Last Friday I attended the annual Canada Day service at Shorncliffe Military Cemetery, an important event for our community which has taken place every year since 1919. The cemetery contains the graves of 471 servicemen from the First World War, over 300 of whom are Canadian. For the last 98 years, primary school children from Folkestone and Cheriton have placed flowers on the individual graves of the Canadian soldiers, fulfilling the promise made by the town to the people of Canada, at the end of the war, that they would care for and maintain the places of rest of these servicemen, who made the ultimate sacrifice to secure the freedom of the world. The service is led each year by the Mayor of Folkestone, and it has a particular poignancy for the current town Mayor, Councillor Roger West, as each generation of his family, from his grandmother, through to his own grandchildren, have taken part, placing flowers at the graves of the Canadian soldiers. There was also added significance to the service this year, with it falling on the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the nation of Canada, and the centenary of the battle of Vimy Ridge, which saw some of the heaviest Canadian casualties of the First World War.
Many of the Canadian soldiers buried at Shorncliffe were not killed at the front, but were victims of the Folkestone air raid, of 25th May 1917. Last month I took part in a special service of remembrance for the 97 victims of the air raid, most of whom were civilians, with over 60 people, including women and children, losing their lives from the bombs that were dropped on Tontine Street. This was one of the first attacks on civilians behind the lines, as an act of war. It was a terrible precursor to the large loss of life that would come from the blitz during World War Two, and to the way that the lives of innocent victims continue to be lost to senseless acts of terrorism.
On a more positive note, the Folkestone Creative Foundation received a £1.6million boost in funding from the Arts Council last week, when it was listed for the first time as one of the National Portfolio Organisations which receive core funding from the government. This is a recognition of the high quality of the art works and events that have been commissioned by the Creative Foundation, since it was launched by Sir Roger De Haan in 2002. It also shows the growing importance of Folkestone as a centre for contemporary arts. This is particularly timely as we anticipate the opening of the fourth Folkestone Triennial Arts show at the beginning of September. I would like to congratulate Alastair Upton and his team at the Creative Foundation on all their work. The £1.6million of funding will be delivered in equal instalments by the Arts Council over the next four years.