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A Creative Escape

Boasting 333km of glorious coastline, and some of Kent’s most thriving cultural hotspots it’s really no surprise that these seaside towns have been inspiring artists for centuries.

 

Thriving Folkestone

At the heart of Folkestone, the town’s vibrant Creative Quarter is the perfect place to explore. With shops, galleries, studios and venues offering music, theatre and daily entertainment, this place is brimming with artistic flair. Start by discovering the town’s cultural hub, the winding, uphill Old High Street, which is home to some of the coolest and quirkiest independent shops, all selling a range of unique knick knacks. Stop by the vintage shops, Bounce and Ben’s Vintage Menswear for all your hipster needs, head to Paradiso and step back in time with their vintage television and film memorabilia, or delve into Rennies Seaside Modern for vintage prints, textiles and furniture galore. In need of a little pick me up? Rely on Folklore for the ultimate caffeine fix; locally sourced organic coffee by day and cocktails by night, they cater for everyone and it’d be rude not to sample one of their freshly baked cakes.

Uncover some of Kent’s undeniable talent through Folkestone’s abundance of art galleries; an inspiring community of artists and performers all round. Space Gallery, an independent art gallery and events venue hosting regular exhibitions from local artists, or Shane Record Paintings and Prints, a well established studio gallery, and the baby of Shane Record. Showcasing his beautiful oil paintings, you may even catch Shane working on a commission if you time it right. For photography enthusiasts, Nik & Trick Services Photographiques may just have the answer to your needs; pick their brains about anything photography related, or take a look at their backroom services. The annual Open Quarter event happening in July this year gives people the opportunity to go behind the scenes and get up close and personal with the artists and creatives.

Continue on an artistic trail and take part in the UK’s largest urban contemporary art exhibition, Folkestone Artworks. Completely free and accessible 24 hours a day every day of the year, download the map and make it your mission to discover the 46 artists’ work located at different spots along the coastline including works from Tracey Emin, Antony Gormley and many others. You’ll actually find one of Gormley’s located on Folkestone’s Harbour Arm and hidden in a secretive scenic location. Originally the railway terminal for the Folkestone-Boulogne ferry, the Harbour Arm has become a pivotal point in the town’s future while holding onto its integral history. Discover the many walkways bursting with independent eateries, bars and pop-ups. Perch yourself on a bench overlooking the sea and tuck into a monster helping of Mexican fare with one of Burrito Buoys wraps or go Greek with a tender chicken gyros from The Big Greek Bus…all washed down with one of Wild Boxes’ creative cocktails of course.

 

For staycationers looking for the ultimate overnight stay and cultural experience in one, check in and chill at The Relish, a contemporary accommodation at the heart of Folkestone. Or, for something a little more secluded, stop by the Bloom’s Stays website and choose one of the outstanding handpicked accommodations, many of which boast beautiful views across the sea.

 

Uncover Margate

A little further along the coast at Kent’s northeast tip and bursting with cosmopolitan culture, you’ll discover the timelessly English seaside town of Margate. Nowadays referred to as Shoreditch-by-the-Sea, this spot is the perfect mix of worldly charm and 21st-century culture. Margate’s coastal stretch, once considered a little down-and-out, still holds onto its effortless charm and is home to Dreamland, one of the country’s finest and famously recognised theme parks, classic arcades, independent cafes, vintage stores and a world-class art gallery. And, its creative flair isn’t just attracting the younger crowds; oh no, everyone is fleeing there to soak up that artistic energy!

Start the day with a full tummy assisted by a trip to Margate’s old town; brimming with indie cafes, you’re sure to find something to suit most tastes. Head to Love Cafe; a cafe by day and restaurant/bar by night, this super cool venu has a menu as attractive as its interior. No trip to Margate is complete without a look inside the iconic and world-recognised gallery, The Turner Contemporary. The modern, sleek-looking seafront gallery sits in the spot where J.M.W Turner himself used to stay during his visits to the town, and the architectural masterpiece showcases exquisite collections from both historical and contemporary artists, as well as playing host to a variety of one-off workshops open to the general public. The town so loved by artists including its very own Tracey Emin now paves a way for a whole new generation of artists. Stop by the Carl Freedman Gallery and uncover three gallery spaces displaying exhibitions from local and world renowned artists, or curate your own trail and go in search of the gallerys hidden amongst Margate’s cobbled streets. Pie Factory Margate, a space for local exhibits, offers a wonderful curated exhibition programme, and The Eclectic Art Gallery, situated in the old town, showcases Kent based artists – a place for them to affordably exhibit and sell their work.

Looking to get hands on and create your own artwork? Uncover The Margate School and their regular workshops; often hosting various exhibitions, events, guest lectures and classes, anyone and everyone is welcome to attend. If you’ve got a camera, join a relaxed photography walking experience and discover Margate through the lens with Capture Kent who will introduce you to a combination of the coast, pop culture and photography all wrapped up in a fun educational experience.

Delve a little further into the regeneration of this town with a trip to Dreamland; the staple theme park located on the seafront is not just home to of the country’s oldest rides, but hosts a fantastic lineup of live entertainment and pop-ups, and has a rolling annual mural programme which consists of meticulously curated, interactive installations; go on a hunt to spot them dotted around the park.

