Otterpool Park is a new garden town that’s currently being planned in Kent, with a focus on sustainability, community and creativity. We are really pleased to have Otterpool Park as part of The Big Draw festival this year, with an array of events taking place across the site of the future development. We spoke to the team at Otterpool about their Big Draw events, and how creativity is at the heart of their project.
We’re really happy to have Otterpool Park as a sponsor partner of The Big Draw this year! Could you let our readers know a bit about what Otterpool Park is?
Yes of course, Otterpool Park is a new garden town that’s being planned in Kent. There’s a huge need for new homes in the area, and we will provide these by creating a whole new community with homes, schools, jobs and community facilities – everything that people need in life. There’s a big emphasis on creating a healthy, active, creative and sustainable new place to live, work and enjoy.
We’re ambitious in what we want to achieve. The new garden town will have lots of green space – 50% in fact. We’re making it safe and easy to get around by walking and cycling, and have some innovative plans for how we operate public transport here. There will be parks, nature trails, sports pitches and there’s even an historic castle on the site which will be at the heart of the development – what a place to live!
We are aiming for sustainability in everything we do and to have a positive influence on the environment and society. Every choice we make, we are doing with a view to the future.
We are delighted to be partnering with The Big Draw for the first time as part of our work to include the community in our plans and to bring creativity to the project from the very early stages.
Earlier in October, you ran some fab workshops all about colour and shape with award-winning artist Rose Hill, and a workshop called ‘Perceptions of Place’ which focuses on being inspired by a landscape. How did these go, and what have your highlights been from your Big Draw events so far?
Our first events were very well-attended and we’ve had some good feedback. The venue at Westenhanger Castle and the countryside around it was simply a stunning backdrop to inspire our guests.
Some highlights have been seeing the enthusiastic young artists who came to our family event – who may even become future residents at Otterpool Park – learning about colour and shape from a professional artist and growing their confidence in trying new things.
At our adults-only events we took the attendees out into the castle grounds and they really took inspiration from the landscape around the castle and the castle itself. They each created their own interpretation of the scenery, using the colour and shape theory that our professional artists supported them with, and it was great to see how different they all were.
And you’ve got more great artist-led workshops coming up throughout the month. Could you talk us through these?
We’ve tried to make sure there’s a good variety of events and to give people access to areas of the site before it is transformed into a garden town. Some of the land at Otterpool Park used to be the old Folkestone Racecourse and our, Motion in an Era event on 13 October, will base itself there, capturing the movement and energy of the place and its past.
We move to nearby Westenhanger station on 16 October for All Change Please where we are pleased to have Rob McDonald, a senior lecturer at the UCA leading the session. The station building has been there since 1861. As Otterpool Park is created there are plans to develop the station and the workshop aims to capture the historic railway station’s raw edge before it enters a new phase.
Finally, another workshop for families over half term week where they will learn about and create watercolours that are inspired by the local landscape. It’s a busy month!
Our big draw theme this year is Come Back to Colour which is all about capturing, celebrating and finding joy - how do your events this year fit in with that theme?
There’s something joyful about people of all ages coming together to be creative, and seeing how each person’s art takes on a different guise. I have enjoyed hearing the conversations and encouragement going on between people while they are working and the connections being formed.
Part of what we are doing here is around celebrating the past, present and future and we are hoping to capture a visual record of the site over time through other people’s eyes.
And what motivated you to take part in The Big Draw Festival, and what do you hope to achieve?
We are at the start of creating a new community here and that gives us the opportunity to do things differently and approach things creatively, using the landscape, architecture, colours, shapes, nature and history of our surroundings as our inspiration.
We have a synergy with The Big Draw Festival and what we hope to achieve – our participation is driven by encouraging people of all ages and abilities to explore their creativity here with us. While here they may become curious about learning more about what we are doing at Otterpool Park and being part of our community from the early stages as it comes to reality, whether as a local person with an interest, as a potential future resident or simply to come and experience our events. Everyone is welcome.
Otterpool Park “champions all things creative” - we love this! Can you talk us through why creativity is such an integral part of the development?
We are part of an area that’s extremely creative. We have Folkestone nearby that’s known for its culture and public art, with its Creative Quarter and events like the Folkestone Triennial. Lots of creative and digital business are also based in the area and we hope some of them will make Otterpool park their future home.
The design of Otterpool Park development itself has been inspired by the landscape, culture, creativity and heritage of the area. We want it to feature the very best design and be creative by nature. It is part of creating a place that’s distinctive and has character, and that people feel proud to live in.
To you, what are the benefits that drawing and creative thinking can provide people in their everyday life?
Being creative can have benefits to people’s health and wellbeing. It’s known to boost your mood and can help with anxiety and other mental health issues. There’s something really feel good, motivating and confidence-boosting about creating something that you are pleased with.
It can be very freeing to open your mind to new ways of doing things, and translating that creativity through other elements in life and connecting us to ourselves. When people get together doing something creative, like at The Big Draw events, it can create a sense of togetherness and community.
Thank you so much for your great answers! We can't wait to see how the rest of your events go.
Motion in an Era takes place on Thursday 13th October at Folkestone Racecourse
All Change Please takes place on Sunday 16th October at Westhanger Railway Station
Watercolour Landscapes takes place on Monday 24th October at Folkestone Racecourse
If you're interested in Otterpool Park, you can see more here!
Registrations are open for The Big Draw Festival 2022: Come Back to Colour! Find out more about the benefits of becoming an organiser here and other ways to support The Big Draw's mission here.