Wednesday 28 July 2021
Last Wednesday I joined Lewis Biggs, the curator of the 2020 Folkestone Triennial, for a tour of some of the new artworks for this year’s show. The Triennial had been delayed since last autumn, but now makes its return with some spectacular new artworks, that are not only talking points in their own right, but make you look at aspects of the town in a new light.
The title for this Triennial is ‘The Plot’, a term which can be used to describe a conspiracy, the theme of a book or a patch of productive land. In this exhibition, the artworks draw from all of these interpretations of ‘plot’ and say something about the life and history or Folkestone, drawing from folklore like the legend of St Eanswythe’s watercourse running up to the Bayle, or the story of the town’s first industrial road, Foord Road, running from the former town gasworks to the harbour. This was previously known as the ‘Milky Way’, because of the coal dust scattered by the wagons bringing loads from the ships in the harbour, which mixed with the chalk dust from their returning journeys, bringing back the rock to act as ballast on the empty coal ships.
One of my favourite works in this Triennial has been created by Morag Myerscough at the former gasworks in Ship Street, and is called ‘Flock of Seagulls Bag of Stolen Chips.’ This is a brightly coloured welcome pavilion at the entrance to the gasworks at the corner of Ship Street and Bournemouth Road. The installation has been created from a cylindrical scaffold structure, copying the shape and outline of an old gasometer. On to these have been placed brightly coloured panels emblazoned with key phrases which were created by local residents during a series of workshops. Morag’s idea for this artwork was that it should ‘make happy those who are near and those who are far will come’. The overall impact is spectacular and I’m sure it will please viewers from near and far. The artwork also provides an excellent view across the town looking towards the railway viaduct and the harbour beyond.
This is the fifth Folkestone Triennial and each has left behind a permanent legacy through the growing collection of public art installations, as well as marking further stages in the regeneration of the town. Since the first Triennial in 2008 we have seen increasing numbers of visitors to Folkestone to enjoy the art shows, and more businesses successfully trading in the harbour area and old town. By the time of the next Triennial we will have seen further progress with the redevelopment of the former gasworks in Ship Street, into a new residential community. However, over the summer holidays I hope you get the chance to enjoy this year’s exhibition and all that our coastal towns have to offer.