Urban Archive: Folkestone
Location: Folkestone, Kent
Dates: 01 June - 30 June 2019
The Community Members of 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. 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.
Despite the rich variety of backgrounds that might form these communities, they all have one thing in common: they are all 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 or on the beach, 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 souvenirs specific to the town of Folkestone.
In exchange for the participants photograph, memory and object, they are given a piece of track ballast taken from the disused Harbour Branch Railway Line, a uniting artefact that represents their belonging to the archive, and their belonging to the larger community. 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 represent the town of Folkestone.
Track Ballast from the Harbour Branch Railway Line
Until it was closed in 2001, the Folkestone Harbour station served the bustling Folkestone port, situated at the end of the Harbour Branch Line which connected the port to the South Eastern main line. This line was mainly used by tourists travelling to mainland Europe as it allowed them to travel directly from London to the ferry services that would take them across to Calais and Boulogne. Unfortunately, Ferry services from Folkestone fell into decline with the nearby port in Dover expanding so successfully and eventually ceased to operate. Since the closure of the port and then subsequently the harbour station, the Harbour Branch line has sat abandoned and unused, forming a deep division between two parts of Folkestone. Interestingly, the bridge and the rail line existed before the majority of buildings that now surround it, meaning that this division was accidentally built into the town.
In recent months, interest in the site has grown, and Network Rail have been working to clean it up and make it more presentable, and they’ve done a great job so far. Final plans are still developing and remain a mystery to all of us, but as a hot topic, development for this piece of infrastructure is on the horizon, making the track ballast the perfect object to bring people together; A piece of Folkestone's past becoming the catalyst for future communities.
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 to continue my Urban Archive project, this time focusing on the different communities resident in Folkestone.
During this residency, I created the Urban Archive: Folkestone project as a spiritual successor to my work in Prague, and invited members of the public to participate in a process of exchange: a site-specific souvenir (track ballast taken from the now disused Harbour Branch Railway Line) in exchange for a memory and personal object from their pockets. Folkestone is a seaside town undergoing a huge amount of revitalisation and development and as a result is becoming more appealing to the rest of the country - these changes are inviting people to visit, stay, live and be a part of this growing town. Through the sharing of personal artefacts and stories, this project is about uniting the pre-existing communities and welcoming new arrivals, bridging the gaps between sub-communities and celebrating the humanity of Folkestone. Across these pages you can read about the project in more depth and meet the members of the Folkestone archive.