Terry Smith is a British-born artist living in Folkestone since the end of 2015. His body of work questions who are we, what are we and where are we. He says « I guess thats about all we can deal with in art and in life »
Folkestone ? I had two studios in East London, but lost them both to developers. London is fast becoming uninhabitable for artists and anyone on a low income. I had two friends already living in Folkestone and I found out about the Creative Foundation. My first contact was with Nikki Tompsett and she showed me a flat and a great studio space which actually clinched it for me.
Background ? I left school just after my 16th birthday, having failed all the exams they set. I did what I was supposed to do, get a job. But I was as bored with the job as I was with school. I wanted to have a girlfriend so I applied to do a vocational course at a local college on « exhibition design and window display ». Quite an odd combination now that I think about it. But the class was 90% girls, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to get kissed. However, utopia did not last long and I was thrown out after three months for not taking the lessons seriously.
I started a pre-foundation course in art at East Ham Technical College and discovered my love for contemporary art. From there I went to Goldsmiths college. I loved the college. But I had some financial problems and for that and other reasons I took a year off. I got a job at the national theatre as an usher and saw every play again and again and a different kind of education began for me. In my year out, I was 20 years old, I decided to check out what would have been my graduating year. So with a friend we visited almost every single art school in the country, during the degree show period. So in two weeks we spent hours on trains criss-crossing the country. I had already arranged to publish our findings in Artscribe magazine.
By the time I returned to Goldsmiths I had published an article in what was to be one of the most influential UK art magazines. I had some work shown at the Royal Academy in London and I was asked to give talks about the article in colleges around the country.
Aged twenty one, I graduated. Had various jobs for a few years, cleaning floors, working in a hospital, a morgue and many other things. Then by complete accident got a job as the chief designer for an American Multi-National Company. I had a huge salary, company car and a ridiculous amount of money to spend on exhibitions and design. I decided after 18 months of wearing a suit to quit. Walked out of the job. I had every intention of making a fortune. I had no idea then of course what was a head of me. I have been working my way down ever since.
Uncovered ? I found an instant connection to Andi and Cath at the Lime Bar and also with Andy and Sam at Space. They had been collaborating together on various projects for many years, I just came along and invited myself to the party. We all found that we liked the idea of a music season, and we loved the title Uncovered. Even though we all had perhaps completely different versions of what it might mean. This diversity and lack of clarity we see as a real strength. We have no purpose or intent other than to share experiences around sound, music and art. So a kind of extended version of just sitting around a dinner table talking and playing music to entertain ourselves. If you asked each of us what uncovered meant we would give you five completely different answers.
Strangelove ? Strangelove as an identity began in 2014 with a conversation with my friend David Gryn. We decided we would make a moving image festival. The first edition was a collaboration with Central St Martins in 2015. Once I moved to Folkestone we decided to see if we could make a version here. I asked Philippa and Luke who are founders of Threads to curate the festival and setted up a team to run the festival. There are a lot of local artists in the festival, mixed with artists and film makers from around the world. We have exhibitions, screenings, talks, workshops, performances and even a film school.
Folkestone is different? The great thing about Folkestone is that it is full of misfits. I feel very at home here. I think its people who just don’t conform to one size fits all. Sometimes I feel like I am living in a distorted version of the Truman Show. I came I think at a good moment, there have been ongoing projects and events here for many years. Like the Lime bar and Space, Brigitte at Strange Cargo, Matt and B&B and Diane and Denise Dever at the Folkestone Fringe. So it was quite exciting to come here and be part of an already vibrant scene. I think the people who have been here have welcomed new arrivals, and there is definitely something happening, something in the air. The Creative Foundation obviously makes a huge difference. I can’t think of another UK town that has an independent arts funding ability. It makes Folkestone unique. But the financial support for housing, studios and projects in only half the story. The staff at the Creative Foundation, Nikki, Adrian, Alastair, Cheryl, Ioannis, Tania, … make being here into a joy. Money does not make the world go round. People make it happen. Its like you join a big family here with all the joys and moans and troubles that brings. With Ben, Bean and Andre plus everyone else here like Simon and Ed, Helen I feel like I am home.
Best walk Coastal path, best park in the universe
Best coffee shop Steep street
Best concert venue Dance easy club
Best shopping place Old High Street
Best apparel shop Inside out, Ferrel Child, Bounce