Photo by Thierry Bal

Megan Piper on Kent’s under-the-radar gem

Megan Piper is the director of The Line, a constantly evolving public art project that follows the line of the Greenwich Meridian from the O2 up to the Olympic Park, and includes works by Madge Gill, Gary Hume and Rana Begum, among many others. She told us about her love of Folkestone, Kent’s under-the-radar art-world outpost.

I get teased for being a walking advertisement for Folkestone but I’ve never lived anywhere that I love so much and I find it amazing that it doesn’t attract more attention given it’s only 45 minutes on the train from London.  

I’d start my dream Folkestone day with a swim in the sea at Mermaid Beach in the West End of town. It’s a lovely sheltered spot that has a lush green backdrop of the Lower Leas Coastal Park where, alongside spectacular planting and wildlife, you can also discover the most brilliant children’s playground, nestled in the trees at the bottom of the cliffs.  

For breakfast, I would head into town to Dr Legumes on Rendezvous Street. Their green pea pancakes (served with coconut yoghurt, stewed fruit, and maple syrup) are a taste sensation.  

After breakfast, I might do a little shopping. The Lobby is the best clothes shop in town. It’s owner, Jody, has an amazing eye and she always puts together a brilliantly curated selection of pieces from brands like Baum und Pferdgarten, YMC and Gestuz. I also love jeweller Aimee Craddock’s shop at the top of the Old High Street, where she sells her brutalism-inspired jewellery as well as items, including knitwear and ceramics, by other independent designers. Moo Like a Monkey is a fantastic children’s shop at the bottom of the Old High Street that sells books, toys and clothes that celebrate individuality, diversity and eco-friendly design.

For lunch, I’d go to Rocksalt for the spectacular views of the harbour. The bar upstairs is available for walk-ins and has a more relaxed vibe than the restaurant. It also serves the best fish and chips.

The Folkestone Triennial has run every three years since 2008 (the next one is in 2024) and one of its legacies is an impressive collection of public art, lots of it by artists who are also part of The Line. I’d spend the afternoon seeking out some of my favourite works. If you are walking to the lighthouse (which is home to an amazing champagne bar that offers great views of the white cliffs), don’t miss Antony Gormley’s cast-iron figure which is down some steps half-way up the harbour arm. Looking out to sea, it is partially submerged at high tide. Down on the beach, Rana Begum’s colourful geometric designs have joyfully transformed over one hundred beach huts and Richard Wilson has an installation of three ‘beach huts’ constructed from bits of the town’s old crazy golf course.  

I’d continue my walk along The Leas, which is a promenade along the top of the cliffs in the West End. These days it’s a kind of public art trail with works by Cristina Iglesias, Mark Wallinger and David Shrigley, amongst others. The best way up is to follow the Zig Zag Path from the beach. Towards the western end of The Leas is a wonderful old Edwardian (former) hotel called The Grand. It has a Yoko Ono installation on the roof, which flashes the words ‘Earth Peace’ out to sea in Morse Code and apparently you can see it from Boulogne. One of the rooms on the ground floor of The Grand, called the Green Room, has recently reopened to the public and hosts concerts, talks and a growing number of events.

After all that walking, I’d head to Massimo’s for an ice-cream, which is just off The Leas as you head back into town. The gelato is freshly made on site every morning and is arguably the best in Folkestone. It’s only open for half the year as its owners return to Italy during the winter months.

For dinner, it would have to be The Folkestone Wine Company. Polly (who runs it with her partner – the restaurant’s chef – David Hart) is the most brilliant host. The menu changes daily and they just do a small number of options per course, which come served on a slightly higgledy piggledy mix of crockery. Everything I have ever eaten there has been delicious but I would always recommend the chocolate marquise to finish, if it’s on the menu.  

Finally, I would head to The Potting Shed, which during the day sells beautiful objects and in the evening transforms into a speakeasy. You need to book a table and you are issued with a password on the day. When you arrive, squirrelled away behind the shop, you discover an intimate bar that serves 1920s prohibition-era cocktails. Their Martinez gives their Old Fashioned a run for its money and it’s a perfect place to round off the evening.

For details on The Line go to https://the-line.org/

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