SATURDAY NOVEMBER 1 - SUNDAY NOVEMBER 9
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Festival 2007, November 2 - 10
When Abraham Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe at the start of the American Civil War, he is often reported as having said, “So this is the little lady who made this big war.” Whether or not this is true there is no doubt that her book Uncle Tom’s Cabin was crucially important in revealing to the world the evils of slavery in the southern states of America and in fuelling the abolitionist cause.
The book has been chosen for this year’s Folkestone Literary Festival Read in part because, though this year is not an anniversary of the end of slavery in any country, it is two hundred years since the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade, which provided the labour for plantations in the United States. The impact of Uncle Tom’s Cabin on its publication in 1852 was immediate and lasting. In its first year 300,000 copies were sold in the United States and nearly one million in England. It became the best selling novel of the nineteenth century and has never been out of print.
Based mainly on interviews with runaways, the book follows the life of a slave, Uncle Tom, who is sold on after the death of a kindly owner to a plantation owner whose treatment of him is appalling. There is a parallel story of another slave, Eliza, who escapes to freedom. The book is written in a sentimental and sensational style that was common in one genre of women’s writing in the nineteenth century and, as a result, was not taken seriously by literary critics despite its great success. However, in 1985 Jane Tomkins wrote of the power of sentimentality and suggested that women’s emotions had the ability to bring about great changes, as indeed Uncle Tom’s Cabin had done.
During the 1960s and 1970s the novel also came under attack by the Black Power and Black Arts movement for its crude stereotyping. However, in a recent reassessment of the novel, Henry Louis Gates Jr. has reversed these criticisms, stating that the book is a “central document in American race relations and a significant moral and political exploration of the character of those relations”. Dr. Keith Carabine has written of it in his Introduction to the Wordsworth edition as “the most popular, influential and controversial book written by an American”.
Local Author’s Day
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A Creative Quarter First
The Festival of Britain, probably only vaguely remembered by those of us born in the post-war bulge, was intended to mark the end of a time of austerity though it has to be said that rationing of certain foods continued for another three years. So it probably more marked the beginning of the end – “A Tonic for the Nation”, as it was advertised, to keep everyone going. It was also, as Paul states in his introduction, “a practical expression of the ideas shaping reconstruction after World War Two”. Above all it was something that was well planned, delivered on time and much appreciated by the over 8 million people who visited the festival site in London and others who took part in events organised in 2000 places throughout the country.
After a section on the festival origins and organisation, the book, as the title indicates, concentrates on all aspects of design. There are sections on the management of design and the festival emblem - the product of a competition organised by the Arts Council and the Council for Industrial Design. The buildings and structures are also covered, including the Festival Hall, the Skylon and the Dome of Discovery. There is a chapter on Art and Democracy, dealing with the sculpture and the mural paintings on the South Bank. There is also a bibliography for those who wish to read further about the Festival and post-war reconstruction. However, over a third of the book is devoted to illustrations of the festival and the objects and ephemera associated with it.
Paul started collecting objects connected with the Festival in 1980 – his first find being the quite rare black and white festival mug designed by Norman Makinson for Wedgwood. Through further purchases of the various associated publications and everything from scarves and souvenir medals to bags and bus tickets, he has built up a picture of the festival and provided “an insight to popular taste in 1951”. However, Paul does lack one thing from his collection: the South Bank apparently “boasted state of the art public conveniences and was credited with introducing luxury toilet paper to ordinary people”. Not owning a roll of this, Paul has been unable to find out whether it was marked with the festival emblem.
This book is an excellent start to what hopefully will become a stream of books of all sorts emanating from Folkestone’s Creative Quarter. It can be obtained from Rennies Seaside Modern, 47 The Old High Street, Folkestone, CT20 1RN.
