Everywhere means something to someone

Folkestone Triennial 2011 Guide Book

… that’s the title of a commission for this year’s Folkestone Triennial.

Artists Strange Cargo have created a collection of over 200 memories, descriptions, statements and anecdotes from local people, and strung them together into a delightful “people’s guidebook” to the Kent resort.

The printed guide is a high-quality production (each double-page spread features an entry plus a photograph) in a pleasing chunky A6 format with maps at the back – a snip at £5. And the entries have been reproduced around the town on acrylic plaques – sited at or near the places they refer to.

I’m not sure what it does for first-timers, but for “ex pats” like me it’s a sweet souvenir whose mini stories and snippets of memories stir the soul.

“At last – a book about real travelling,” says writer Dea Birkett in the guide’s Foreword. “Going on a journey isn’t about clocking up the miles, but adopting a state of mind. It’s about looking very very carefully … Travel is as much about another time as another place …”

Coincidentally, this view of travel was echoed in a moving piece by Caitlin Moran in Saturday’s Times. She writes about turning her back on overseas holidays and choosing instead to visit the same four places – Aberystwyth, Brighton, Gower and Ullapool – over and over. So much so that every trip evokes previous ones, so that “I don’t travel in space – but in time, instead”.

The Triennial inspired me to pay a nostalgic visit this weekend to the place where I grew up. It was a clear demonstration of the power of culture to motivate visits and fuel the economy (I took three others, and we ate, drank and shopped as well as enjoying some Triennial artworks).

And it’s got me thinking about the importance of going back to places we know – something that’s on the rise as, post-boom, people increasingly turn their backs on rampant consumerism and rediscover the value of simple, homespun things.

Amanda Shepherd paddling on Folkestone beach

For some it’s a necessity. For others, a choice. For domestic tourism in the UK, it’s a ripe opportunity. And for me … it was travel for the soul.