As if we needed an extra reason to head to the seaside this summer, the Whitstable Biennale is luring us with a fantastic programme of experimental and emerging art, taking place from 2 to 10 June.
Featuring over 50 artists and 179 screenings, live performances, workshops, talks, walks and events, the work is embedded into the fabric of the town: artworks are located on the beach, in the sea, fish market, beach huts, boatyards, shingle harbour and alleyways. From a Victorian Sea Scouts Hall to Whitstable’s only DVD/Comic shop, the biennale will take over curious buildings and unusual spaces.
Taking its title from Deborah Levy’s Booker-shortlisted novel Swimming Home, many of the works respond to the rhythms of the tide or explore ideas of where home might be. Deborah’s own inspiration was the book The Swimmer by John Cheever, later made into a classic film starring Burt Lancaster, which will be screened at the festival. Levy is also creating a new, limited-edition text for the biennale.
There are plenty of works that intrigue here: artist Sophie Lee’s sound work is inspired by a 12th century mystic and will be broadcast from the bell tower; Jude Crilly’s biodegradable sculpture will attract a mass of seagulls and Alice Theobald’s live performance with two choirs will be staged at the Oyster Indoor Bowls Club. Meanwhile, Hannah Lees will be working with art and food, transforming the town’s Horsebridge café with new décor and new dishes.
We’re also up for the artist-led walks, taking visitors through hidden alleyways and marshy edge lands or combine with discussions in The Walking Reading Group. Visitors are invited to go foraging with local bird experts or join a surreal dining experience in a restaurant in the Labour Club. But we advise you to also leave space for some fish and chips – it wouldn’t be a visit to the seaside without it.