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Canterbury Festival 2019: Programme Announcement

Saturday 19 October – Saturday 2 November

Canterbury Festival Friends Priority Booking Opens: Monday 15 July, 11am

General Booking Opens: Monday 29 July, 11am

Canterbury Festival returns with a must-see programme of music, performance, talks, family events and much more this Autumn.

Over two weeks, Canterbury’s annual celebration of the arts brings together a programme that is packed to the brim with global stars, emerging local talent and stunning live performances.

With venues including Canterbury Cathedral, The Marlowe Theatre, Kent College’s newly built Great Hall and the spectacular touring Salon Perdu Spiegeltent; Canterbury’s most ambitious Festival unifies the city’s cultural hubs and invites audiences of all ages and backgrounds to be inspired, delighted and stunned.

2019 marks 10 years of support by Canterbury Christ Church University, as the Festival’s Partner and Principal Sponsor. A home to world-leading research in the arts, the University makes an enormous contribution to the artistic and cultural life of the region and has been instrumental in the Festival’s development – helping reinforce Canterbury as a thriving hub for arts and culture.


Canterbury Festival is delighted to follow up last year’s sell-out shows at The Marlowe Theatre with four unmissable dates. Innovative British Singer-songwriter and two-time Mobo award winner, Laura Mvula, performs her only show of the autumn! Architect of the Buena Vista Social Club Juan de Marcos brings the sound of Havana to East Kent with the Afro-Cuban All Stars. Don’t miss chart-topping folk pop duo Ward Thomas, who are on scorching form since the release of their 2019 album Restless Minds.

The Festival is also very excited to welcome Jack Savoretti who kicks off his autumn UK tour at The Marlowe; Jack’s 2019 album, Singing to Strangers, has received rave reviews and was number one in the charts for six weeks.
This year’s classical line-up features superb live musicians and vocalists from around the world. The Festival begins with The Sixteen Choir and Orchestra at Canterbury Cathedral performing one of the most magnificent pieces in the classical repertoire, Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610.

Don’t miss the world premiere of The Keys of Canterbury, a Festival commission by John Harle performed by one of the UK’s brightest stars, saxophonist Jess Gillam, and the Frisian Symphonic Wind Orchestra.

In I, Clara, actress Juliet Stevenson takes on the role of Clara Schumann accompanied by pianist Lucy Parham, together they mark 200 years since the composer’s birth. The Sacconi Quartet brings to life Kent College’s spectacular new venue, the Great Hall, with pieces by Rachmaninov, Arvo Part and Jonathan Dove. Later in the week Classico Latino and Omar Puente perform songs from the Latin American songbook – channelling the tropical spirit of old Cuba with a unique classical twist. The Festival is brought to a triumphant close by the celebrated vocal ensemble Tallis Scholars.

From the world of Jazz, rock and blues comes a plethora of acts including; The 360 Band featuring Average White Band members Hamish Stuart, Molly Duncan and Steve Ferrone; Tex-mex Border music from Los Pacaminos featuring Paul Young; and Americana super group Orphan Colours featuring members of ahab, and Noah and the Whale.

Canterbury Christ Church University present a series of free concerts and performances taking place at St Gregory’s Centre for Music and Anselm Studio. The programme includes classical pieces by Beethoven, Ravel, Fauré; as well as the music of John Williams, gypsy swing in the style of Django Reinhardt and big bands. In addition, the University’s Commercial Music students will perform an effortless selection of classics; and students studying Dance Education will perform a selection of their choreography.


Prepare for two weeks of circus, theatre and spectacle! This year’s performance programme kicks off with The Spiegeltent Spectacular fundraiser – a cavalcade of music, dancing, cabaret and lots of surprises. Book a booth early and bring along your friends and colleagues for an unforgettable night that helps make the Spiegeltent possible.

Don’t miss Orlando, Dyad Productions life-affirming, comedic tale of an immortal poet, whose gender cannot be pinned down and whose spirit cannot be caged. Javier Jarquin, aka Card Ninja, hits the Spiegeltent demonstrating his mind-blowing card-flicking stunts – this is not a magic show, but a ninja show – with playing cards.

Festival favourites Casus return for two nights of bonkers circus in the big top with Knee Deep. A masterclass in gymnastic skill, they push the boundaries of strength and fragility, through acrobatics and aerial feats. Bodies are pushed and pulled, eggs are weighed, tested and walked on!
Prepare for A Night at the Musicals with the award winning ‘Ebony and Ivory of Drag’, Le Gateau Chocolat and Jonny Woo. In a raucous night of ballsy ballads, delightful duets and slaughtered show tunes, the duo will ‘Les Misermassacre’ the musicals you know and love – from Gypsy to Grease, Annie to the Lion King – no show is safe.

