Canterbury has long been renowned for staging a wealth of leading arts activities – and this spring is no exception…
This month will see some serious creative sparks fly in Canterbury, with a host of events and activities highlighting the city’s reputation as a major arts centre.
From poetry and literary showcases, through to innovative music performances, the area is set to host a wealth of established and emerging talent.
Prominent among this spring’s events is the Wise Words Festival, which will feature more than a week’s worth of engaging storytelling and music suitable for all the family from 28th April.
Among its highlights will be acclaimed poet Roger McGough and the sharp humour of Lemn Sissay recalling his fascinating life story of searching for his identity in his youth.
There will also be a range of activities aimed specifically at youngsters, including CBeebies stars, The Three Half Pints, being on hand to lend some added fun to proceedings.
Festival Director Beth Cuenco believes the event has made a positive impact on Canterbury. Speaking to INDEX, one of the event’s sponsors, she enthused: “It’s a really interesting festival as it’s not simply a poetry event. We’ve made it broader with adding music to it, and its ambition is to reach the widest audience as it possibly can. I think that’s what makes it stand out.
“Quite often with literary events, they are about authors trying to sell books, but we wanted this to be something that would appeal to everyone.
“So there are some aspects of spoken word poetry, but there’s also storytelling for children and the community, and we have the likes of Roger McGough, and Lemn Sissay who is amazing and has been to most of the events we’ve had here in the past five years.
“The festival has grown massively – it initially struggled when we first staged it seven years ago, perhaps because of people’s perception of poetry.
“But it really is about storytelling and talking about what is relevant to peoples’ lives and then more people came along to it, they told their friends and it has become a real success. Last year we had around 4,000 people visiting. It’s an arts festival for people who might not typically go to an arts festival,” explained Beth, who said one of its secret weapons had been its striking location set within the often overlooked, but fantastic, open-air venue of the Greyfrairs Garden off Canterbury High Street as the focal point for the festival.
Among many other highlights will be an appearance from award-winning poet Shane Koyczan, from Canada, who has gained notoriety for his online work.
• For more information on Wise Words click here.
City Sound Project
Another major arts event highlight heading to Canterbury at the end of this month will be the City Sound Project 2017, which takes place between 29th-30th April.
The event has previously attracted a number of big names from the music world including George Ezra, Bastille, Mystery Jets and Kent’s own chart-toppers, Slaves.
With stages set inside venues such as the medieval Westgate Towers and a 13th century Franciscan Chapel, ticket holders can experience music in venues unlike any other in the country.
The festival is hosted on multiple stages within the city walls including chapels, castles, ancient theatres, on cobbled streets, in clubs and pubs.
Festival-goers exchange their tickets for a wristband on the day at one of three exchange points, which then gives them access to all parts of the festival.
• For more information click here.
Beaney exhibition & city celebrations
As one of Canterbury’s strongest arts and community assets, The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge has come under potential threat with concerns surrounding a possible cut to its opening hours that could come into effect this summer.
Despite such challenges, it has been winning acclaim for its present exhibition focusing on Methodist Modern Art, which runs until 23rd April.
This features more than 40 works from celebrated figures including Graham Sutherland and Elisabeth Frink, alongside its broad programme of community arts events and sessions running throughout the year.
The start of April also sees Canterbury Christ Church University celebrate Medieval Canterbury Weekend, marking Canterbury’s rich heritage from the Tudors and Stuarts periods.
Within its highlights is a talk from Kent’s Dr David Starkey, speaking on the reign of Henry VIII and the country’s first brush with Brexit.
• For more information on the talks and events throughout the weekend, visit www.canterbury.ac.uk/tudors-stuarts
Elsewhere in East Kent, there are also plenty of arts treats to watch out for including at the Turner Contemporary
Following its critically-acclaimed display focusing on a broad spectrum of Turner’s work, the venue is presently hosting its latest exhibition titled Entangled, placing sculpture, textiles and crafts in the spotlight.
There have also been plenty of headlines focused on the town surrounding plans for Dreamland – which appears set for a revival in its fortunes following a major £15 million cash boost from its owners to steady its finances.
This has enabled a number of events including the Demon Dayz Festival on 10th June, headlined by Blur’s Damon Albarn leading out his sideline group, Gorillaz, proving East Kent has plenty to offer in the arts and entertainment stakes (visit www.dreamland.co.uk).
Spitfire Ground concerts
While Canterbury has yet to sustain its own festival to rival the likes of Glastonbury, the city is gaining a reputation for hosting major concerts at the Spitfire County Cricket Ground.
In recent years, Madness, Bryan Adams and Simply Red have played to sell-out crowds who have enjoyed the venue’s laid-back party atmosphere.
This summer’s shows kick-off with an appearance from UB40 on 3rd June, playing material from a career that spans more than three decades.
The city will be treated to the dulcet tones of Welsh superstar Tom Jones on Saturday 8th July, making his first appearance in Canterbury, as well as fellow chart-topper Olly Murs appearing on 7th July, who will be ensuring that music fans are well catered for in the next few months.
Key festival events
• Wise Words runs between 28th April-7th May. Visit www.wisewordsfestival.co.uk
• City Sound Project 2017, makes a return to Canterbury from 29th-30th April. Visit www.citysoundproject.com
• Sci-Fi by the Sea Science Fiction Festival returns to Herne Bay on 25th June. Visit www.scifibythesea.co.uk
• The Canterbury Festival returns later this year between 14th October-4th November, but a fundraising jazz and blues concert takes place at Barham Court on Sunday 16th July. For more information, call Tina Austen on 01227 452853 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
• Whitstable Oyster Festival will return this summer, between 22nd-24th July, but many of its major events have been scaled back following complaints surrounding last year’s festivities. Details to be confirmed.
• Boing! International Family Festival returns to the Gulbenkian Theatre between 26th-27th August, including dance, music and film for all ages. Visit www.thegulbenkian.co.uk