Take a stroll along Margate’s Harbour Arm (or jetty), and witness the seaside town from a slightly different angle. This historical stone structure was built between 1812 and 1815 and all these years later is now home to an abundance of eateries and cultural attractions including the Michael Richardson Fine Art Gallery where you’ll find Richardson’s collections of oil and watercolour landscapes. Head to the end of the arm and you’ll see Mrs Booth, the 12-foot bronze shell lady; the striking masterpiece was commissioned by artist Ann Carrington and is named after the seaside landlady whose house boasted spectacular views over the harbour. In need of a well-deserved rest and a pint of something nice? Drink like a local and take in the eclectic surroundings at Fez, the arm’s very own micropub serving up perfect pints of cask ales and ciders from their temperature-controlled cellar room. By night the arm comes alive, and if you’re a real foodie looking to sample a little catch-of-the-day a stop by Sargasso is a must! This seaside Bib Gourmand outpost of London restaurant Brawn showcases the best of local seasonal ingredients with a fantastic European menu.

Finish your stay with a stop over at one of Kent’s coolest stays, The Margate Suites. Located directly opposite Margate Sands and above seafood restaurant sensation Buoy and Oyster, the suites are an immersive escape that have been uniquely curated by local designers and artists, each room complete with its own theme. Perched just on the seafront at Clifftonville, you’ll find another unique and quirky stay – The Albion Rooms. Perhaps more suited to lovers of music, this hotel was the project of English rock band, The Libertines and is a boutique hotel with a difference. Each room is kitted out with a top-of-the-range sound system and the guests have access to the in-house arts studio, restaurant, bar and shop.

A creative trip to Medway 

Standing proudly in the north of Kent with rich cultural and historical connections, it’s really no surprise that this wonderful cluster of towns are bidding for the UK’s coveted City of Culture title in 2025; all the more reason to book a trip and discover for yourself the unique story. 

Immerse yourself in culture with a trip to Rochester and Chatham; safeguarding the River Medway, there are plenty of diverse and exciting creative activities to get involved in. Delve into how Chatham’s Historic Dockyard helped Britain stay afloat for over 400 years, uncover the truths at the castle at the centre of a crushing defeat and gawp in awe at one of the country’s oldest cathedrals. Go on a creative journey and discover the literary links and the many locations along the way paying tribute to famous former resident, Charles Dickens.

Start the day by heading along Rochester’s beautiful cobbled high street, which is lined with grand, ornate historic buildings. Make a stop at The Halpern Conservancy; the building from the outside appears steeped in history, head inside however and you’ll find a more modern interior that’s home to Cafe Nucleus, The Halpern Pop Gallery, Boardroom and Artist Studios – all part of Nucleus Arts. Nucleus Arts is the creative and cultural hub of Medway; with four venues across Chatham and Rochester, their ethos is local and accessible. They strive to provide affordable venues and studio hire for creatives, art workshops and beautiful spaces where people can enjoy art in all different mediums from a range of artists. You can find their 2022 workshop programme via the website (www.nucleusarts.com).

Once you’ve indulged in a great coffee and a delicious slice of cake in the cafe, head back along the bustling high street to the stunning Rochester Cathedral. A place of significant spirituality, this spectacular church has been celebrating Christian worship since 604 AD and you have the opportunity to walk through the pages of its fascinating history. Carry on your journey of discovery with a wander to Eastgate House. This Grade I listed 16th- and 17th-century townhouse is one of the most impressive and distinctive buildings in Rochester’s historic High Street and was once a great inspiration to the great author Charles Dickens who resided here all those years ago. Literary links can be found on almost every corner in celebration of Medway’s connections to the great author and the sights, sounds and places that inspired his work. Time your creative escape right and experience Rochester’s Dickens Festival, a characterful experience with live music, performances, readings and parades – there’s something for the whole family. Other festivals in the calendar include the annual Rochester Christmas market; held in the wonderful Rochester Castle grounds, this is the perfect place to pick up unique locally made artisan gifts. 

For an artistic fix, check out Rochester Art Gallery and Craft Case. Located on the ground floor of the Medway Visitor Information right in the centre of the high street, this space presents an exciting programme of high quality contemporary visual art and craft from regional and international creatives. Sun Pier House a little further towards Chatham is another award-winning space for artists, creative businesses, production and arts exchange and boasts great views over the River Medway. The Mess Room located on the bottom floor is an innovative, easily accessible space often hosting workshops for the deaf and blind. For those wanting something a little more structured, book onto one of Mrs Baker’s Medway Tours for an exclusive adventure offering an experiential taste of the arts past and present with a range of bespoke and interactive activities thrown in.

Finish the day with a trip to the theatre. Mrs Baker’s Theatre Company offers a programme of productions across Kent all with the support of the local community. Otherwise, The Central or Brook Theatres in Chatham provide the perfect backdrop for a range of traditional and contemporary theatre, dance, music and entertainment.  For dinner and the ultimate indulgent experience, try The Cheese Rooms; this quirky  deli and cafe sells exactly what it says on the tin – all things cheese! Feast on a cheese-heavy menu and sample gins from their vast and inspiring bar. When you’re all cheesed out, stumble along the high street and end the night in true Dickensian style at Dickens House Wine Emporium; this independent family run wine specialist proudly offer every day drinking if you are looking for a glass, but also an unrivalled selection of wines and spirits – both local and world – that you can take away with you.

 

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