Visit to Saltwood Castle, Thursday 28 June 2007
Like walking into the beginning of a fairytale we went across lawns dotted with strutting peacocks in full plumage who every now and then emitted sharp cries as if in protest at our presence, following Jane Clark to, as she called it, her front door. This is the door in the imposing twin turreted gatehouse of Saltwood Castle; massive oak doors, black with age and studded with enormous iron nails. From here one winter’s evening in 1170 rode out the party of knights on their way to Canterbury to slay Thomas Becket.
There began the tour of the Castle for twenty ‘Friends’ hosted by Jane Clark, widow of Alan Clark, the maverick Conservative MP, animal rights activist and mischievous diarist, son of the late Kenneth Clark the eminent art historian. A tour of what is indeed her home. If one is to make a home in a castle then this is the one in which to do it. It has a magical yet cosy quality; great charm and at the same time dazzling one with the most extraordinary collection of paintings, tapestries, bibelots, curiosities, porcelain, glass and medieval weapons – most of which, the sharp weapons that is, were now tucked up out of the reach of lively grandsons who, we were told by Mrs Clark, had been found in the past racing up and down the stone corridors of the castle wielding swords and pikes.
It was an extraordinary visit, and it was a visit to someone’s home, but a home so full of fabulous paintings, especially those of notable twentieth century artists of renown, that one marvelled. Before we had even left the hall I commented to a companion that we had just been shown an incredible variety of objects of quality covering a thousand years, quite apart from the ancient building itself, and we were still only just in the ‘front door’.
So it went on, from room to room, each a treasure trove of artefacts of interest and all presented together with anecdotes and tales of family life involving the respective places. Out into the fresh air again and across the lawns and into what seemed to be a rather dilapidated part of the castle walls, up stone stairs and gasps from all of us as we entered the most enormous medieval hall, now the library. A library however that contained not just the leather bound books that one might expect but reading matter for all tastes. Huge comfortable sofas faced one another and once again one was reminded that this room was just part of someone’s family life.
Then finally we sat down to a cream tea with homemade scones whilst Mrs Clark passed around a copy of a thank you letter from the late Queen Mother after a weekend at Saltwood. She too had been enchanted by a visit to a magic castle that was still an Englishwoman’s home.
For next year, therefore, we propose visits to Downe House, home of Charles Darwin, Batemans, home of Rudyard Kipling and, since this year’s visit was over-subscribed and it was such a lovely day, Saltwood Castle.
No dates have yet been agreed for any of the above but we shall have more details for the next newsletter, in December.
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Book Reading Group
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The Creative Quarter Community
The Creative Quarter is also providing many young people with opportunities that they have not previously had in Folkestone. The tendency has always been for those who have finished secondary education, and gone on to higher education elsewhere, not to return to Folkestone; there were no opportunities for artists and indeed little else to attract back those who had sampled life in other towns. Ultimately of course, with the University Centre and the planned university campus at the harbour, many young Folkestonians may well opt to stay here. In the meantime some others who have left are coming back. Matt Rowe, (www.gogowhippet.com) who runs the B & B Project Space and Club Shepway, is one of these returnees. His main interest has been recording the old seaside Folkestone and the changes as they are taking place. Charlotte Harris(www.charlotte-harris.com) , the BP Portrait Award winner, brought up in Ashford, eschewed a frenetic life in London, which in any case held little attraction for her, and settled for a studio of a size which would certainly have been too expensive elsewhere. She has had no trouble in finding commissions both locally and nationally. And the Grocery Gallery (www.thegrocerygallery.com) in the Old High Street has provided an outlet for her other paintings.
The reputation of the Creative Quarter is now spreading and many other artists and businesses are opting for Folkestone. Neville Pundole (www.pundole.co.uk) , who has closed his Gallery in Canterbury, has decided to move here. Selling pottery, paintings and small sculpture he also carries one of the largest stocks of studio glass in England including some contemporary Venetian glass. In business for many years, he has a large mailing list and many loyal clients who will no doubt want to visit his gallery in Folkestone. Although admitting that moving from London has taken a leap of faith Dan Davies, who moved to the Old High Street in May, said, “Coming to Folkestone has already really helped me focus on my work.” A web and multimedia producer with a background in art history and illustration, he won a BAFTA for a project called i-Map, created for the Tate, which used animation and audio to help provide a way into modern art for the visually impaired. Candida Wright, who also has a flat and studio space in the Creative Quarter works in a variety of media, including painting, printmaking, sculpture and photography. Since city-scapes and the flux of geology in seemingly changeless ancient landscapes inform much of her work, a move to Folkestone seemed almost natural. She was also greatly impressed with the up and coming art scene linking to community projects.
