The Gasworks – Creative Regeneration Through Art
The Gasworks site in Folkestone has been unused for decades. Left derelict and boarded up, it’s easy to ignore this prime location in the centre of town. Jason Jones-Hall is the Project Director for Pioneering Places, part of the national Great Place Scheme. This scheme focuses on the heritage of various sites, and through connecting the community with artists, has been able to develop places into sustainable community spaces. Folkelife met with Jason to talk about the future of the Gasworks site.
“Interest really grew from the site when Creative Folkestone revived it during the 2014 Triennial. They installed an artwork there called Green/Light (For M.R) by Jyll Bradley. This is at the site on the corner of Ship Street and Foord Road, and used to generate electricity for the town. Jo Cowdry, who’s the assistant curator for the Triennials started a conversation with the local community about this site. There are a lot of people around who still have personal connections with the Gasworks. Then Pioneering Places came along, which is funded by Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, which seemed to offer the time and space to continue talking about how we could use this site in the future.”
“One of the important things about Pioneering Places is it’s part of a scheme that wants to regenerate areas and focus on the heritage and local importance of those sites. The other important thing is that this should be lead by cultural organisations. So Creative Folkestone was our lead. In talking with the community we have a wealth of histories about the site. There are so many memories, and it’s been fascinating to be a part of uncovering them. With the Folkestone Triennial 2021 there are plans for a number of new artworks to be on this site. Again, they will reflect on the memories and histories of the area, and allow people to focus again on the importance of this piece of land.”
The Social Club
“There used to be a social club here which was a really important part of the area. They would hold dances and all sorts of things. That only closed 20-25 years ago so people still have memories of going there and being involved. One of the artworks in the 2021 Triennial is going to recreate the dance floor and encourage everyone to join in. There will be a walkway suspended above the field so you will be able to get a different perspective on the site. “
“Our project had an element led by an organisation called Little Architects. It meant we could go into schools and talk to children about how you can regenerate areas of a town. We’ve had an amazing time linking children with architects to imagine what we could create on this site. Children have been able to create technical drawings to show their ideas. We had an exhibition of these drawings and models made up by the children in Sunflower House. The children relied upon audio and written memories from older residents as to how the site had been used in the past. This gave them ideas for what to create for the future.
“The architects went above and beyond the brief. They really inspired the children as to what you could do with a space such as this. You can see in the video how it got the children thinking about the complexities of town planning.”
an open space
“It has been an exciting project, working with many within the community to visualise what was here, and would could be here in the future. With the exciting news Folkestone and Hythe District Council have agreed to purchase the land from the two energy companies that had owned it, it will be really promising to see what happens next.“