The Tibetan Key

A collaborative project with Matthew Andrew, Paul Crawley, Diane Dunn, Ben Fletcher & Julian Rowe

In late February 2020, after a painfully long legal process, I acquired Flat 502 of The Metropole Hotel in Folkestone. High up on the cliff face above the recently remodelled Lower Leas park, the building and flat offer breath-taking views of the English Channel in one direction and the South Downs in the other.

Hidden behind the hotel’s magnificent Victorian façade, which saw its last paying guest in 1959, the building’s interior provides extensive reminders of its past grandeur. My flat, which occupies the quartered green dome on the roof of the building, was a later addition to the hotel, which was converted over the second half of the 20th century into apartments. The flat’s single external view is provided by an ornate porthole window facing south, to sea, across Folkestone’s Leas, a Victorian promenade now predominantly occupied by skateboarders, joggers and dog walkers.

The flat wraps around a spiral staircase that offers sole access to the building’s exquisite cupola, and on a clear day delivers 360? views of both the French coast and a substantial tract of the south-east of Kent, towards Dover in the west and Dungeness and Rye to the East.

On completion of the purchase of the flat, as well as receiving the usual legal documents from the previous owner’s solicitor, I was given a bundle of papers that had nothing at all to do with the sordid business of buying and selling the property. When handing them over to me, the solicitor had laconically commented that “Mr Aylmer acquired these with the flat and thought you might like to have them”. The bundle contained a journal authored by someone called Derek Tunstall, a university lecturer and Aylmer’s predecessor in what is now my apartment. The journal was in an old hardback desk diary, in which, for the most part, the writer had ignored the dates and added his own. There were other papers too - a selection of loose documents in foolscap and A4, some typewritten, some in longhand, held together with a treasury tag.

Over a period of 6 months I worked with a research group of artists and designers at the University for the Creative Arts, to find a means of collating these fragments. The papers, diagrams, photos and notes, some of which have been edited (especially the more tedious parts of Derek’s journal), are brought together with related objects since found, and include additional photographic and sound material, presented non-linearly in much the same way I received the original document.