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Christmas Shopping in the Creative Quarter

I have often spoken to Folkestonians who still have a lingering reluctance to venture beyond Rendezvous Street to the Old High Street and Tontine Street. In doing so they are missing out on a number of interesting shops, which could provide many original Christmas presents. Hopefully with the introduction of lights this year connecting those in Rendezvous Street with those in the Old High Street they will be encouraged to explore.

Even before the Old High Street begins its descent to the harbour, Country Fayre is well worth a visit to stock up the Christmas larder with jams, cheeses, teas, olives, pickles, chutneys, sauces, local ciders, ales, juices and wines from Terlingham  vineyard. You can also find small gifts made from Romney Marsh wool – child’s slippers, lavender wool sacks, baby knit sets, and mobiles. These might provide a stocking filler as could the chocolates made by Philippe Vialon at Fresh and Easy, now well known for its outstanding patisserie. If you would like a custom made cake, Creative Cakes Kent at the bottom of the Old High Street can craft one for any occasion.,  

All down the Old High Street, there are a plethora of marvellous shops starting with Inspiring Interiors, who have stocked up for Christmas with battery powered LED Xmas decorations, Vases, the Country Kitchen range – bread bins, tea and coffee containers, picture frame, signs and mirrors and Caroline Walker’s cow series of bone china mugs, coasters, tablemats, aprons and tea towels.

Naturally artists feature widely in the Old High Street: Jo Letchford Mosaics sells Coaster kits at £7.59 with a more expensive, but beautiful, range of wall hanging mosaics from £65 to over £1750. Or you could buy somebody a one day mosaic making course for £100. Next door, Kate Knight at MK Artlab offers adult art classes of one and a half hours for £20 -(Children age 10 -16 for £10) alongside a wide range of art supplies including paints, brushes, easels, drawing boards. Her own artwork is also on sales with prints from £30 and original artworks from £400. Other art is obtainable from Stanley James Art, Folkestone Academy Art, Grand Auctions, La Galeria, Space Gallery, George House Gallery, and in Tontine Street from Silkworm Studios and The Stables. At the top of the Old High Street, Shane Record has many of his own still life and landscape paintings for sale either as originals or prints in a variety of format and sizes. Prints of architectural interest and old architectural plans can be found at Cyma Architecture Shop.

Art and design of the twentieth century is the province of Rennies Seaside Modern, which has now been in the Old High Street for over seven years. Their treasure trove of objects from posters, books, ceramics and glass make ideal presents especially Karen Rennie’s collection of vintage Hermes head scarves from £100 upwards. Other accessories including handbags and make-up bags are available from Quake Handbags, who also design and make their own range of practical and stylish fabric and felt bags.  Buttons of all types can be found at the Button Shack but also fabrics, accessories, handmade Christmas decorations and gifts. One of several expected pop up shops will be the Christmas Emporium, selling glass, ceramics and jewellery.

Tribes are the longest established shop in the Old High Street, having been in business there for over 30 years. They stock jewellery, including body jewellery, alongside hair dye, boxes and scarves,  Again, jewellery forms part of the stock of Cauldron of Inspiration, which also sells Mystical/ Pagan goods, scented candles, essential oils, beads, ornaments, tarot cards as well as  Buddhism, shamanistic and Egyptian items.

If it’s your dog that wants an accessory, Kissiboo Boo-tique is the shop for you.  They stock dog clothing, and hoodies, cute dog dresses, winter coats, collars leads harnesses, dog socks, dog jumpers personalised dog T-Shirts in all sizes. T-Shirts for adults can be found at Frizbee as well as mugs, coasters, embroidered Shirts, jackets, workwear & Gifts, vinyl printing, poster printing, canvas printing.

Finally two other shops deserve a mention: Quintessential with its colourful and original painted wooden signs, toys and upright jigsaws and Plectrum Pens and Paints which sells all types of musical instruments from guitars, to brass and woodwind, digital pianos, strings. They also provide tuition in most instruments in purpose built studio rooms with a large selection of music and grade books.

Tontine Street is also worth a trawl. The Outdoor Shop provides boots, gloves, waterproof clothing, compasses, sleeping bags, tents, camping gaz stoves, rucksacks, in fact everything for the outdoor enthusiast. Another outdoor pursuit Fishing is catered for comprehensively at Folkestone Angling, be it for coarse, sea, or game fishing. The owner, former England International, Peter Owen, who has a wealth of local fishing knowledge, is always available for a chat and advice.

It has not been possible to include every shop within the Creative Quarter or of course the pop up shops. And of course there are number of cafes to provide refreshment. What is certain is that if you want a present with a difference, Tontine Street and the Old High Street are the places to visit. As Karen Rennie says “There are some great core businesses down here that have withstood the ups and downs!”

The Old High Street is hosting a best-dressed window competition. If your vote is selected from the winning display entries, you’ll win dinner for two at Rocksalt. To enter go to http://www.creativequarterfolkestone.com/Christmas

Nick Spurrier