Kent's cultural calendar for 2021

Lana Crouch

15th April 2021

As Kent's Turner Contemporary gallery celebrates the turn of a decade this month, we're looking ahead to an exciting year of creativity across the Garden of England…

For Kent's cultural community 2020 was the year in which live performances were swapped for live-streams, exciting exhibitions explored from the comfort of our living rooms, and as for eagerly anticipated events or new launches? Well, let's just say the ceremonial ribbons have been safely stowed, ready to be cut when the time is right once more. 

Now, with this week signalling the latest phase of the UK's road-map out of lockdown, our little corner of the country is looking to reclaim its status as one of the most exciting cultural hot spots around. From an unmissable new art trail to  socially distanced festival fun, here are five things guaranteed to inspire the artist within you this year in Kent. 

Medway City of Culture

Standing proudly in the north of Kent, lies magnificent Medway. With its cluster of exciting towns each with a unique story to tell, famous streets eager to be wandered, and creative culture bursting at the seams, there’s so much to be uncovered in this small but mighty slice of Kent. The home to Dickens, one of the World's literary greats, the cultural links run deep in this corner of Kent, so it's no wonder the area aspires to be 2025's UK City of Culture. This exciting bid is being shaped by the people across Medway's towns, villages and peninsula, and it invites everyone of all ages and backgrounds to get involved. There's already a rich year-long programme which has been devised to shine a light on marvellous personality and stories, meaning it quite simply couldn't be any easier to back Medway! #Medway2025

An artistic anniversary celebration

Stunning sea and sky-scapes famously drew artist JMW Turner to Margate, fittingly home to the acclaimed Turner Contemporary gallery. This year the internationally-renowned gallery turns double digits, making it the perfect time to head beside the seaside and explore the impressive range of contemporary and historical art on offer here. And, while Turner remains temporarily closed until at least May 2021 (in-line with current government guidelines) there's still plenty of activity to pique your interests online, until the team are able to welcome visitors back safely through their doors again. From 1st April, head online to virtually explore 'The Sacred Ecologist', a brand-new digital commission from artist Christina Peake which includes a series of digital sculptures, an accompanying digital graphic novella, a virtual session and a series of eco walks. Make sure you're following Turner on social to stay up to date with the latest news and future programming.  

Get creative on the coast

Boasting 333km of glorious coastline and cultural hotspots, Kent's dramatic landscape has been inspiring artists for centuries. In 2021 England’s Creative Coast will offer visitors the chance to explore seaside towns alive with creativity, breath-taking coastal landscapes, thought-provoking art commissions, the world’s first art geotour, and an extensive engagement programme. Led by Turner Contemporary and Visit Kent with Cement Fields, Creative Folkestone, De La Warr Pavilion, Hastings Contemporary, Metal, and Towner Eastbourne, this exciting new outdoor cultural experience will run between 1st May and 12th November. Don't miss your chance to catch seven new site-specific artworks by seven international contemporary artists as part of the inspirational, new Waterfronts series.

Festival fun in Folkestone 

Pay a visit to vibrant Folkestone between 22nd July and 2nd November and you'll see a town transformed into a gallery. This year the fifth edition of the Creative Folkestone Triennial returns, bringing with it around 20 newly commissioned, site-specific artworks by internationally acclaimed artists, inviting visitors to explore this exciting seaside town and its urban tales. Curated for the third time by Lewis Biggs, this year's Triennial, entitled The Plot, invites visitors to consider urban myths and their relation to verifiable realities: the gap between the story and the actuality. First-time Triennial fans will also have the opportunity to experience the very best of Triennials gone-by with a staggering 84 artworks by 44 artists currently remaining in-situ around the town, forming the UK’s largest urban outdoor exhibition of contemporary art. 

Excitement along the estuary

With 23 days of Art, Music, Literature and Film on offer, Estuary 2021 is the large-scale arts festival looking to provide that much needed culture fix we’ve all been lacking this past year. Postponed from 2020, the three-week outdoor festival invites visitors to celebrate the lives, landscapes and histories of this spectacular stretch of North Kent and South Essex coastline through contemporary artwork, discussion and events responding to powerful themes resonant to the estuary. Expect site-specific installations set within the natural landscape, audio-visual performances, walks, tours, murals, sculptures, immersive storytelling, experimental theatre, along with a whole raft of other performance-art pieces. Taking place between 22nd May and 13th June, Estuary 2021 is the perfect way to kick-start a summer of art along our coastline. 

Inspiration sparked? With many cultural partners across the county still planning their programme of activity for the year ahead, there are plenty of artistic adventures yet to be announced. If you just can't wait to map out your next creative escape, why not start by taking a look at our round-up of ways to get Hands on with History & Culture, or the very best Creative Experiences in Kent

Finally, before you embark on your next adventure in the Garden of England, please remember to check our partner websites. Many attractions and locations now request that you pre-book, and there may also be new procedures in place in order to keep staff and visitors safe. Take a look at our guidance on how to best Respect, Protect and Enjoy our wonderful county's attractions and landscapes.