Urban Archive: Folkestone - Project Introduction

Urban Archive: Folkestone

There is no doubt in my mind that Folkestone is home to a rich community of people built upon a foundation of differences, each member bringing with them their own collections of stories and histories to share with those around them, with anybody willing to listen. Yet, through closer inspection, you come to realise that this rich Folkestone community is actually built from a network of smaller, more intimate communities of people. One way you could understand this is through thinking about your schooldays – your school was, undoubtedly, populated by different year groups, each containing collectives of different friendship groups. There may have been a little crossover at times, for different reasons, but ultimately, the members remained within their collectives. It’s an understandable and relatable comfort in familiarity. Personal parameters and circumstances may change and you may find yourself transitioning between different groups and communities, but importantly, you’ll still feel that you belong to your own collective, in whatever shape that may be.

Despite the rich variety of backgrounds that might form these communities, they all have one thing in common: they are all happily co-existing in Folkestone. In fact, they ARE Folkestone. Add into the mix the different environmental qualities, the urban environment, the sea on one side and the Kent Downs on the other, the flourishing arts communities and many cultural activities, there are an infinite number of ingredients mixed together to form Folkestone. Although there is a close proximity to all of this richness, it is hard to pinpoint the overlaps and the grey areas where different elements blend together or transition into another. They do exist, for example, in democratic spaces such as supermarkets and restaurants, but do they exist on a more personal, familiar level? I’m sure that they do, but how do we make this more prominent? How do we unite everybody into one Folkestone community? Urban Archive: Folkestone hopes to do just that, to unite as many people as possible through the sharing of stories and unique souvenirs specific to the town of Folkestone. 

The creation of this archive is entirely reliant on the participation of Folkestone’s residents and the dialogue that the archivist must establish with them. First the archivist must identify a unique souvenir of local importance, an object that tells a story and represents a moment in Folkestone’s history, an object that becomes a totem of communal exchange. Once identified, the archivist must become the conduit between the archive and the participant, on one hand the receiver of stories and on the other hand, a giver of souvenirs. The outcome of this exchange is an archive that hopes to become an analytical cross-section representative of the town and its inhabitants, a database of narratives that form a bridge of familiarity between the different people that form the town of Folkestone. 

From June 13th to July 13th 2018, I was the artist in residence for the Prague Biennale organisation, as part of the Magic Carpets programme. Magic Carpets is a 4 year Creative Europe platform which involves 13 cultural organisations from the EU and other candidate countries, providing a platform for emerging artists to collect local stories and carry them across Europe. Each year, each organisation will host an artist for a one-month residency for them to create a body of work in response to this cultural exchange. In it’s inaugural year, I was put forward by the Folkestone Fringe, UK, and selected for participation by the Prague Biennale in the Czech Republic. During this residency, I created a body of work called Urban Archive, and through that, explored the relationship between tourism and the local residents in Central Prague.

Now that Magic Carpets is in its second year, Folkestone Fringe have invited me to work with their incoming artists and to continue my Urban Archive project, this time focusing on the different communities resident in Folkestone. During this residency, I will explore the different layers of the towns urban fabric and try to understand the relationships between that and the towns people. This residency will be broken down into two phases; an initial research period from April 1st to April 14th, followed by a development and production phase from June 1st to June 30th.

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