Sunday, March 23, 2008

Folkestone 2008
Vernacular Spectacular

Club Shepway has been given the opportunity to use Folkestone’s historicfunicular lift throughout the Triennale of 2008. The space, comprising the carriages and the lower entrance, is available for the fourteen consecutive weekends of the town’s international art event.

We hereby invite artists and performers, individually or as groups, to develop artevents and interventions suitable for this unique and idiosyncratic venue. The lift offers panoramic views to the foreshore below and over to France. The lift is the remaining survivor of a series of lifts, developed during the 1880s,by the Folkestone Pier and Lift Company Ltd. It’s purpose was to overcome the peculiar geography of Folkestone’s seafront and to connect the different social worlds of the foreshore and Leas.

Remember, the lift takes 40 seconds to travel from the foreshore to the Leas. So,we are offering a captive audience, but only for a short while! It’s a little and often kind of thing. Club Shepway invites you to collaborate with us and to re-invent this uniquespace as a contemporary art event during the summer.


Folkestone’s Leas Lift was built in 1885. The Folkestone Pier and Lift Company Ltd developed the lifts as a means of connecting the coastal parkland promenade, called the Leas, with the foreshore and seafront below. This was especially important, as the particular geography of Folkestone, with its cliff-top parkland setting, had conspired to make the journey from resort to seafront unnecessarily irksome.

The new lifts moved people up and down the cliff with every convenience. The Leas Lift is a modest example of Victorian engineering ingenuity. It is a funicular, or rope, tramway whose two cars operate in a balanced system powered by water and gravity. Similar lifts may be found at regular intervals around the English coast. Indeed, there were once several similar lifts in Folkestone.

The foreshore area of Folkestone developed as a slightly separate entity from the town’s residential resort. The resort and Leas were distinguished by Victorian gentility. The foreshore, in contrast, was associated with the pleasures of seabathing, switchback and pier.

So, the funicular railway made a connection between two worlds, each defined by very different codes. The hedonism of the foreshore amusements, even if only enjoyed vicariously, challenged the stiff manners of the resort. The tension between these worlds, experienced by every traveller between above and below, made the near-vertical journey all the more exciting. The Leas Lifts are an exciting new art space defined by time and movement.Club Shepway welcomes our colleagues and friends to work and share this space throughout the summer. We hope you enjoy the ride.

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Naughty But Nice

Naughty But Nice

"Simon Kennedy is a sculptor at home in the backroom of a seaside joke shop and under the canvas of the big top. Mischievous, playful, roguish, he is an artist of the anomalous, a dedicated observer of the under current with his feet planted firmly beneath the pier. Here, amongst the peculiar debris of our lives, adrift in an emotional landscape of greasy chip-forks and lost ice-creams, we find art with the kind of disreputable perfectionism we might expect from the needle on a tattoo artist's gun..... "

©Matt Rowe

©Matt Rowe

O DreamLand

August Bank holiday 2007, Transition Gallery have teamed up with Club Shepway in Folkestone to present O Dreamland, a contemporary arts festival that takes a subversive yet affectionate look at the seaside.

The title is taken from Lindsay Anderson's short Free Cinema documentary made in 50s Margate about the Dreamland pleasure park. The film focuses on the partying day-trippers, juxtaposing them with some of the more grotesque elements of a typical amusement park.

Curated by Cathy Lomax, O Dreamland features over 20 artists who each respond to the subject in a uniquely contemporary way. The event will be centred around a 1930s 'Modern' house in Greatstone, Kent, which overlooks the English Channel to the front and the curious Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Light Railway to the back. The house is itself an interesting counterpoint to some of the more kitsch elements on show and embodies ideas of architectural modernist utopias.

Work on show will include Matthew Rowes' handcrafted shingle beach, Lucy Harrison's flag, Cathy Lomax's painting's of beauty queens, Sophie MacCorquodale's film portrait of Rhyl, Ruth Calland's alter ego Dame Batlove's psychic performance on the beach and much much more

This pertinent event comes at a time when many of our seaside towns are in crisis. In between the creeping gentrification and crumbling deprivation the spirit of the seaside is being lost. O Dreamland addresses this in a defiantly un rose-tinted way.

Miss Honey Lulu
© Matt Rowe 2007

Vicky Butterfly Miss Club Shepway 2007
costume by Lady Lucie
© Matt Rowe 2007

Mobility Parade competitor with Dame Batlove
see more images from O Dreamland