Grab a seat at for The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, as Brother Wolf take audiences on an all new adventure in Wonderland led by the Mad Hatter and March Hare. Known for producing risk-taking and cutting-edge theatre, we can guarantee that you will never have seen a show like it.

Love comedy? Then don’t miss The Laughing Boy Comedy Club – a showcase featuring some of the UK’s rising stand-up stars. The Comedy Club has helped launch the careers of some for the UK’s biggest names including Josh Widdicombe, Jon Richardson and Michael McIntyre – so don’t miss your chance to catch the next big thing in comedy.


This year’s Talks programme welcomes speakers covering everything from history and crime, to the clergy and Rupert Bear. Don’t miss criminal barrister William Clegg with a revealing account of life under the wig. TV presenter and ethnobotanist James Wong shares the secret to improving your diet without miserly portions. Presenter, historian and broadcaster Professor Bettany Hughes unravels the mysteries of Istanbul – its ancient history, rich culture and possible future. Learn how to get the most out of your blooms with floral designer and theatre lover Mig Kimpton, who delves into the history of flower arranging and shares some of his top tips. This year’s Kent College lecture is led by The Sky at Night’s Chris Lintott who will be exploring the role humanity can still play, in the age of technologically advanced research.


Working in partnership with the University of Kent’s Biosciences department the Festival provides inspiring scientific events for all ages. TV presenter and scientist Simon Watt explores The Genetics of Superheroes, revealing the reality behind comic book mutants’ powers, and how we could one day use genetics to make us superhuman. If you like a tipple then be sure to book for The Cocktail Lab at Orange Street’s The Ballroom, where mixology meets science.

Always trying to justify your bad language? Then don’t miss Emma Byrne’s eye-opening talk on the benefits of swearing which include pain relief and improved teamwork!

Professor of Cognitive Neuroimaging Gina Rippon, visits to discuss The Gendered Brain, demolishing the myth of the ‘female brain’ and exploring how subtle messages that children receive are not scientific or fair.


The Festival launches with a day packed full of colour, parades and performance! Join the annual Festival Parade which this year celebrates fifty year since the Apollo Moon Landing, led by Fulston Manor and Northbourne Park School Samba Bands and Buckswood Pipe Band.

Throughout the day be sure to catch pop-up performance in and around Whitefriars, Long Market and Rose Square, including live music, dance, majorettes and much more.

Spiegeltent is the perfect place for families to meet, catch a show and have fun!

This year the Festival welcomes Tales of Adriamus – a group of professional musicians who specialise in music for children and have created musical versions of Anthony Browne’s Willy the Wimp stories.

Don’t miss Chicken Licken with three fun-filled tales from the much-loved Ladybird books – following the adventures of a growing chick and her encounters with a hungry fox. Award-winning musical-comedian Jay Foreman, hits the stage with Disgusting Songs for Revolting Children – a family friendly show that was a huge hit at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Adventure into outer space with Captain Cauliflower and Marvin the Mischievous Moose on a mission of extreme silliness and unquestionable danger! The Comedy Club 4 Kids returns with the best up-and-coming comedians on the circuit doing what they do best…but without the rude bits. You can also get your groove on with all the family at Baby Loves Disco, with prizes for the best outfits, face painting, dressing up and a cheeky pint for dad!

Made In Kent

Canterbury Festival’s learning and participation strand Made In Kent, presents a series of events showcasing and developing emerging young talent. Don’t miss a Comedy showcase; three performances from Dance competition winners Cascade Dance, Stephanie O Daniels and Instep Dance; an immersive new theatre work based on Alice In Wonderland by Alternate Perspective Theatre; and a showcase of up and coming musicians in this year’s Track Record final.

Made In Kent is made possible with the support of Arts Council England, Kent County Council, Kent Community Foundation and Canterbury Christ Church University.

Walks, Visual Arts and Umbrella

Working with Canterbury Tourist Guides, Friends of Canterbury Archaeological Trust, Canterbury Ramblers and Blue Badge Tourist Guides, Canterbury Festival present an informative and revealing series of walks in and around Canterbury and East Kent. Discover the hidden spaces of some of Canterbury’s most historic landmarks, learn about the origins of the city and step back in history.

Explore an array of exhibitions and open studios in this year’s Visual Arts programme. Shows include Steve Bloom’s South Africa in the Seventies taking place at The Beaney, The Great Bower Exhibition, Centrepieces by Christie Cassia and this year’s East Kent Artists’ Open Houses, with trails in Canterbury, Faversham and across Kent.

Box Office

This year Canterbury Festival are very excited to launch their own Box office and a brand-new website. Tickets for the majority of events will now be bookable directly through the Festival website, calling 01227 457568 or by visiting the Box Office during opening hours at Festival House, 8 Orange Street. See full details and opening hours here.

To book tickets for Festival events taking place at The Marlowe, please follow the booking links on the events which will take you to or contact The Marlowe Box Office on 01227 787787.