Digitalisation of the cultural sector is promoted in Folkestone
The creation of a digital Centre of Excellence in Folkestone started with the conversion of a building once used for educational purposes into bespoke high-tech offices of various sizes. The conversion was completed in 2019 and the first digital hub in South East England – digital:glassworks – opened its doors.
- The building is now rented out providing numerous SME’s a unique opportunity to either expand their businesses or to relocate to Folkestone. The town has become more attractive for talented people and we have seen an increase in young people in particular. More stay and build their careers here in Folkestone as it is easier for them to find employment within the createch sector locally, says Marita.
Back in 2002 Creative Folkestone was founded with the vision to transform the town through creative placemaking to make it an exciting place to live, work, study, play and visit. Creative Folkestone has established five key projects, including the Creative Quarter, Quarterhouse and Creative Folkestone Triennial to help achieve this vision. CUPIDO provides part funding and support for various activities of these projects.
- CUPIDO is supporting an impressive learning and engagement programme, at its centre a broad offering of workshops and other events for young people, families, schools and colleges. The aim is to support young people’s interest in creativity to guide them into creative work, enabling them to work alongside and with local artists and businesses. It intends to enrich the lives of Folkestone’s residents, inspiring them to have fun and be creative, unleashing their potentials, says Marita.
- We also receive funding for a digital artwork that will be part of Creative Folkestone Triennial, one of our flagship events that takes place every three years. Free to the public, it is UK’s most ambitious outdoor urban art exhibition. The digital artwork is part of 20 new commissions – sculptures and installations - for this year’s fifth exhibition, titled The Plot. The artworks mark locations of historic and geographic importance within Folkestone’s realm telling their stories and at the same time building a bridge to reality, she says.
Regional development through art and creativity
Creative Folkestone has been instrumental for driving the economic development of the town and its surrounding area through production led placemaking. At the centre of these efforts is the increase of employment opportunities in the cultural sector but also a boost to the town’s reputation nationally and internationally as a place where only the best art is created.
- As of today, there are more than 25 companies housed in digital:glassworks which is a great example of how CUPIDO funding has already led to an increase in business opportunities and regional development, says Marita.
Like many organisations across the world, the Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on Creative Folkestone and the wider region. Following the restrictions imposed in March 2020 many planned activities and events was postponed and swiftly pivoted programming, communications and marketing to a more digitally focussed output.
- We communicated with our audiences via social media, website and newsletters with a focus on supporting the creative community, sharing opportunities for support and funding and online activity. During this time, we have seen the appetite for digital content grow with an increase of followers on all channels of between 40% and 50%, Marita explains.
- Just recently the British Government announced a road map that should lead us back to some normality with further details to follow. So, we finally can see an end to the lockdown and preparations for a number of activities are already in full swing. The Creative Folkestone Triennial is now due to take place in the summer of 2021 with an emphasis on digital engagement.We will also use the easing of the lockdown to put in place a programme of support and mentoring for our tenants in digital:glassworks to help them adapt digital technologies to alleviate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and to bring their businesses up to speed again, she says.