Art Chronicles: Folkestone Triennial 2021

Bob & Roberta Smith : Folkestone Is An Art School, 2017

What better way we thought to mark the twenty fifth anniversary of our being together, being a couple, than a trip to the sea; and what better location at this time of the year than a visit to the Folkestone Triennial – fresh sea air, a host of seagulls, a curve of pebbly beach; fine views along the coast, all the way to the white cliffs of Dover; fish and chips, and art in a variety of modes just about wherever you look.

The train from St. Pancras was twelve coaches long [typing that reminds me of an old song from skiffle group days] and far from busy; like most of the other passengers we were wearing masks. Sarah had printed out a map offering three routes and we chose The Milky Way, which begins with the Bob & Roberta Smith above and a large Gilbert & George wall piece outlining police powers of dispersal which I, somewhat stupidly, took to be the real thing. I mean, the powers might well be, but not expressed in this flamboyant form.

We were soon on the site of a dismantled gas works, dominated by Morag Myerscough’s Flock of Seagulls Bag of Stolen Chips, an arrangement of colourful panels in the shape of the old gasometer, each one bearing the words of local residents in response to questions about the site – what they remembered and how it might be developed.

Morag Myerscough : Flock of Seagulls Bag of Stolen Chips, 2021

Follow the black path down into the now derelict site and you come to a large screen showing a film of people elegantly and enthusiastically doing a line dance the excellent guide book informs me is called The Slosh. This is Jacqueline Donachie’s joyful and captivating Beautiful Sunday, celebrating not only the former Gasworks social club, but also “all the dance floors of Folkestone past and present.”

Jacqueline Donachie : Beautiful Sunday, 2021
Jacqueline Donachie : Beautiful Sunday, 2021

The third piece on this site is Jyll Bradley’s Green / Light (For M.R.), 2014, which uses green acrylic sheets and aluminium poles to merge the shape of the demolished gasometer with visual memories of the hop fields the artist remembers from her childhood. Fascinating to look at and walk through, impossible – for me, at least – to photograph adequately.

At this point, not having had a coffee hit since our flat whites from Joe & the Juice at St Pancras station, and feeling in need of a caffeine boost, we detoured to The Old High Street, before rejoining the route at the harbour, site of the former roll-on-roll-off ferry ramp, strong winds stirring the waves beneath where we were walking and sending them splashing high over the harbour edge.

We walked along the Harbour Arm as far as the Lighthouse, turning back along Marine Parade, an expanse of pebble beach to our left and beyond it the light reflecting back wonderfully off the sea.

Did we have the energy to proceed further and discover Rana Begum’s half-mile of coloured beach huts? Sad to say, we did not. Not just our feet, but various joints were beginning to ache and the 5.00pm train home seemed an inviting prospect. Briefly taking in some of Patrick Corillon’s relic boxes on the way, we arrived back at the station with time to spare and so enjoyed a little rest and recuperation in a beautifully laid out park nearby.

All in all, a smashing day – even if, somehow, we managed to miss out on the fish and chips. Might just have to sneak back, find those beach huts, after all it continues till early November.

Author: John Harvey


One thought on “Art Chronicles: Folkestone Triennial 2021”

  1. Lovely stuff. As a wide eyed 5 year old, I attended my first wedding (confetti, best man reading out telegrams – the whole enchilada) in Folkestone – the groom was a former work colleague of my dad if memory serves. Never been back (it was a long way from the Black Country), nor seen bride or groom again, but said wedding, speaking personally, inextricably imbued the town with the fragrance of true romance – which your very sweet piece does nothing to dispel! Best to you both. T

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