Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport joined me in Folkestone last week for a guided tour of the Triennial Arts exhibition, with Roger De Haan and the Creative Foundation’s chief executive, Alastair Upton. We visited a number of the most popular works including the new Payers Park by the London based design organisation, Muf, and Gabriel Lester’s bamboo look out tower in the harbour. Although the look out tower has been designed to represent the emerging economic power of the Far East, it is also a good place to view Folkestone’s future as well. From the bamboo tower, we could show the Secretary of State the multi-million pound works currently underway to restore the harbour arm and re-open it to the public. We also discussed the advanced plans for a new seafront development in the harbour area. In addition to visiting some of the artwork installations, we also showed Sajid some of the successful re-development work in the Old High Street, where additional buildings are now being renovated to meet the growing demand for business space in this part of the town.
You can see a short video of the visit here: Sajid Javid's visit to Folkestone's Creative Quarter
Following the visit to the Triennial, we made a brief visit to the Three Hills Sports Centre, where Sajid met with Laurence Hickmott from the Shepway Sports Trust who gave us a tour of the facilities and we also saw a group taking a sports coaching course. The recent success of the growing participation in sport in Shepway has been built not just on excellent new facilities, but better liaison between schools and clubs, and having more qualified coaches. The Secretary of State could see from his visit how Folkestone is leading the way both in terms of encouraging more people to get actively involved in sport, and the power of the arts and creative industries to play a leading role in the regeneration coastal communities. He certainly regarded the work being carried out in our area as a model for other communities to follow.
On Friday last week joined Alan Dennington from Gillingham Football Club for the launch of a new sports initiative at the Folkestone Sports Centre. Gillingham are working with Shepway Council, Kent County Council and Kent Police on a new scheme to support young people and families who are having problems. Sport can play a powerful role not only in improving health and personal confidence, but in refocusing lives, particularly of young people. Football clubs can often make a positive impression of the lives of people who have found formal schooling and engagement with local public authorities difficult in the past. This is a two year pilot project and I would like to wish them well for what I’m sure will be a very successful programme that will make a real difference to people.
Later that day I was also delighted to meet with Mark Rose, and members of the Varne Boat Club in Greatstone. The club is another great community facility and offers free introductory lessons for people interested in getting involved with sea sports. You can find out more about the club at their website www.varneboatclub.co.uk