imported from the plantations resulting in the candy floss and toffee apples enjoyed by summer visitors.
While watching your stepping along the boardwalk, look high above you to the 16th-century bell held aloft by wire. The artwork by A K Dolven is named ‘Out of Tune’ and is a tenor bell from Scraptoft Church in Leicestershire.
The bell was removed from the church because it was out of tune with the other bells in the peal. It is now a lovely addition to the Folkestone seafront. It is aligned with the tower of St Mary and St Eanswythe’s Church located on the cliff above.
Our Kent road trips
Discovering Folkestone’s Harbour ArmSeeking out Antony Gormley
Our next stop is seeking out Antony Gormely’s sculpture which is located underneath the top level of the harbour arm. Needless to say, viewing this figure is entirely dependent on the tides of the sea.
Antony Gormley’s ‘Another Time XVIII’ is a solid cast-iron figure in a series of one hundred to be dispersed worldwide. I loved seeing this piece as it truly evokes being alone in space and time. Another of Antony Gormley’s sculptures can be seen in Margate, Kent.
Heading towards the end of the harbour arm, we pass the enormous FOLKESTONE town sign, for all to see, by Patrick Tuttofuoco.
Folkestone was once the arrival point into the UK of the Orient Express. The artist designed each letter of the sign from inspiration or an experience he encountered from his journey on the Orient Express from Istanbul.
The final stopping point along the harbour arm is the lighthouse. The words’ Weather is a Third to Place and Time’ are displayed on the lighthouse by Ian Hamilton Finlay.
This work was added posthumously in 2014 and symbolised the importance of weather to people at sea and its impact on our lives.
We have a new little book on our shelves that we delve into when we're heading to the coast.
Packed full of historical facts, and broken down into the different counties of England. It tells tales of the history of the shoreline that surrounds our country.
Available in Kindle & Hardback editions, it's an excellent addition to anyone's collection who loves the English seaside.
Strolling Folkestone HarbourThe seamless blend of old and new
Wandering back to the harbour, we discover our final works of art during this visit, as I’m sure we’ll be back.
There’s plenty to see and bundles to keep you amused in Folkestone Harbour. However, the first pieces that caught our eye were the two ‘Holiday Home’ artworks by Richard Woods.
The one-third size homes are so cute and create a bizarre and whacky aspect to Folkestone Harbour. One teeters on the edge of the harbour, and the other floats on a platform in the sea amongst working fishing boats.
Our videos of Creative FolkestoneTwo views of this beautiful Kent coastal town
Visit some of Kent’s coastal towns
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