Arts + Entertainment

ARTS PROFILE: Alastair Upton, Chief Executive of Creative Folkestone

This month, insideKENT spoke to Alastair Upton, Chief Executive of Creative Folkestone, about the exciting things happening on the coast and plans for the future.

There have been some exciting changes happening with the arts in Folkestone, including an exciting rebrand of The Creative Foundation to Creative Folkestone. Can you tell us more about the change?

It’s just a clearer statement of what we are, an arts or creative charity that is in Folkestone, for Folkestone and very much working with the people of Folkestone. After 15 years of establishing the Creative Quarter, Quarterhouse, Artworks and Folkestone Triennial we have set our foundations. Now we build on them!

Creative Folkestone does so much – how would you sum it up in just a few sentences?

We work in many different creative ways, with different types of art, but always looking to make Folkestone and the district a better place for people to live, work, and grow up in; and if all that works people will want to visit too.

We were strolling along Folkestone seafront recently and noticed lots of different art installations, including ‘The Ledge’ (featured on our cover). Can you tell us more about it?

It’s an Inuit Hunter standing on some ice with a seal, and they are looking out over the sea. The white ledge they are on is raised up above a black area, or pool below. It seems like the ice has melted away as oil is consumed and with it the way of life of the hunter.

People have said to me ‘I get that, but what has it got to do with Folkestone?’. I think the artist was making the point that we live on a small planet. We are all looking out over the same connected seas, as the ice melts, our seas rise and with that comes change for us too.

It’s also just a beautiful thing to look at. Mostly people see it from below but when you go on to the path behind, you are then on the same level and you can share their gaze out over the channel.

For someone visiting Folkestone for the first time, what would you suggest they do and see?

That’s hard as there is so much to do now in Folkestone. Because of my job I always show people the Folkestone Artworks, and by using them you can see so much of what is great in the town. Anthony Gormley on the harbour arm, Mark Wallenger’s Folkstones on the Leas which allows you to talk about the WWI history, Lubaina Himid’s pavilion on the seafront – that’s three Turner Prize winners, Cornelia Parker’s mermaid on Sunny Sands, and of course I’d go up The Old High Street.

The Artworks allow you to see the town, understand its geography and history and think about what’s to come. Then I’d get people to talk about it in the amazing cafés and restaurants the town now has.

What plans are in motion for Creative Folkestone’s future?

We have just appointed two new curators for the Book Festival, 15 – 24 November 2019. They have really exciting ideas, I can’t say too much yet but November should be great, again building on the foundations of previous festivals but looking for new ideas that are right for Folkestone.

We have a new digital hub in the Glassworks, where we are looking to the future by joining our existing creative industries with energy and ideas that come from new technologies.

And next year is the fifth Folkestone Triennial.

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