A number of other projects have been inspired by the Creative Quarter over the last few years. The Quarter Magazine with its first issue in January 2003 engendered great publicity for some two years. With its demise light relief was supplied for a short time by Shane Record’s The Other Three Quarters. This has been succeeded by Folkestone Creative (www.lilburnepress.co.uk) , started by Nicholas Reed and now into its third year. The quarterly magazine of Go Folkestone (www.gofolkestone.org.uk) alsoincludes some articles on the Creative Quarter. In 2003 the Open Air Gallery, making use of the then ubiquitous but now rapidly disappearing protective railings on shops, was started by local artists and Old High Street traders. That has now been absorbed into the Folkestone Artists Cooperative (www.folkestoneartists.org.uk) with some ninety members who, in addition to running the Open Air Gallery, have organised stalls at the Weekly Farmers, Fishermen’s and Art market at the Harbour and put on other events.
The Folkestone Artists Cooperative and the development of the Creative Quarter have also had an effect on already resident local artists. Phyllis McDowell (www.phyllismcdowell.com) , an established painter, feels it is great to be part of a growing community of artists of all ages. Allison Esson, never having had in the past the courage to display her paintings, has now been given the confidence and opportunity to do so. MarleneWomack (firstname.lastname@example.org) who specialises in appliqué and paper designs, also feels that the Creative Quarter has opened up opportunities for her and she has been motivated to develop her technique . She has made new friends and feels at home in a lovely and supportive community.
Early on in the life of the Creative Quarter project Nick Ewbank talked of the need to achieve a critical mass of thriving shops and projects to turn around the old town. It is probable that this point will soon be reached and the success of the Creative Quarter is already assured. So the blank canvas of Tontine Street and the Old High is now filling fast. But of course a larger canvas from the harbour to the coastal park lies waiting. It is an exciting time to be in Folkestone,
Thank you to all those who sent me writing about themselves and the Creative Quarter. I have been unable use all that was sent, but intend to produce another article for the next issue of this newsletter in which I will use the material.
Further Progress in Tontine Street
Helen Lindon at the Metropole
Helen’s art practice is mainly concerned with the exploration of light and architectural, organic and imaginary space through the media of photography, glass, painting and drawing. She has been exhibiting regularly since 1999 in Oxford, London, Manchester and Chichester and is an Associate Lecturer at Byam Shaw/Central St Martin’s College of Art.
Although genuinely delighted with the space she has been given at the Metropole Gallery, far larger and more beautifully situated than her studio in London, Helen does admit to being slightly intimidated by it. So it has taken her a little time to get used to working in the gallery. To begin with she was also a trifle concerned about painting in public but is now happy to talk to people about what she is doing and pleased to see them establishing a relationship with her work. In her latest series of paintings, on which she is now working at the Metropole, webs, nets and contours have emerged as a theme. Though starting with a definite idea of what she wants to do, each painting ultimately becomes a problem which is solved as she proceeds. So she may end up with a painting different from that which she first envisaged. She is also working on a triptych – three paintings that stand on their own as individual works but which, when put together, become something greater.
Helen will be working at the Metropole Gallery, until September 16. There will be a private view of an exhibition of her paintings and drawings in oils, oil glazes, India ink and watercolour on September 6 from 6pm to 8pm.
The Metropole Gallery is open from Monday to Sunday,10am – 5pm. If you would like to see Helen at work she is normally at the Metropole Gallery on weekdays between 10am and 4pm.
To contact Helen Lindon e-mail: email@example.com
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