Folkestone’s former Rotunda Amusement Park, typical of seaside towns from Blackpool to Coney Island, is the inspiration for Richard Wilson’s ’18 Holes’. The dysfunctional and long overgrown crazy golf course was the only remnant of the otherwise erased park. Wilson’s herculean project of cutting, lifting, restoring and reassembling the eighteen weighty concrete slabs is a tribute to the memory of this former popular tourist attraction. Wilson’s three ‘crazy’ beach huts are installed only a few hundred metres away from their original site and alongside the existing rather bunker-like Folkestonian beach huts.
When the Rotunda amusement park closed in 2003, Folkestone’s long and largely happy relationship with traditional seafront attractions came to an end. Former fairground thrillers such as the log flume, castle Dracula and the vintage 1922 rollercoaster have been removed from the site, which has left a large void to the west of the harbour. After the rides were removed, anyone seeking evidence of the areas fun filled history would have only found the crazy gold course, covered in weeds and its felt lined fairways rotting away. But all 18 holes of the course have been cut out, removed and re purposed by Richard Wilson. They’ve been transported along the coastal path and reconfigured as three striking and quirky beach huts.
Wilson was told that the concrete would be almost impossible to move. But the artist is known for pulling of spectacular feats of engineering, he has cut dramatic slices through the most improbable of structures. So, undaunted, Wilson has constructed each hut from six pieces from the crazy golf course. The soft green surfaces have been relayed, the paint work retouched, and the crumbling neglect has been replaced by a cheerful solidity. These beach huts are a stark contrast to those positioned near them on the promenade, which are rather austere and weather worn.
Wilson reminds us that Folkestone is moving on from old fashioned seaside fun and finding new ways to attract people to the town. But as an exciting period of reinvention begins, this small act of regeneration suggests that the past might also have a future in the new Folkestone.