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Canterbury Festival cover image, collage featuring instruments, cathedral, acrobats and colour

Canterbury Festival 2021 Programme Announcement

Saturday 16 October – Saturday 30 October 2021
Festival Friends’ Priority Booking Opens: Monday 2 August, 11am
General Booking Opens: Monday 16 August, 11am

In 2020 Canterbury Festival was one of only a handful of Arts Festivals to go ahead. This year we are thrilled to return with a bigger and bolder programme to put the arts firmly back on the map. From 16 – 30 October, the programme offers unique experiences that could only happen as part of Canterbury Festival – from the quirky to the sublime – the Festival aims to bring together the people of Kent for a celebration of creativity.

Events will pop up across the city at venues including Canterbury Cathedral, The Malthouse, Kent College’s Great Hall, Canterbury Christ Church University’s Augustine Hall, Westgate Hall and the Cathedral Lodge.

The Festival is honoured to be supported for the 11th year by Partner and Principal Sponsor, Canterbury Christ Church University – working closely with different departments to engage staff and students directly in Festival events – on stage, behind the scenes and online. Events will take place at both the Festival venues and on campus, exploring music, history, visual arts and even games design – an exciting opportunity to explore our shared commitment to creativity, culture and community.

Click here to download this year’s programme

This year’s Festival will launch with a grandiose performance by the Armonico Consort and Baroque Players with Supersize Polyphony a large-scale, medieval surround-sound experience in the spectacular acoustic of Canterbury Cathedral. Alternatively, on the same night join Scotland’s best-selling female album artist, Barbara Dickson, for a special acoustic performance of her exceptional back catalogue at The Great Hall. Having performed at Harry and Meghan’s wedding, The Kingdom Choir also bring their energy, enthusiasm and much-loved take on Gospel to Canterbury Cathedral, performing favourites including Stand By Me and Something Inside.

Over the course of two-weeks there’s much more music to enjoy including performances by Hamish Stuart (of The Average White Band), folk troubadour Chris Wood, Matt Ford and the Chris Ingham Trio, Karolos performing Mozart, Dreamsailors, Ukulele comedy duo Opera-lele and a stunning performance of Mozart’s Mass in C minor by the Canterbury Choral Society. Music also takes to the streets with Beautiful Noise – a day celebrating East Kent’s community music makers who will perform at locations across the city, including Dane John Park and White Friars.

Spectacular circus with a healthy dose of comedy hits The Malthouse stage, with Lost In Translation’s The Hogwallops. This chaotic family of misfits turn everyday tasks into bonkers feats of acrobatic skill – expect thrills, gasps, laughs and knuckle-biting drama for the whole family.

Permission to speak sir! The nation’s favourite sitcom returns with The Dad’s Army Radio Show – performing three episodes of the hugely popular television series and featuring over 25 characters, lovingly enacted by two master performers.

The original Weimar Cabaret wannabe, Marlene Cheaptrick, visit the Westgate Hall with a cavalcade of performers for two nights of comedy, circus, burlesque and belly laughs as part of Marlene’s Cabaret Cocktail.

In addition, you’ll also have the chance to get in the Halloween spirit with Dyad’s spine-tingling  production Female Gothic, book in for this year’s Comedy Club with a trio of stand-up comedians, discover the story of Clementine Churchill, dive into a world of flowers with Mig Kimpton and join the Foundry Group for Lord God – a musical comedy packed with scrapes, japes and narrow escapes.

Working with our Partner and Principal Sponsor, Canterbury Christ Church University, we are excited to introduce Playdate/Westgate – a hands-on event showcasing the work of Game Design students, a talks programme and live music from Liotia. From 18 – 28 October the University lunchtime concerts return, performed by the best of staff and student talent with an eclectic programme of artists. The Centre for Kent History and Heritage presents a series of online talks exploring photography, medieval bestiary and archaeological discoveries in the county. Caravan fans can also tune into an online interview with band members Pye Hastings, Geoffrey Richardson and In the Land of Grey and Pink producer David Hitchcock. Over the course of the Festival, two exhibitions will also take place on campus with Euphemia McTavish’s Things Not Meant To Be Seen exhibited at the Daphne Oram Gallery and Ji Sun Sjogren’s The Procedure at the Verena Holmes Gallery.

The Talks series returns with an array of speakers exploring history, climate, politics food and more. Highlights include food critic Grace Dent, author of The Anglo-Saxons Marc Morris, historian David Reekie, Sir Vince Cable, dog behaviourist Graeme Hall, WW2 Wren Christian Lamb, bomb disposal expert Lucy Lewis, antiques expert Lennox Cato DL and more.

This year’s science series explores our understanding of the universe, what the next half century will bring and the action we can take to preserve life on our planet. Join conservationist, zoologist and BBC Springwatch presenter Megan McCubbin for The Kent College Lecture – Living Wild, Weird and Wonderful. Scientist, writer and former BBC News Editor David Whitehouse shares theories on the next 50 years of space exploration. Hannah Fry and Adam Rutherford visit with their Guide to Absolutely Everything – a whistle-stop tour of evolution, the cosmos and the head-scratching questions that only science can answer.  We also welcome a panel of speakers as part of Canterbury Climate Action Week discussing The Global Climate Emergency and veteran environmental journalist Fred Pearce discussing what is needed to reforest our world.

It wouldn’t be Canterbury Festival without a wacky week of family fun! The Medieval Pageant kicks things off with a parade and trail packed full of musicians, dancers, and a Thomas Becket giant! Then over half-term The Westgate Hall hosts five fab family shows beginning with Mr Pineapple Head’s delightfully silly antics, time-travelling magicians Morgan and West’s Fantastic Family Magic Spectacular and Canterbury favourite – the Comedy Club 4 Kids. Later in the week don’t miss Javier Jarquin’s high-flying card stunts in Card Ninja and the multi-talented Matt Bernard with Instant Circus – Just Add Kids.

With an extensive programme of Walks, Visual Arts and Umbrella events, there are lots of ways to get involved in this year’s Festival. As an independent charity, we would like to thank the loyal support of our sponsors, funders, members, volunteers and audiences – without whom this year’s events would not be possible.

You can explore the full programme by picking up a copy of the brochure from the Festival Office, 8 Orange Street, Canterbury CT1 2JA, or by visiting

Priority ticket sales for Festival Friends are available from 2 August at 11am, with general sales opening on Monday 16 August at 11am. Tickets can be purchased online at, over the phone on 01227 457568 or in person at the Festival Office (Mon – Fri, 11am – 4pm).