The fourth Folkestone Triennial marked its official close last Sunday, and has been another great success. It has brought thousands of visitors to our area, and encouraged us all to get out and explore the different artworks. Bob and Roberta Smith’s ‘Folkestone is an Art School’, and Richard Woods colourful holiday homes, have been popular additions to the townscape. Emily Peasgood’s ‘Halfway to Heaven’ has invited people to visit old Folkestone Baptist church burial ground in Bradstone Road; a site that had been long neglected before the church and the local residents association worked for its restoration. Hoycheong Wong’s ‘Minaret’ installation at the Islamic Cultural Centre on Foord Road South, has given greater prominence to an institution which has provided a place of worship for Muslims in East Kent for nearly thirty years. Antony Gormley’s ‘Another Times’ statues on the harbour arm and on Coronation Parade, have also been a favourite for many people, and I hope they will be at permament addition to the Folkestone Artworks collection.
Last Thursday, I was delighted to welcome my parliamentary colleague, the Arts Minister, John Glenn, to visit the Triennial, with Darren Henley, the Chief Executive of Arts Council England. Along with Lewis Biggs, the curator of the Triennial, and Sir Roger De Haan, and Alastair Upton, the Chairman and Chief Executive of the Folkestone Creative Foundation, we were able show the Minister many of the highlights from the Triennial. We discussed with him the role that arts and culture are playing in the regeneration of Folkestone. This includes not just studios for creative people to work from, but also the development of performance spaces like the Quarterhouse, and start-up business units for media companies. Alongside the Triennial it has been great to see the railway viaduct across the harbour re-open as a pedestrian walkway, and work continuing at pace to complete restoration of the old Harbour Station. The next major phase in the regeneration of the town is of course the commencement of the long-awaited Folkestone Seafront scheme. Whilst outline planning permission for the scheme has been granted by Shepway District Council, the specific plans for individual parts of the development will of course be subject to detailed scrutiny. The overall seafront scheme continues to have my full support and has the potential to be a major contributor to the economy of our district in the coming decades.
This Sunday is Remembrance Sunday, and I will be attending the service at the War Memorial in Hythe. It is always a hugely important occasion for the whole community when we remember all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect the rights and freedoms of others. This year we particularly remember the centenary of the end of the Battle of Passchendaele on 10th November, which the then Prime Minister David Lloyd George recalled as one of the ‘greatest disasters’ of the First World War. Official estimates suggest that there were over half a million casualties on all sides, as they fought through the unremitting mud of Flanders.